Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sales Department On the Ship

Do you work EVERYWHERE??

I hear this question a lot.  I don't have a position onboard where I am locked into one location with one task all week.  This works for me - I like variety! 

Most mornings I am working for the hospital support staff - helping with the patient census at the Hope Center, tracking waiting list patients, finding charts, filling out financial forms for patient transport from up country, etc.  In the afternoons I help in the pharmacy  - counting pills or updating our drug inventory spreadsheet. 

One day a week I am in the Human Resources office helping with new crew orientation forms, updating staff reviews, making sure everyone has a profile biography on our intranet site, and any other projects that Marianne, our amazing HR Manager, can find for me.
Marianne, HR Manager,  with Fatu "Cheshire" this summer at a football game (and me in the background! :))

This fall I also was found at the snack bar or the ship shop.  Our good friend, Herma (from Gateway), pulled a muscle in her neck after overdoing it at work so the Sales Manager, Jeff (also from Gateway), asked if I could fill in.

Now I can see how Herma overdid it at work!

The Ship Shop is open every weekday and in it you can purchase limited grocery staples, toiletries, Mercy Ships branded items, and some local crafts that Jeff buys from the vendors at the craft market and sells at no profit, for the convenience of those serving onboard very short-term (many surgeons and anesthesiologists come for 7-10 day visits), and don't have a chance to brave the crowded adventure to the craft market.

The volunteers who work in the ship shop get lots of exercise, as the containers are lowered by crane down to deck three - then they are removed from the pallets, inventoried, repalleted (after getting around the big metal barriers on the floor and hauled down the hall of the hospital.  Some go down to deck two (hand carried down a precarious flight of stairs into the doldrums of the ship), where surplus non-meltable foods and household items are stored.  Candy and chocolate are taken up to deck five, where the ship shop and snack bar are located.  And sodas are taken up to deck six, to be put in a refrigerated room in the galley.
Here is one pallet of freshly arrived candies, crackers, chips, and otherwise unavailable items in Sierra Leone.  This is in the holding area at the front of deck three.  And the fun work begins.

Of course, we don't have new containers every day.  Maybe only once every three or four weeks.  We get containers from Holland (frozen and refrigerated foods, 220 volt electrical items, medical supplies, etc), and other containers from Texas (Sams Club goodies, medical supplies, etc.). 

On the days that it's not a "Container Day" it is just restocking- carrying empty laundry baskets from deck five down the stairs (16 steps, then 16 more, then up 3 steps, then down 18) to deck two to restock all the items that have run out of the small shop.  Then back up (up 18, down 3, up 16, up 16) with FULL laundry baskets - to restock the shelves.

In addition to restocking, we man the coffee bar (playing Starbucks barista), the snack bar side, and the ship shop.  It's a job full of muscle power and sweat, but a fun one as you get to interact with most of the crew.  Kudos to the Sales Team!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dancing with Your Bible on Your Head

This past Sunday we attended church at "The Fishing Village Church."  This is the affectionate nickname of the church that was born in 1995 with the help of some crew members from the m/v Anastasis making connections with locals who lived in the fishing village just down from the port a few kilometers.  Pastor James was at that time working in the dockyards as an engineer, when God put a heavy call on his life to guide a congregation closer to Him.

Some 17 years later, in a large concrete building with openings for windows but nothing to impede the sea breeze, ornate cement pillars, and several wooden benches, we had the chance to join this humble church body for celebration.

This was their main church building just two years ago,

and here is a photo of the future building under construction in the summer of 2010. 
Thanks, Marty & Catherine for the photos.
Here is the outside of the church how it looks now, in 2012.

Advertised in our activities book onboard the ship as "an English speaking church,"  the Eglise International Missione du Christ was filled with lively intercessory prayer when our troop of five Land Rovers chugged up, spinning donuts through the loose sand that "paved the way" to the building.  Upon arrival we first noticed the canopied area where many small children were decked out in their beautiful hand-tailored church outfits, and their dress shoes (while we were even sporting flip-flops!). 

