Saturday, December 5, 2009

'A' is for acid bug

Earlier this week my Kindergarteners started making their own alphabet book. When we discussed words that started with an 'A' one of them said, 'I know! 'A' is for acid bug!'

Due to weather patterns and seasonal changes, these bugs have been prominent on the outdoor decks over the last month or two. My students often see them at break time and this causes excitement for some and a little bit of fear for others...
According to experts, " acid bugs contain a toxic chemical that causes contact dermatitis in humans as a result of crushing or slapping the beetle on exposed skin. The affected area becomes red, swollen and itchy causing the skin to peel when scratched. The adult bugs are attracted to artificial light. "

Acid bug

That answer from my student has inspired me to create an ABC of Mercy Ships. Here goes...

A is for acid bug.

B is for blackouts.

C is for community meetings.

D is for drills.

E is for fire extinguishers everywhere you look.

F is for fan-ice.

G is for goodbyes to good friends.

H is for hospital.

I is for cabin inspections.

J is for the joy that patients have after surgery.

K is for Kindergarten.

L is for life boats and life vests.

M is for medical staff.

N is for nurses.

O is for operations.

P is for pancakes on Wednesdays.

Q is for 'Quiet in reception, please!'

R is for roommates.

S is for sailing.

T is for Tenerife.

U is for unexpected experiences like dinner with the president.

V is for visas.

W is for ward church.

X is for X-ray room.

Y is for 'yovo'.

Z is for zimmis.

Exodus Orphanage

Exodus Orphanage houses about 50 orphans ranging in age from babies to teenagers. Last weekend some friends and I went to visit these kids for the last time before the end of the outreach.

We arrived just as the kids were going to church and attended the service with them. The service was in a classroom - the pastor sat at the desk in the front of the class and we squashed into the desks with the children. After the kids lead us in worship the pastor invited us to the front to share a testimony or a word of encouragement.

During the church service

One of the crew who visited the orphanage earlier this year was led to raise funds to provide beds, mattresses and other essentials for them . Her ministry was able to continue when she left Benin thanks to a friend and crew member who continued to arrange visits to the orphanage regularly. Karl built beds for the kids while the other crew members played with the orphans during the visits.

After church our friends invited us to lunch as a way to thank us. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing and laughing with them.

The lunch line. We were impressed with how they lined up from shortest to tallest.

Our lunch

Some of the children. These boys love the camera!

Sher with her new friends.

Kelly treated the girls to a manicure.

Karl arm wrestling with the boys.

This little boy stole my heart.

Showing off their beds with Ben.

Monday, November 9, 2009

These are a few of my favourite things

Recently I have developed a new favourite past time. It is related to my existing favourite past time (i.e. drinking tea) but brings it to a completely new level.

I have started taking a cup of tea up to deck 8 after dinner to watch the sunset. I love it. It just speaks to me of God's beauty.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spirit Day

Last Thursday was Spirit Day in the Academy. The theme this month was formal wear. It was also Crazy Scrub Day in the operating room. My cabin mate, Allison, and I found each other in the dining room and this was the result:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jaquot Psychiatric Facility

Jaquot Psychiatric Facility is about a twenty minute drive from where the ship is docked. Some crew visit this clinic faithfully each Saturday morning and sometimes I join them.

When we arrive we are greeted by some of the patients as we get out of the car. They usually join us as we walk around the property and greet everyone. During this time we find out how their week has been and are introduced to new patients or discover who has left.

After this we all head to a large room in the centre of the property where we do some singing and dancing. This is followed by a Bible lesson and a craft.

It has been such a joy to get to know some of these men and women who have spent the majority of the year in this facility.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Proudly South African

The South African Ambassador to Benin is so good to us. Last week we were invited to numerous events to celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa.

Many Mercy Ship Crew went to an exhibit hosted by our Ambassador on Saturday. Items exhibited ranged from South African fruit juices and wines to jewellery.

On Sunday evening we attended a concert to celebrate South African culture. Two groups perfomed on this occasion - a local musical group from Benin and then an acepella group from Soweto, South Africa called 'The Lions'. It was such a comforting feeling listening to this group of talented men singing songs like 'Meadowlands' (a South African classic) and then our national anthem.

The South African crew was treated to a private performance by this group the next evening when we attended a buffet dinner at the Ambassador's residence.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bitter Sweet

The field service is drawing to a close and many crew, including some of my closest friends, are returning home.

And that is why it has been a bit of a struggle for me these last two weeks. When you share most meals with these friends, exercise with these friends, and laugh and cry with these friends for most of the year, the line between friendship and family becomes blurred. So while those of us who remain on the ship are happy for our friends to be re-united with the ones they love, we are also sad because we lose a part of our ship family.

