"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

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End of Madadgascar I Newsletter - June / July 2015

We never thought we would make it to Madagascar – nor that we would call it home for 8 months.  Not only did we live here for this time, but our ship is coming back for a 2nd Field Service.  And so are we – we have signed up for another year of service with Mercy Ships. So in August, we will be returning to Tamatave until Mid 2016. It is an exciting and somewhat daunting prospect. However, we are confident that this is God’s plan for us for the next year.

Tammy’s update:

Since January, Tammy has continued as the Supply Manager.  This has been a fun role leading an awesome multinational team onboard – with crew from Slovakia, Holland, Liberia, Togo, England, Dominican Republic and Madagascar. The Supply Department was only officially created in August so it has been a challenging year to set up procedures that will hopefully work onboard this ship and the next.  Whilst the extra work has meant that she has not spent as much time with patients, she has been able to get to know her 4 Malagasy Day crew really well. 

Mampho - swimming champ!
It also meant that she was able to attend a Mercy Ships Supply conference in March.  During the week, key players from the Supply Chain in Texas, Holland and the ship met in Rotterdam to iron out any issues and work out a way ahead as the organization doubles its logistical requirements.  It was also super cool to meet the Dutch Mercy Shippers who led that first course Mick attended in October, 2008 – which was when our journey towards service began.
In addition, Tammy has been teaching swimming lessons.  It was an exciting morning in May when Mampho from South Africa and Chris from Liberia swam a whole length of the ship pool.  In some respects, life changing – especially as these women worked for several months to overcome their fears.

Mick’s update:

Mick continued to work as Third Engineer – General but took on several extra responsibilities this yearas he got on top of his core work load of sewage, oily waste, sludge, incinerator, life boats and pumps. One of these was the Engineering Training Officer which was an additional job but next year will be a full time position which he will move into. In this role he trained cadets from Norway and Canada as well as overseeing the training of the African engine hands and ratings. He also took on the responsibility for much of the Main Engine maintenance and training of new officers in the operation of the main machinery. The culmination of this was a very routine passage from Tamatave to Durban. Like any job there have been times of frustration and annoyance but these have been far outweighed by the positives throughout the year. He has received approval to go to the UK in September to study for his Second Engineer’s license and is finalizing his plans with the college.
Dunne and Forrest families off on a ride
As we wrote about previously, Tamatave extremely bike friendly with bikes and pouse-pouses (bicycle taxis) being the predominant means of transport around town. He has ridden 20 km most Tuesday and Thursdays mornings throughout the field service with the Aussie school principal, Dave Forrest, and longer rides of up to 120 km on the weekends. Many of the crew have also purchased bikes and he is now the un-official ship bike mechanic. Dave bought 4 “community” bikes and Mick has maintained them throughout the year as a blessing to the crew. The family all have bikes now – second hand and rebuilt – and it has been a real joy to go out riding together to the market, the beach or a restaurant. What is amazing is how well they all deal with the crazy traffic conditions, even Harry – bikes, tuk-tuks, pouse-pouses, motor bikes, cars, trucks, buses, taxi-buses, people, animals (chickens, goats, zebu and pigs), sand and potholes.

Patient Story: Zakael – What a difference a week makes !

Zakael grins from ear to ear. On a very hot summer day in Madagascar, the seven-year-old wears his shirt open, revealing a small surgical scar just above his left collarbone. He wears the scar proudly . . . a symbol of where he has been and where he is going.
“I want to be a soldier, just like my grandfather,” declares Zakael. “I want to run fast. Now that I’m healed, I will be able to do this!”
One could say that this is not the same boy that set foot on the Africa Mercy a week earlier . . . and one would be right. A week earlier, Zakael’s shirt was buttoned to the top in an attempt to hide a tennis ball-sized cyst that had been slowly growing since birth. A week earlier, Zakael wasn’t smiling. In fact, his gaze was sullen and withdrawn. A week earlier, he wasn’t sure anyone could remove the cyst that stood in the way of his dreams.
What a difference a week makes!
In one short week, the path of Zakael’s life was changed. But the path to reach that transformation was not a short one.  Soon after Zakael’s birth, his father, Zahael, noticed a bump at the base of his son’s neck. In the western world, this would have been treated immediately. But for the poorest of the poor, like Zakael’s family, adequate healthcare is not easily accessible. Zahael was desperate to have the bump removed, but he could not afford the costly surgery his son needed. With each passing year, the cyst grew, and hope faded a little more.

Then Zahael heard that Mercy Ships was sending one of its hospital ships to Madagascar! Armed with state-of-the-art medical equipment and healthcare professionals, including specialized surgeons, from around the world – the Africa Mercy offered Zakael his last hope for healing.
But a couple of challenges still had to be confronted. The trip from their village in Mampikony to the ship was a two-day journey by vehicle, and it would cost more money than Zahael had. At the same time, people in their community tried to frighten Zahael by telling him that the “foreigners would harm Zakael” and that “they would never be seen or heard from again.” However, Zahael ignored them and set his sights on the hospital ship and the only hope for healing for his son.
“I don’t trust anything else apart from God,” shared Zahael confidently. “I said to myself, ‘Jesus is with us! He will be with us to go there and to return home.’”
Holding onto that trust, Zahael sold the family’s last remaining treasures – a goose and a chicken. It was just enough to cover the cost of transportation to the ship. But it was a wonderful investment . . . it purchased a new life for Zakael.
After the successful surgery, they prepared to depart the ship. Zahael watched his son – grinning, no longer ashamed, ready to step into his new life – and he knew that the last week had made all the difference in his son’s future.
“God guided us! I kept in mind that we will be here, and my son will be healed. Those people who did not trust are not healed. We are healed!” Zahael said.
Written by Tanya Sierra, Edited by Nancy Predaina, Photos by Josh Callow and Katie Keegan

Update on the boys:

Dressed as Rangers for Jabulani Day in Cape Town
In a lot of respects, our boys have changed significantly in the last few months.  We went away for a weekend to remote bungalows on the beach.  They are now so used to being flexible, that they did not even comment on a lack of electricity (broken generator) and bucket flushing toilets.  More so, they are able to order their dinners in French and are used to changing their orders if something is not available. They had a fantastic time.  Indeed, in each of the 4 nights away that we did this Field Service, the boys showed us how much they appreciate what we have and how easily they can go without – water, electricity and favourite items and still have a great time. 
Jack is due to start Grade 8 and about to turn 14.  He continues to do well at school onboard – especially in Science. 
Mark is due to start Grade 5 and is about to turn 11.  He is our busiest and most sensitive soul who is really starting to become more comfortable with who he is.  Mark has thoroughly enjoyed more access to animals of all kinds in Madagascar – especially the Lemurs.  We hope to go to resort in August to do a night Lemur walk.
Harry has just turned 8 – (I know!!) and he is about to start Grade 3. He remains incredibly social.  Two of his best friends are leaving shortly – but a new boy from Austria has arrived. He continues to excel in his role of meeting and greeting everyone onboard.
Final Words:

Thank you for supporting us this field service - through finances, prayer and emails. The last 6 months have been extremely busy but especially rewarding.  We have been blessed with a wonderful time in Australia – seeing family and friends. Please keep reading our blog and follow Mercy Ships Australia on Facebook.

Love from
Mick, Tammy, Jack, Mark and Harry

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