Inside the main church building, three young girls (probably 9-11 years old) provided the rhythm that echoed throughout the building by drumming on beaded gourds and dancing as if rhythm was the air they breathe. 

After a few songs in Ewe, the local language which most people speak in homes (thought it's not taught in schools), we were witnesses to some, should we say, interesting dances.

First the ladies of the church (who were seated in the rows of pews to the left side of the building) started dancing around in a circle at the front of the sanctuary.  They were waving handkerchiefs, shrugging their shoulders, and doing what we affectionately refer to as the West African chicken dance. 

Next up was the men (who as you might have guessed were seated on the right side of the building) came up to strut their stuff. 

Cuter than all else were the next two groups of Sunday school classes- some of the children as young as two - who were guided up by their teachers and chased like baby ducklings to stay in formation as they grooved around the floor in a circular motion.

After everyone had had their turn, an assortment of people from all over the church came up - some with their plastic lawn chairs on their heads, some purses, some bibles, and danced around with giant smiles on their faces.

Seeing that none of the yovos (white people) were moving out of their seats, the pastor stopped the worship band, and provided an explanation as to what all this craziness was.

He said that the words of the song reflected that of King David, who was not ashamed of dancing before the Lord.  We give him our everything and whatever we offer up to Him is a sweet sacrifice.  So, he beckoned for all the yovos from around the world to bring their Bibles and show their moves.

I wish I had a photo, but alas, I do not... (I am guessing that if a photo did exist, my wish would actually be 100% different!).  But, we made our way to the front- some with pocketbooks, others with Bibles.  My Bible has a fabric cover and I couldn't get it to balance on my head without some assistance, so I held it there and danced with the other arm.

I should probably mention that Dan had made friends with Pastor James on the ship prior to attending the service.  So, when we arrived with our blonde children, Pastor James escorted us right up to the front of the church, where we sat in four plastic lawn chairs, facing the congregation.  It felt a bit like being seated in thrones before our royal court.  The girls, of course, were very nervous being on display like that, and now being asked to dance in front of the church wasn't helping.

But, fortunately, I think the yovos equaled the number of the Beninois and Togolese, so the embarrassment factor was limited.  What's the difference between embarrassment and fun?  Just a mindset, right?  So, we embraced the fun.

After the dancing wrapped up, Marty Schwebel, one of the chaplains onboard shared a message on unity, which was translated from English into Ewe for the non-yovos in the crowd by Pastor James.  As collectively the congregation represented South Africa, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the US, the UK, Germany, Benin, and Togo, it was definitely an appropriate topic.

We will certainly be making a return visit to this great church.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Setting Up Shop - I Mean Ship!

We are in Togo - in the not so charming and not so quaint port town (and capital) of Lomé. 
So, what are we doing if there aren't any patients?  Are we just sitting around eating bon bons?

The ship's arrival and departure times are very full of activity and work. 

Here's a look at one area that gets transformed: the dock.

This is what our dock looked like upon our arrival.

Once we are secured, the gangway must be lowered and secured to the entrance so we have a way of getting on and off.  This happens almost immediately, so we can have our welcoming ceremony with whatever officials from the country have been involved in the work- usually the Minister of Health, sometimes a Vice-President, the port authorities, etc.

Once that has taken place, we begin the unloading and unpacking.  Have you ever moved?  Do you remember how much work it is to pack up?  Well, luckily our house moves with us when we move, but the things that go on land have the same amount of work as moving house does. 

The vehicles have to be craned off of the top of the ship and put onto land.  The shipping containers and pallets loaded with the supplies that we use on the dock have to be as well. 
Last year we had a modular home that was assembled that served as our eye building and our screening facility.