Even while I have been experiencing this rather selfish sense of loss, God has been blessing new friendships. And reminding me of the blessings that exist in old friendships.

Some friends that have returned home...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hospitality Centre

The Mercy Ship hospital treats patients from all over Benin. Many of these patients travel long distances to come to the city of Cotonou, where the Africa Mercy is docked. Often these patients need somewhere to stay in the days leading up to their admission into the hospital. Most of the time, the patients need to visit the hospital for post-op care. They cannot stay in the hospital though, as the bed space is needed for new patients.

The hospitality centre is Mercy Ships solution to this logistical problem. This centre is a large warehouse that is about a fifteen minute walk from the ship and it houses all those patients that need to remain close to the hospital for post-op care. While the patients and their families stay there, they receive meals and have a warm bed. The adults also receive basic education (reading, spelling, etc.) from one of the crew who has been assigned to develop a daily programme for them. Crew are free to visit the centre any time to play with kids or provide comfort to the families.

The hospitality centre from outside

The patients' beds

Last week a few of us went to visit the children at the hospitality centre. We took tattoo's, balloons, colouring books, etc. along for entertainment.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Here are some more pictures of the International Evening of Worship.

The crew singing and dancing

The South Africans

The Beninoise worship team

Sunday, August 30, 2009

International Evening of Worship

There are so many nationalities on this ship. So many differences. But there is one common thread that unites all of us. We all love Jesus.

So tonight we celebrated our differences and similarities in the form of an international evening of worship. There were eight nations that took part this evening.

The Welsh sang a song in Welsh. The only Polish crew member shared an Easter worship song with us. The German speaking nations (Germany and Switzerland) shared some of their songs too. A crew member from the Dominican Republic sang a song from one of his nations worship artists. And the African nations sang too.

The Ghanaian's and Liberians had the entire crew on their feet singing and dancing. It was something quite spectacular.

The South Africans sang Bayete Inkosi and I'm Walking in the Light of God, including the Afrikaans and Zulu verses.

Bayete Inkosi:
Bayete, Bayete, Inkosi
Bayete, King of Kings
Bayete, Bayete Inkosi
Bayete Inkosi is King
King of Kings

Who can match Your greatness
Who can know Your power
Who can search Your richness
Who can deny You are crowned
Lord of all

You are crowned King of Africa
You are crowned Lord of all
You are crowned King of Africa
Who can deny you are crowned
Lord of all

Walking in the Light of God:
I'm walking in the light of God
I'm walking in the light of God
I'm walking in the light
I'm walking in the light
I'm walking in the light of God

Ek wandel in die lig van God
Ek wandel in die lig van God
Ek wandel in die lig
Ek wandel in die lig
Ek wandel in die lig van God

Siyahamba lapha khosi
Siyahamba lapha khosi
Siyahamba lapha khosi
Siyahamba lapha khosi
Siyahamba, hamba
Siyahamba, hamba
Siyahamba lapha khosi
Siyahamba, hamba
Siyahamba, hamba
Siyahmaba lapha khosi

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Taste Of Home

Last Tuesday, just for a while, I felt like I was in South Africa.

The worship band from my home church, LinkWay, appeared on Gospel One (a local television station that we are able to receive on the ship) to promote their latest (and first) CD 'Reign in me'.

LinkWay Worship Band

I was glad to be able to share a piece of where I come from, with my friends from different parts of the world.

Watching the worship band from church, on a ship!

LinkWays promotional video is available on Youtube:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My First Week in Kindergarten

I have survived my first week in Kindergarten!
It has been a challenging and good week. And one filled with many lessons -I have learnt that Kindergarten students need help putting on their shoes and getting out their stationery. And they certainly don't have the same attention span as an eight year old!
And I have learnt that I really enjoy spending the day with them. They make me smile. A lot.

Here are some pictures of my classroom:

The entrance to my classroom:

My class library:

From the back of my classroom:

From the front of my classroom:

Another angle from the back of my classroom:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Teacher Handbook

Teacher Handbooks are not known for their gripping content.

Teachers are requested to read the handbook at the start of each academic year. Many teachers (including myself) reluctantly read the handbook to brush up on certain school policies like homework and familiarise themselves with procedures for class excursions, assessments, etc.

This year, I found myself smiling while looking through the Mercy Ships Academy Teacher's Handbook. How many schools have a policy for teachers to follow about 'hair appointments' or 'seasickness'?

Most days when I look outside the window and sea fishing boats sailing past, I don't blink an eye. It has become my normal. Sometimes it takes something as minor as a heading in a handbook to make realise that my life has changed drastically!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A month in Texas

I spent the month of July in Texas attending the Gateway course mentioned in previous posts.

