Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Birthday Onboard

Another year, another country, another crazy birthday celebration overseas.  It seems that most June 24ths roll around while we are on outreach somewhere.  I remember turning 21 on a King's Kids oureach in Juarez, Mexico, turning 23 on the airplane to Paraguay, South America, turning 25 at Stratford Upon Avon in England, and turning 30 in Budapest, Hungary.  While I'm sure I've had some other great birthdays (like when all my aunts and uncles pooled together to buy me Louisa Dara, my first and only Cabbage Patch Kid in 1984; or both times I was pregnant and Dan threw surprise parties),  this one was definitely full of reasons to make it memorable.
  1. Greeted by a birthday blast upon opening our cabin door.  
  2. An introduction to French party thrown by my HR co-workers that put up with my shinanagans on Tuesdays.  Since we'll be in Togo next, I need to get my game on and start learning French!  They have just made Rosetta Stone French available to us!!
3. The traditional ringing of the cow bell at lunch to announce my birthday and being sung to by all crew members on board.
4.  Cookies waiting on my "doorstep" from the Hospitality Department, along with our ANNUAL $2.00 stipend (something about being required by maritime law...).

5. Various gifts showing up at our door and in our cabin all day long.

6. A party thrown by our Gateway "family" to celebrate with lemon muffins and sour skittles, and singing Happy Birthday the British way (try singing it with your lips pealed back into a smile so it doesn't come out BIRRRRRthday and Yooooouuuuu, but Buuthday to yuhhhh).

7.  Ice Cream night on the ship!
8.  A 'Come as Bizarre as you are' dance party onboard to party the evening away.
Of course this means that Dan gets to pull out his mullet wig and Billy Bob teeth - yay.

Kylie as Pippi Longstocking
Savannah as Angelina Ballerina
9.  Closing the night out with getting to meet Madieu Williams, #20 of the Minnesota Vikings, and NFL Player of the Year, 2010! 

The other Minnesota girls, Greta and Anna, and I meeting with Madieu

Madieu was born in Sierra Leone and lived here until he was nine.  He still has cousins in the area, can speak fluent Krio, and knows the names of the neighborhoods all around town. He and a group of 47 doctors, physiotherapists, sports trainers and other medical crew are in Sierra Leone with the Healing Hands Foundation and Madieu Williams Foundation to work hand in hand with some doctors at the local hospitals, and to check up on his educational programs, including a school he has had built in honor of his mother (beautiful story here).  Despite their group showing up almost five hours late to this tour and dinner on the ship, he was an incredibly gracious and humble guy with a beautiful spirit about him.  It was so encouraging to see him using his talents and resources to make a difference back here as well as in the states.
10. Lastly, I received word this morning that in the evening of my birthday, my beloved Grandpa Red passed away at the age of 91.  I am grateful to know that he finished my birthday celebrating his reunion with Grandma Grace and meeting the Savior that he loved and taught us all to love so well. 

 So for all the good and the sad, it will definitely be a birthday to remember. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Epistle Reading Mishap

My day started rather normally. The alarm went off at 7:45. I got dressed, attempted to curl my hair, brushed my teeth, and headed to the dining room to get breakfast for us all and pack our lunches. (Weekends there are no hot lunches prepared, so we pack sacklunches to eat during the noon hour).

I re-read Ephesians 4:1-7 in preparation for the scripture reading I had been asked to do at Bishop Crowther Anglican Church, where I have been attending since the beginning of March.

I don't go to this church because it's "fun," or it's "exciting" or I'm so "fed" there.  It's very formal.  It's very uncomfortable.  It's very long.  It's a little hard for me to get through the rigidity of the doctrine and the liturgy to find the message of Jesus sometimes.  But primarily I go to connect with the children from Cheshire Home who call it their home church, since it's just up the road from them. But, I also like connecting with the local community here. It would be easy to stay in our little white "bubble" floating on the sea. I find it so important to be reminded of where we are and how the people of Freetown live. For this reason, I get up every Sunday and go to local church.

Normally I attend with our Dutchy friends, Gerrit and Herma, but they are at home for a college graduation of their son. So, I was on my own.

I had promised Fatu that I would swing by Cheshire Home before heading to church so I could help her shower and get her ready. I arrived safe and sound at the home- the girls were already busy getting dressed and most had made plans to come to church today.

We walked to church and arrived at the middle of the five minute period of church bell tolling that marks when the service is starting (or, in African Time, time to get up and start making your way to church).

I got Fatu settled at the back of the sanctuary and was sliding into the back pew when "rrrrrrkkkkkkkk." I feel a tug on my skirt, and then a give as the fabric rips like a sheet of tissue paper. A nail was sticking half an inch out from the wooden back of the pew in front of us. It grabbed my skirt at pocket level on the left side of my skirt. Lovely.

I sat down to do inventory on the damage.

As the other children and teens from Cheshire arrived asked if they had a pin - you never know, right?  Well, no such luck this week.  When they saw why I needed a pin, they all chuckled and wondered what I would do. 

Since I didn't really have time to hoof it back to the ship and change clothes, I decided I'd just have to tough it out. 

When #9 on the order of events for the morning's service (9 out of 28) arrived: New Testament Reading: Tiffany Bergman, I covered my thigh with my hand and awkwardly walked to the front to read. 

I noticed upon arrival this morning that the bulletin said the scripture I'd be reading was from Ephesians chapter one instead.  Instead of living in unity and focusing on a life worthy of the calling we've received, the focus was on the spiritual blessing we have in Christ. 

I rolled with the punches, and managed to read the passage without stumbling over the words.  I hesitated at the end- what do they say in an Anglican church at the end of the New Testament reading: This is the word of the Lord?  Here ends the reading of the Word? That was the New Testament lesson?  I couldn't remember.  I went with my gut, and the congregation responded with "thanks be to God."  Phew.  I must have been at least mostly right.

I grabbed a fistful of my skirt with my left hand, my bulletin in my right hand and made it back to the last row, where 13 of my favorite Sierra Leoneans were waiting for me, stifling giggles of their own, making fun of me with my fistful of skirt.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ was the opening verse of my lesson today.  But I don't think we have to wait to get to the heavenly realms before we reap some of these blessings.  Sharing an inside joke with these precious girls was definitely a blessing this morning.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Important Visitor!

Below is our buddy Gus! I found this picture while looking through all the wonderful pictures that the communications department takes for us.  Last Friday we had a momentous day on the ship as the president and vice-president of Sierra Leone came aboard and received a tour of the hospital, met with some patients, and shared a speech of their gratitude of Mercy Ships being here, and their desire to see lives changed moving forward.
I bet Gus never knew what he was signing up for when he welcomed us into his life.  He surely wasn’t anticipating surgery to help him with a jaw that would refuse to grow.  He probably didn’t anticipate moving onto a giant ship or living on a window-less level with no fresh air while he recovered from this painful procedure.  And I’m fairly certain he never would have guessed that he would be greeted by the president of his nation! 

“Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done, in this city.”

ps- the caucasian man in this photo is Dr. Gary Parker - the chief medical officer onboard and the maxillofacial surgeon who performed Gus’s surgery.