Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Friends from Around the World

One of my most favorite part of life with Mercy Ships is our international community of friends.  We have anywhere from 25 to 45 nationalities on board at any given time (I know this because calculating this is one of my side jobs for the big boss).  When we have over 40 nations on board,  my heart swells a bit.

International diversity has been something that has fired me up for as long as I can remember.  As a teenager I had photos of children and adults from all over the world plastered on my walls  - I just couldn't get enough of the beauty and creativity of the Lord in making each one of us unique.
I'm drawn to collections of flags, churches that pray for the nations, learning different languages, and of course international travel. University of the Nations, YWAM's headquarters in Kona, understands this too, and has this fountain at the center of their campus.

The idea that God loves the NATIONS - he calls the NATIONS to himself - that every TRIBE and TONGUE will be gathered around His throne in worship tells me that He is the author of celebrating diversity.  I think that is what resonates deep in my spirit as well.

Here are the countries that have been represented on board the Africa Mercy this past year:
Of course with different cultures you celebrate differences in language, dress, customs, greetings, holidays, and religion.  Even within the Christian believers from all of these nations we find so many differences on how we express our faith - for some worship is loud, spontaneous and vocal.  For others its a very somber, reverent moment between you and the Lord.  We have tried to embrace a bit of this on the ship with various expressions of worship throughout the year.

I love it when we have a night of African worship where it is not just a possibility to have the freedom to worship freely, but an expectation that you will worship with all your being.  "Shake Your Body for Jesus" is an actual song that you sing in church in Sierra Leone and you get up on your free, move around the sanctuary busting any move you've got while you are singing at the top of your lungs.

When we gather together for a birthday with our African friends, we don't just eat and play games and watch movies.  We have a rich time of singing, celebrating the Lord for what He has done in the past year, and a time of prayer to bless the birthday celebrant.

A couple of months ago I was struck with a flu that left me without energy and appetite.  I spent most of two weeks in bed.  Two of our African "brothers" (they are friends, but really they are my little brothers) would come over to pray over me. The first one said to the second one, "sing a song for Grande Souer" (big sister) and, on the spot, he sang an acapella song about God being the healer.

I love this.

Another thing I love that we are able to enjoy (and digest) about different cultures is FOOD!

Our wonderful Gurkhas not only provide amazing security for us on the ship, but they are amazing cooks.  They bring a little piece of Nepal with them every time they are home between their assignments on the ship.  Often in the crew galley, our communal cooking kitchen, you will smell the rich aromas of fresh chai tea simmering in a pot, fish curry fusing its flavors together, or the buttery smell of fresh tortilla-like flat bread that accompany their dishes.

They have a tradition of cooking a meal for the entire crew during a sail from port to port, so we look forward with expectation to a night of curried eggs, flat bread and Nepalese curried fish or chicken.

On occasion they make and sell momos in our snack bar (at the low low price of $0.20 a piece!).  These treats are similar to potstickers with bits of meat and vegetables steamed in a noodle wrapper with incredible sauces to dip them in.

And then from another part of the world, we have the West African dish of fufu.  Now, I must say - if you rush out to try fufu, I can pretty much guarantee that you're not going to love it.  It's more of an acquired taste.  Actually, it's kind of tasteless.  Fufu comes from pounded yam or cassava - they stem the starchy root and then pound it (and pound it and pound it) in a huge wooden mortal and pester until it achieves the desired consistency.
So when one of our Togolese friends was leaving to return to Togo, he threw a fufu party for us.
With fufu, hand sanitation is very important because often you eat with your right hand (your left hand is reserved for other things....).  So, you rinse, lather up, and rinse in the next bucket.

There are plenty of beverages on hand.
and if you just want to quench your thirst, grab a sachet of water, and down it.

Ghislain prepared the whole meal for us:
The purplish dough substance is the fufu - it gets its purple tint from the type of yam grown here in Guinea.  The peanut sauce stew is in the two round tureens and then there's a jollof rice dish in front.
Load up your plate with a ball of fufu and some stew and you eat it by joining your 2nd-5th fingers together and pushing them down into the fufu like a knife, separating the small chunk in between your fingers and your thumb.  Slather that with the rich, spicy peanut sauce, and shuttle it to your mouth in one quick swoop.  

After the third time of tolerating fufu, we grew to LOVE fufu and the girls are ecstatic to be here!  I think Kylie had three bowls full!!

The thing about fufu is that it is a bit like eating raw rice - it keeps growing and growing in your tummy (a perfect food in a country where this might be your only meal for the whole day).  While it is incredibly labor intensive, it is cheap and filling.  

After fufu, we all fill ready to strike a pose and have some fun.

With full bellies and warm hearts we celebrate with our friends.

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