The month was dedicated to discovering more of God's character and to prepare for the next couple of years that I will serve with Mercy Ships. Many people have asked me if it was worth attending Gateway even after having been on the ship already. I believe that the content taught during those weeks can be applied in life at any time. Not only on the ship. So, yes, it was worthwhile!

Part of this preparation involved basic safety training. And basic safety training involved first aid, CPR and even firefighting.

Of course, we had some free time too. We tried to get the full 'Texas' experience while we were there....

We went dancing y'all!

We also spent a day canoeing on Caddo Lake which has a beautiful Cypress Swamp.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away! Come back another day!

I have discovered that Benin has only two seasons: rainy season and dry season. Over the last two weeks, I have experienced rainy season like never before.

Encounter one:
Last Wednesday, I left the ship at about 7:40 am to collect my Schengen visa from the French Consulate. The French Consulate is about a five minute walk from the port, if that. The walk from the ship to outside the port is about five minutes as well.

As I was getting ready to leave, I looked out the windows and noticed that the ground was really wet. Being the eternal optimist, I fooled myself into thinking that it must have rained extremely hard during the night and that I had better go before it starts raining again.

So, I slipped on my red shoes (these, I have now discovered are not colour-fast) and threw my beautiful African print handbag over my shoulder, making sure that it contained all the documentation needed to collect the visa. I put on my rain jacket just in case. But walk past the umbrella because I surely won't need that.

As I sign out at the gangway, I notice the drops of rain starting to fall. So I tuck my handbag under my rain jacket (keeping my documents safe from the rain) and make a run for it. About two minutes into my journey, the rain starts falling fiercely. I carry on walking. I am a woman with a mission, after all.

Now drenched, I am finally outside the port. To my horror, I had to walk through a river of water that reached beyond my ankles. As I sludged through the water, I saw some people laugh at me. I don't blame them. The more friendly ones offered me a ride on a zimi. I declined as the Consulate was 500 metres away.

When I finally arrived at the Consulate I was drenched. My shoes had turned my feet pink and my handbag had a similiar effect on my hands and rain jacket. Thirty minutes later, I had to repeat this exercise to get back to the ship. But this time, I had a visa in my bag and I was happy.

Encounter two:
This evening I joined a group of friends for dinner at a local restaurant. As we left the ship, it started raining. At least this time I had an umbrella.

But this rain shower turned into a full blown storm. Thunder. Lightning. Icy winds. It had it all.
Our brave driver had to navigate his way through the water and the traffic and the windscreen that kept on fogging up untile we reached our destination.

When we entered the restaurant, we were seated in the outdoor area - it had a roof but no walls. While we were chatting we could feel the raindrops against our skin. We laughed. Some more nervously than others.

As the evening went on, the rain fell even harder and the electricity went out twice. The second time, we got such a fright. Somebody knocked over her drink and we heard the glass break in the dark followed by a gentle squeal for help. The lady opposite her jumped up, and now had a drink on her lap and rain falling on her head. Water was coming from every direction!

Eventually once we had light again, some of the more intelligent members of the party, created a wall with the umbrellas. It was something to behold. It is a dinner that I will remember for a long time.

Friday, May 1, 2009


It's been a while since my last post. But honestly, I haven't had much to say.

Until today.

When I set out on this adventure I was excited and scared but felt that this is what God wanted me to do. So I did it. The journey taught me that I need to surrender my life to God. That He is much better at planning my life than I could ever be.

So when my principal offered me a position as a Kindergarten teacher for the next academic year (August 2009 - June 2010), I had to think carefully and prayerfully about it. If God wanted me here, then He would make it clear. I accepted the position but there were still a few formalities that needed to be sorted out - I hadn't attended the Gateway course in Texas (mandatory for all crew serving 9 months or more). To stay an extra year, I would need to be formally excused from Gateway. I remember sitting in the meeting saying: I do not have the means to go to Texas but I know that anything is possible.

I should also mention that the thought of Gateway stressed me out. It involves a week of basic safety training (read: firefighting) that I just DID NOT see myself doing. In the weeks leading up to this, my feeling towards Gateway changed. I felt like this was something I could possibly do. To be honest, I felt like God had given me a peace about the fact that I would attend Gateway at some point, so I had to surrender to it.

Then at the start of this week I was given the opportunity to stay with Mercy Ships for two more years (until August 2010) and have the cost of the flight to Texas paid for.

Was this God opening doors? I know it was.

While I was praying and thinking about whether or not to accept this offer, I came across Luke 14:25 - 33. I heard it again the next morning in a devotion. This passage of Scripture is entitled 'The Cost of Being a Disciple'. It says:

25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

This passage spoke directly to me. It reminded me of how faithful God was initially and how He will always be.

