Hi Family and Friends,
I should first start by proclaiming how great of a God we serve. Throughout the last four months I have been through trails of various kinds. My faith is growing every day and I have been able to flush out many things that I have been struggling with in my life. I know I have a lifelong journey of transformation, but I’m so happy that today I know I am a child of God, created in His image, loved and highly favored, and purposely put on this earth to serve Jesus Christ.
I have been having an amazing time serving onboard the Africa Mercy. Days normally consist of problem solving and fulfilling customer service requests. We have a brilliant team of technical geniuses onboard that I get to work with each day.
Johan is the veteran onboard. He is from Belgium and is currently wearing two hats as the audio video technician and interim system engineer, while Brian is on vacation. Brian is also from California.
Andrew, the Australian, is about twenty feet tall and is the sr support specialist. So he’s really 6 foot 8 inches, but he has to duck under most of the door frames and all the fire sprinklers onboard. He’s responsible for all the computers, printers and phones onboard the ship and oversees the maintenance and management of them. He figures out the solutions to the bigger challenges onboard and is the go-to-man around the office for general answers. Before joining Mercy Ships, Andrew did web development in Australia and Thailand.
Ally is new man in the office. He is from England and just joined us this past month. We both are support specialists. Our days could consists of fixing client email problems to wrapping cables. We setup new computers and monitors throughout the offices and troubleshoot general computer problems. Before joining Mercy Ships, Ally worked as a youth counselor in England.
About three weeks ago we said goodbye to Mahesh. He was also a support specialist and was just a great guy that I got to grow really close to. He’s now back home in London looking for a new adventure for his life.
We have two managers at the moment. Steve, who is from Texas, has been our manager for the past three months. His primary role is the IS manager for Mercy Ships in Texas, but has been filling in the vacancy we’ve had onboard while we were finding a full time manager. Steve has an incredible love for kids and always has a swarm of at least 6 wrapped around him during his weekend outings.
Walter, who is from South Africa, is our new manager onboard. He joined us last week and has signed up to serve for over two years. We been very blessed to have Steve for the time we’ve had him, but are getting another blessing by having Walter join the team. Walter finished a full Ironman Triathlon and is very excited about the next big journey he is beginning.
Currently we are working on an Academy netbook rollout, upgrading all of our computers on the ship to Windows 7 and working on daily support requests. Over the last two weeks we had 145 support tickets created and closed 164 tickets. (The reason there are more closed than opened is because we have old tickets in the cue that might be project work and also tickets that may have been opened longer than two weeks.)
That’s a short insight about our team and department.
Outside of work I’ve been one of the youth group leaders. We meet every Tuesday night to spend a few hours together. Last week youth group went down to the hospital wards and spent time coloring, playing games, blowing bubbles and building snowflakes with the patients. It was a great time. Onboard the ship we have a fully accredited K-12 grade school. Every morning the students begin with bible study, so our more direct focus of youth group is to provide opportunities to hang out, socialize, and experience those truths in action.
I’m also apart of our prison ministry. We visit the local prison every other saturday. Ray is the leader of the ministry is highly motivated to bring the gospel message to the local prisoners. This has been one of the best opportunities I’ve been apart of while I’ve been onboard. I’ve been blessed to attend every week of this ministry since we’ve began. The prison is about a twenty minute drive from the ship. We’ve visited the prison about 8 times since we’ve been here. The prison is made up of an enclosed courtyard about the size of a basketball gym. Along the walls of the courtyard are the cells that the inmates live in. When we arrive, all of the guys, around 150 of them, are sitting on the cement slab that makes up the courtyard. They are patiently waiting for us. For the past three weeks we’ve been able to offer french bibles to any inmate that takes the initiate to memorize three bible verses. The typical visit consists of us arriving and waiting fifteen minutes to be welcomed in. Once we are in, we are basically free to sit amongst the guys and Ray gives a sermon for about twenty minutes. During the sermon there are usually guys that sit in the back who are not as interested in listening so I’ll go and sit back there to talk and pray for them. After Ray is finished, we normally spend thirty minutes in worship and then have an opportunity for the guys to recite the verses to get a bible. It’s so difficult to give anything free away in a prison. All of the guys one whatever it is. They can get someone impatient and get into a deserve mentality. Even with the difficulties, the Lord has given us the opportunity to pass the bibles out. The guys in the prison wear their street clothes for the duration they are locked up. I have never felt threatened or unsafe inside the prison. I know the Lord is going before us and am incredibly blessed to be able to participate in this ministry.
I’ve been to two orphanages during my time here. The orphanages are amazing to visit and give the opportunity to play and be a kid. Both orphanages have about 15 boys that live there. We do crafts and play games outside engage with the kids and let them know they are valued and are extremely loved. I’ve got to visit one of the local deaf schools and draw and color with the kids as well. This has a very special place in my heart and it is so fun to get to use the small sign language knowledge I have to communicate with them.
