"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Wedding in Cotonou - 10th September, 2016

   We feel fortunate to serve on this ship and to make friends from all around the world. We get to experience how other cultures celebrate birthdays, Easter, Christmas and National holidays.   Sometimes, we feel extra lucky because we get invited to events that we would never see in Australia - like the Beninese wedding of our friends, Koffi and Yubi on Saturday, 10th September, 2016.
   Koffi serves onboard as a Hospital Chaplain.  However, we got to personally know him through the Barnabas project last Field Service, where different people prayed specifically for long term crew.  Mick's Barnabas Prayer Warrior was Koffi.  And as Mick was away in England studying for more than 50% of our time in country, Koffi's prayers were a huge comfort and blessing to our whole family.  In addition, when Mick was home in January, Koffi organised a dinner and games night for all his Barnabas people.  It was a really relaxed, friendly evening that we appreciated - and helped us to get to know him a little better.
  It was not too long after, that a lovely young lady arrived onboard, whom Koffi introduced as his Fiance - Yubi.  She worked in the Dining Room and always had a smile and word of encouragement as she served dinner.
  It was an honour to receive an invitation to their wedding shortly after we arrived in Benin.  A photo of the invitation is below:
The first part of the wedding was held in the Town Hall for the 12th District in Cotonou, Benin.  We were there on time, with a whole crowd of people from the ship.  Unfortunately, the Mayor was about an hour late.  It was at this point, that we were glad that we had organised sitters for the boys - thanks Courtney and Sharon!
Outside the Town Hall - Mick's tie matched my Congolese tailored dress
The Civil service was relatively short - the Mayor had a few words to say as did Koffi and Yubi.  Whilst our French is improving, we are still not able to understand as much as we wold like.  And the Mayor was also pretty hard to hear.  The Salon de Mariage in the Town Hall has lots of lecture style seats - it was like being in a class room - waiting for the teacher to come.  But a much better surprise when it was the Bride and Groom.
Civil Ceremony - waiting for the Mayor
   After the Civil Ceremony, we drove in a convoy - all with hazard lights flashing - but unfortunately not too much beeping of car horns - to the church for the  Benediction Nuptiale.  It was very loud and very joyful.  Best of all - there was a translator, as I think most of it was in Fon - the local language. 
   There were a lot of people in matching, traditional outfits - not Mick and I.  We may try and get one set tailored here but I think I am still scarred from a comment about "new curtains" that a Captain of mine made once, when Mick and I had matching outfits from Hawaii! That said - I really admire the traditional costumes, the colourful fabric designs and how easy it is to see who belongs to whom.  It makes some of our celebrations at home look positively bland in comparison.
   I have included some pictures of the happy couple with their parents and together in the church.  I don't mind admitting, that we were not quite sure what was happening most of the time, even with the translation.  But we felt so honoured to be invited and priviled to be able to share in their special day. I don't think any of the photos included show just how happy the newly weds looked - but they were literally beaming.  It was a wonderful day full of memories that we will never forget. We look forward to catching up with them when they return to the ship soon.

The Bridal Couple with their parents

Koffi and Yubi - Listening attentively to the sermon

Us at the Reception - it was about 4pm by then.  Some people brought snacks with them - perhaps next time!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

First Month Back

We arrived back in Durban 28 July after a long flight and a delay in Jo'berg. Shipyard finished on time this year which was a blessing. Another blessing was that we had new floors in our cabin (timber laminate replacing old carpet), our bed was moved away from the wall and our broken cabin window was replaced (it had a steel plate welded over it in Madagascar). We sailed 1 August for Cape Town, arriving 4 August. It was a pretty bumpy sail but no sea sickness in our family. 

Mick was watchkeeping on 4-8s which effectively means at work from 0300 to 0800 then 1500 to 2000. He would also generally do 3 hours maintenance each day from 0900-1200 so a pretty exhausting routine. Tammy's highlight was being woken up by a lighthouse the morning we arrived in Cape Town. It was actually one we climbed 2 years ago.

The Lighthouse we climbed in 2014

Tammy arrived back to an absent Supply Manager who had returned to USA for compassionate reasons. She is now acting Supply Manager again and having to very quickly come up to speed on lots of issues she was not tracking.

Mark and Harry
Tammy and Jack

Table Mountain

 We had a great little break in Cape Town, climbing Lions Head on the Saturday and visiting our pastor (Dave Meldrum) from UK who now leads a church in Cape Town. He and his wife Bev are truly inspirational. Mick got to ride his road bike up Signal Hill too.

With Dave and Bev Meldrum

On 4 August we sailed from Cape Town and the boys started school. Mick continued on the same watches and Tammy worked in Supply preparing for the upcoming field service start up.

Jack  turned 15 on 14 August at sea and he and Mark had a combined party at sea. Mark turned 12 on 21 August just after we arrived in Benin.

Party games

On 18 August we arrived in Cotonou, Benin. We were scheduled to serve in Benin in 2014 but this was postponed due to the West Africa Ebola outbreak and we served in Madagascar for two years instead so it was great to finally return.

Since arriving we have all been very busy, meeting our locally employed day crew and setting up the ship and dockside for the field service. Patient selection has commenced and the hospital opens in 2 weeks. We have an enormous dock side area but the port is dirtier and less safe than Madagascar so we have to ride in vehicles in and out of the port - no cycling or walking. And it is hot and humid.

We have now served onboard 3 years and are starting our fourth. We have sailed 90 days, crossed the Equator 4 times, rounded the Cape of Good Hope twice, crossed the Prime Meridian 3 times (twice at the Equator) and visited Canary Islands, Congo, South Africa, Madagascar and Benin. Life is truly an adventure. You never know where God is going to lead you. We look forward to what God has in store for us.

Cheers, and Blessings,

Mick, Tammy, Jack, Mark and Harry