This year in addition to the two Alaska tents that will house the admissions area and rehabilitation,  we have two large inflatable tents that will be home to outpatients and screening for the next five months.
First a platform had to be built with pallets and plywood to create a flat, stable surface for these tents (and a bit of protection from the rat infested dock (a port with ships coming in and out full of rice, wheat, fish, and other goodies is a rat's paradise.  That bright blue container in the back is visible from our windows and we watch the rats come out from underneath it at night!).

These guys are part of a Mercy Team.  Mercy Teams are short-term guests on the ship who come for 7-14 days with the focus of doing a special task, not just working a regular position on board.  These guys have been here three times in the past year and help us with the set up and tear down of things like the dock and the hope center.  They are true hard workers who have come wanting to put their muscles to the test.
Brainpower might be needed more than muscles to assemble these new tents - but luckily they have this too.

This looks like my worst nightmare.  These are the parts of the Alaska Tents - for those of you like Dan, this looks like a 30 minute task.  For those of you like me, this looks like tears, frustration and an endless puzzle!

Part one is done...
Part two...
And voila! The finished product.  Here are the two Alaskas...
The two inflatables, meanwhile, are being laid out and ready for the magic moment.
 And here's the final product.
A view of our dock from deck 7, right above our cabin.  The covered open air canopies is where patients will wait for their appointments.

The beautiful thing about these tents isn't the fact that they are up, but the expectations that they hold.  Hundreds of individuals from Togo and surrounding areas that make their way here in desperation will be seen by physicians to see if they are fit for a surgery that can be performed on the ship.  Those that fit the bill will be registered, informed as to what will happen here, and prepared for their time with us.  Following surgery they will be treated here - physical therapy, occupational therapy, wound care follow-up in outpatients, and more.

These tents hold a lot more than air right now.  They hold the promise and hope for a new lease on life for so many.  We are anxious to meet these precious ones.

This week we will be screening some that were on the waiting list from last year, and on Feb. 1st we will hold our mass screening downtown Lome to find the rest of those that we have the capacity to help.  Join with us in praying that those in the greatest need will make their way to the right place.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Photo Memories

One of the benefits of living in community is sharing in goods! We don't need our own vacuum, iron, oven, microwave, set of tools- we can share.

Another thing we share is digital photos. One day if I could find the time and some amazing math skills, I would figure out how many digital pictures are taken by crew members in a given year.  I'm so glad that the days of having to calculate how many rolls of film you should buy, and trying to judge which pictures are shutter-worthy are gone!  You younger ones, ask your parents about this!

So, today as I was looking for the pictures to be uploaded from New Years I found a folder on the Transfer Drive in our computer lab called: Cheshire Home Photos.  Nearly daily someone shares their photos from an excursion, event, or memorable moment so others can copy, burn, transfer to a jump drive, blog, tag, etc... 

In this folder I found some treasures that made my day- so I wanted to share with you.
Michelle & Hawanatu

The girls dorm with some of their laundry hanging out to dry

My god-daughter Kadie

Michelle & Jalloh

Sidikie pretending to enjoy a ride in the van abandoned on the Cheshire Property

A glimpse at the glorious African sun

Three of the five Kamara children - two of home attend school at Cheshire.  Haja, Isatu (wearing Kylie's shirt), and Foday (also wearing a Bergman hand me down) 

Here are all five of the precious Kamara children: Foday, Kadie, Haja, Isatu & Aisha

The hardest worker you'll ever meet: Hassan.  I love this photo. 

The view toward the gate of the hills of Freetown
Life after the rainy season- the sun comes out and the plants put forth their blooms once again

Another artsy take of the property

A typical afternoon - we hang out, do a story, some songs, a craft, and play games. 

Doctor Dick Quimby, our crew doctor, takes some time out of his busy schedule (and 24/7 being oncall) to visit Cheshire with us, and tenderly is helping Fatu with her painting


Dr. Quimby also did some medical interviews with some who had been complaining of their ailments.  Foday was laughing when being asked about the worms in his tummy.
Here is how Aisha would come to us - on the backs of a seven year old.