The last two weeks I’ve had an opportunity that has really shaped me in a whole new way. The ministries I serve with are either off ship or not related to the medical work we do on the ship. Over the last two weeks I’ve become friends with one of the patients onboard. His name is Louiclay and he is originally from Point Noir, Congo. During the last two or three years, Louiclay moved to Ghana to study information technology. He has lived onboard the ship for 46 days because he had a more complicated facial surgery. It hasn’t been for the last three weeks that he’s been talking because he had a tracheotomy. The tracheotomy was removed two weeks ago and about two days after it was removed he had his nasal feeding tube removed. Since then, he has been able to talk and move around more freely. He didn’t have the biggest smile or very much joy when we first met. We met just before his trech was removed. It’s has been life-giving to get to spend the evenings in the ward for thirty minutes to two hours just talking and playing connect four with him. Every time we’ve met for the last three weeks I’ve been reminded of the importance of my position onboard the ship. Fixing computers is just one aspect, but the ability to relate to and be able to sympathize as well as relate to him with common hobbies and goals draws me closer to my work and my importance of being here. Louiclay feels blessed to have been able to receive the treatment that he received from Mercy Ships and has said that he tried to have this surgery 5 other times in his life, all with unsuccessful results. He was studying in Ghana and heard from his mother that Mercy Ships was coming to the Congo (R). He was skeptical of the work we would be able to do, but looked at our website and found more trust in our work. He had been praying that God would send him to America or France so he could have surgery in a more specialized hospital, but could not get a local hospital to write a reference. Last week during one of our talks he mentioned that Mercy Ships was the answer to that prayer and that he is very thankful to God for the treatment he got here. It’s so inspiring to know that he made it to screening day at 6AM and didn’t leave until 5PM with his mother and brother. They spent the whole day in line with thousands of possible patients and he was chosen for surgery.
I can’t explain enough how Louiclay has touched my life. Since I had been onboard, I had not been down to the hospital for any other reason than to look at a computer that wouldn’t pull up x-rays correctly or to change toner cartridges. It’s really sad how I have basically missed all of the work on deck three (the hospital deck). My primary focus has been supporting the Academy onboard, go figure that I just came from a school district. The purpose and reason for all of the work can because blurry and you can forget who we are here to serve. But the Lord brought Louiclay into my life to remind me of this. Louiclay was the first patient that has been given a piece of my heart and I am forever grateful for our relationship. I am so excited today because Louiclay got to go home today. I’m just loved getting to walk down the gangway with him and got to say bye as he left to go home. He will still have to come back to the ship to have his dressings looked at and the continually access how he is recovering. I am so excited for Louiclay’s future and all the magnificent plans the Lord has for him.
There is another patient that I’m currently visiting with, and it’s looking like he will be onboard until mid January. He has noma on his cheek and his first surgery to remove and replace the missing muscles and skin wasn’t successful. I ask that you continue to pray for him. His name is Rovel and he loves to create things out of paper and play connect four. I look forward to sending you updates on Rovel.
As most of you know, Mercy Ships provides free medical care to all patients with the special conditions we are here to fix – mostly more complicated surgeries. Patients receive room and board, medicine, dressings, bandages, showers, laundry and daily visits from the doctors as well as 24/7 service nurse support. During the operation and recovery process, we provide one of the safest environments for the patients to receive healing in. All of the staff are truly professionals from the doctors to nurses as well as all the medical support staff. I always see amazing care being given to the patients from the nurses. I believe that without the smiles, laughter, hugs and love that the nurses give to the patients alongside the blessings of the Lord, most the complex surgeries would take much longer to heal or not heal at all.
Personally, I’ve been meeting with a chaplain onboard to talk about events in my past and baggage that I’ve been carrying. By talking and sharing I’ve found things out that I’d never had admitted to anyone, nor did I know I struggled with. Each day I’m learning more about who I am. I am taking things day by day, but look back and am so grateful I am where I am now.
I thank you all for supporting me through my stay here and just want you to know that I love you, miss you, and am praying for you from here in the Congo.
PS If you have it on your heart this year to give a helping hand to someone and don’t know where to start, I’d like to tell you about Cheryl Landeros. Cheryl has a passion to help the homeless is Hanford and Lemoore, CA. She is asking that if anyone has any extra blankets, sleeping bags, tarps, tents, hand-warmers, or warm clothing that she can take to them now that the weather is getting cooler, please call her at 381-2876. I’ve had the personal blessing of serving a Christmas meal with Cheryl last year to the homeless in Hanford. She has been faithfully giving freely to the homeless for over 8 years.