I have learnt that surrendering to God is a conscious and daily decision. My life has changed drastically since I starting surrendering to God. And I love it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Things that make me smile

I love my job.

As a teacher, I have the opportunity to participate in many 'unusual' events. Sometimes these events involve dressing up. Sometimes they are just an excuse to have a party. Although every day and every 'unusual' event is different, they all have a common thread - they usually make me smile.

An event that never fails to bring laughter into the academy is Spirit Day. This is a monthly academy event that is used to encourage unity and a sense of team spirit. These days require all teachers and students to dress according to a theme. In February we had to dress up in something that would represent our home country. I wore a South African rugby jersey, of course.

Last Friday it was time for spirit day again. The theme was 'Time Periods'. I was inspired to dress as a cavewoman - it was liberating (in a weird sort of way).

On Friday we had a poetry party for the elementary school. I don't think I have laughed like that in a long time. It just so happened that all the classes wrote poems over the last few weeks and a poetry party was a perfect opportunity for students to read their poems. And of course, it isn't a poetry party without cookies and hot chocolate.

My favourite poem was presented by one of the students in a lower grade. His couplet was surprising.

The number eight

has a plate

Needless to say, it made me smile. I just had to share it with you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chances are...

Children make me laugh. I have heard some real gems in my class. This week, I was witness to another.

In the Grade Four Mathematics class we were discussing what the term 'probability' means. We also spoke about the terms certain, likely, equally likely, unlikely and impossible'.

I was struggling to find an example that the pupils in my class could relate to. Until one of the boys in my class intervened. He didn't seem to struggle...

'The probability of you becoming pregnant is impossible," he said confidently.

I was slightly shocked but covered it well. At least, I think I did.

'However,' he says 'The probability of you becoming engaged is very likely."

Evidently Mathematics is on my side.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pride's nemesis

Since my last post a lot has happened.

God has been stretching me and revealing things to me in unexpected ways. Sometimes good. Sometimes not so good.

One of the prayers that I had since my time on the ship was that God would humble me. When people hear that you are on the Africa Mercy they shower you with words of admiration and tell you how brave you are. I am sure that many people on the ship are brave and have sacrificied a lot to be obedient to God. I don't dispute that.

But the truth is that I don't feel brave. I feel blessed. My basic needs are met. And then some.

More recently though I have felt humbled.

I am ashamed to admit that being on this ship has at times given me a false sense of 'I'm good with God. Nothing can touch me.' Perhaps that was the first indication that God was preparing to show me something (I really should be able to read the signs by now).

Through interactions with others, God has shown me that I need Him as much as the people we are serving need Him. I am worth no more and no less than anyone else on or off the ship. I am His child and He loves me. Warts and all. I am humbled that God can use me, a sinner. Even though I judge; even though I have moments of pride, He trusts and loves me enough to allow me to be an ambassador for His Kingdom.

Last week one of the patients in the hospital experienced complications after surgery. She was fighting for her life downstairs in the ICU while I was complaining about the fact that my mango hadn't ripened. The start of another humbling experience...

We prayed for her healing; for complete restoration. We sang worship songs to her by her bedside. We held her hand. We prayed for a miracle. We had invested in this woman's life. At about 19:30 on Tuesday evening, while we were praying for her, she passed.

I didn't understand. How could God let her die when she came to the ship in search of an opportunity to improve her life? Why didn't God seize this moment to perform a miracle? Was it a lack of faith on my part? Was there something in my life that stopped God from not answering our prayers for healing?

Then it hit me.

God does not make mistakes. I am in no position to argue with our Maker. He knows what to do and when to do it. While I fixated on what I was doing wrong, God's plan was falling into place. He didn't need me to fulfil His plan but He was gracious enough to allow me to be a part of it.

I thank and praise God that He God continues to answers my prayers for humility daily.

'Therefore, as God's chosen people, Holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.' Colossians 3:12

Thursday, February 26, 2009

God has a sense of humour

So, if you had told me this time last year that I would be teaching on a hospital ship I probably would of laughed at you.

But God has a sense of humour, I suppose.

After hearing about Mercy Ships early last year, I decided to trade-in my job as a Grade Three teacher at a school in Cape Town, for a teaching post on the Africa Mercy.

Just the fact that I am on the ship is a testimony to God's power and faithfulness. I faced various financial and medical obstacles before leaving but God used these to reveal more of Himself to me.

I arrived in Tenerife in January and started teaching the Grade Three and Four class (a grand total of six students) three days later. These kids are amazing. They have a faith unlike any that I have seen in kids who lead 'normal' lives. They are so grateful for what they have and are so willing to give to those in need. Yet, they remain children - laughing at silly jokes and finding creative ways to avoid work.

I have created this blog to share my experience of Mercy Ships and God. I promise to keep you posted.