Big sister, Haja, taking care of baby Aisha

Aisha was a common feature these past few months- Haja or Kadie would bring baby sis and place her in the hands in a willing "Opoto" (white person) to hold for the remainder of the afternoon.  I was only too glad to oblige.

I think Kadie and I were working out the details of confirmation here- how much money they needed to have their white dresses made, how would they get white shoes, veils, stocks (stockings), etc... This took place the night before confirmation

Some of the t-shirts you see in Africa make me laugh.  This one actually originated in Cancun, so I had this picture taken in honor of my brother, Lucas. :)  Sas was proud to wear this shirt!

And we'd make it home just in time to watch the sun setting on our home.

Oh Freetown, how I miss you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ringing...I Mean Singing in the New Year

If you asked me at 7:00pm yesterday what I was going to do to celebrate New Years, I might have told you I wouldn't be awake to remember.  After a day of girls' playdates coming and going and the sweet but tiring victory of a new jigsaw puzzle I was feeling lethargic, indifferent, and a little melancholic.

But, when the girls came in ready to make their masks for the Masquerade Ball, I got my game on again.

After some quick paper, metallic Sharpie and elastic string action we were ready to hit the dance floor. 

 Dance Parties on the ship are some of my favorite events.  Not just because I can bust a move safely within an audience that protects me from (well, laughter, but also) getting hit on by creepy, intoxicated, overeager, girating hormones, but because I get to watch the girls come out of their shells.  Watching them interact with their friends, their "aunties" & "uncles," teachers, role models in this fun environment is a joy.  I've seen Kylie learn how to moonwalk, do the worm, and learn a bit of swing dancing with the help of our Australian friend, Nick, our Canadian friend, Jeff, and our Togolese friend, Kevin.  These are the moments that make me smile and chime loudly in my heart that we are in a GREAT place for our family.

After more than two hours of dancing last night, the room was transformed back into the International Lounge and prepared for a special time of Creative Worship as we ushered in 2012.  Um, do you mean a Prayer Meeting?  For an hour?  That sounds so.....BORING.  Yeah, I think so too.  But, this was not.  It was a special time to be purposeful and reflect on things from this past year and listen in to God's leading for the next. 

We had ten different stations set up around the room that we could navigate at our own leisure while we chewed on these areas of life:
  1. What situations/wrongs am I still holding on to that I need to let go of? (with an example of the Two Monks)
  2. How is my financial integrity - what are the needs I need to share to the Lord?  Does money make me nervous or anxious? (2 Corinthians 8:2)
  3. What areas do I want God to be more fruitful in this next year?
  4. Where is my life tired, parched or dry? (John 4:14)
  5. Where am I vulnerable & need to know God's protection?  What verse would God give me to shield me? (2 Samuel 22:3)
  6. Who can I encourage today to shine like a star?  How can I be an encourager today? (Philippians 2:15)
  7. What part of God's Word will sustain me in the year to come? (John 6:35)
  8. How can I encourage my soul to trust in Jesus as my one and only anchor? (Hebrews 6:19)
  9. Spend some time creatively expressing the story that God has put on your heart (poetry, drawing, painting, writing a song)
  10. What is in God's vision for me for this next year?  What is the direction that He wants to take me?  How can I stay on course? (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Young and old participated here, with tangible activities at most tables (write the situations on a paper and rip it up, eat a piece of fruit as a reminder, write an encouragement to someone and give it to them, paint a picture, write it out on a bookmark, take a coin as a reminder).  We closed with a song as the clocks changed to 12:00am, 01/01/2012. 

It was a powerful reminder of Majoring in the Majors.  I'm not usually sentimental or good about wrapping up what is happening from one season to the next, but this evening was good for me, as God spoke some very clear, simple words that I will be putting into practice this year about priorities and expectations.  I include all these prompts here in case you wanted to carve out some time to look at your 2012 as a new season as well.