Tuesday, December 13, 2011


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So one stage of my life is over and another has begun. I am now sitting comfortably in a faux heated room in Colorado, USA. Yes, I am home again. Funny that, I keep referring to the ship as home and have to change my wording mid word. It's very different. Traffic is no longer crawling at an aged tortoises pace, and I've slept in a bed in the basement alone. Last night I had to turn on an outside light on so I could sleep without getting scared. I'm not used to sleeping alone. Of course, part of that is because I watched Criminal Minds at around twelve in the morning. Ooops. Still, I find myself listening in the darkness for the noises of incoming criminals. Silly me.

It's also expensive. I spent over a hundred dollars on clothes today (I really needed clothes). I about fainted at the cashier's counter. I see a lot of that happening in my future, what with college and an apartment. Yep, I'm moving into my own apartment on the seventh to be shared with my cousin and a friend of hers.

Ok, so enough with that. What did I do on my last few weeks in Africa. I worked. A lot. I no longer worked at reception my last two weeks, as my replacement was by that point trained. But I did do some freelance ship work. I helped the off Ships team pack up, the sales team do what they needed to do, and Becca get ready for her wedding. That really isn't all that much. In all reality I only helped the off ships team one very sweaty back breaking day, and the sales staff for two days. The rest of the two weeks was getting ready to leave and helping Becca. But believe me adding on the fact that I needed to say goodbye to so many friends, it adds up to a lot.

Mercy Ships has been amazing. Not so much because it's in Africa but because it is a community of believers who work together to serve God. I loved that. I loved going Salsa dancing, exploring, impromptu bands, and everything else that went with being with a large group of people on a large ship. It became home.

On my way home, I stopped off to visit my sister in England for two weeks. We had a lot of fun. At one point we saw Les Misrables (amazing) and on the way back I broke down in tears because I had to convince my mind that no we were not getting into a land rover and heading back to the ship.

England was nice though. I stayed in London for a few days, and we went to a modern art museum, a gypsy market, and of course the theatre. After that we left for Sheffield, my sister's home. Now, the English who read this may wonder what could I ever do in Sheffield, but I wasn't there to get the cultural, touristy experience. I went to get to know my sister and her world more. I haven't spent time alone in her world in a very long time. I learned a lot!

It was fun.

So yah, now I'm here and for any Mercy Shipper reading this: I miss you a lot!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oh food, how I love thee. Without you, I could not survive. It be true, I couldn’t. Anyways, enough with silliness. Something I love doing is eating food in other countries. Sometimes it’s as tame as eating crepes in Paris, and other’s it’s as interesting as eating squid in Seoul.

Here in West Africa, there are quite a few ‘strange’ things to choose. There is street meat, fofo, and banku. Now street meat is the most dangerous, because I never know what I am getting. If it is the shish kebabs it is so spiced up that, it no longer has a taste of its own. It is still good, just slightly more dangerous, because it does not tend to be cooked on the spot and I am not always sure what sort of surfaces and hands it has touched between the time cooked and the time eaten by me. There is another type of street meat, which is a bunch of chunks of either goat (not a bad tasting meat) or cow cooked right in front of the person about to eat it. This is considered the safer bet as the big peace of metal the meat is cooked on is sanitized through extreme heat. Of course, the actual quality in the health department of the meat is still a mystery.

I love street Meat! More because I feel like an adventurer than because it tastes good, which it does.

The other food mentioned is fofo and banku. Both are basically big balls of doughy substance, which is dipped into a sauce. Therefore, when picturing Africa people often view a woman pounding a tree-branch sized stick into a vase like bowl. What they are pounding is a root, which after much pounding turns into the doughy substance called fofo. There is a reason why Africans are so strong. Anyways, there is a little restaurant where I can buy a plate of fofo or banku for only ten thousand Leoneans. That equals about two dollars. There are so many restaurants here made specifically for wealthy Africans and foreigners, and the food is expensive! In America, I would never spend that much for food (at least ten dollars for a plate) on a regular basis. Instead, I can have African food where the buildings might be a little less posh and the food less delicate, but it is good and cheep.

So, that is African food.

On other news, I am at this moment sitting at reception for the last time. That’s not true. I will probably hold the fort several more times between now and when I leave, but it’s the end of my official reception responsibilities. That is so strange to me. I’ve worked at reception for two years now. It’s had its difficulties, but overall it has been good.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Taking a walk

One of the best ways to experience a country is by taking a walk. This past week I have gone on two walks to the Crown Bakery, and the week before we walked to the museum by the cotton tree. Both take about forty five minutes to get to on foot. In a car, it could take from fifteen minutes to two hours depending on traffic.

The streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone are both fascinating and over the top frustrating. To meander one’s way to the crown or to the museum, one must go through the street market. Think of a flee market on a busy street. Small shops under old west saloon type buildings with their dilapidated and artsy balconies line both sides of the street. Fruit, spices, shoes, and clothing stalls stand wooden and rickety right in front of those, almost completely blocking the small sidewalks. In front of both, on the street itself, is numerous venders selling soaps, spices, shoes, and diapers, in large bowls, old blankets, and right on the tarmac. There is a constant noise, a pushing, a shoving, and people pulling at the pedestrians to look at their product, hoping the foreigner will spend more than it is worth. All this, and I haven’t even added the traffic!

Most people in Africa just walk everywhere, so on the main thoroughfares there are huge crowds (especially on the street market) mobbing the whole place: a continuous stream of bodies weaving in and out of each other as mini busses, semi trucks and taxis stream through, pushing and squishing people to the side, and causing the vendors on the street to scramble up with their merchandise, breathing a sigh of relief as their toes are not squished. On these streets I have had people pulling on my sleeves, little kids taking my hands, my ears numbed, and a feeling of overwhelming come over me.

There is a reason Africans are so communal. They have no choice otherwise. As little children, many of them take naps on the sidewalk as their parents yell their wares out to the passing populace. When they grow old enough (about five), they get their own bowl to place on top of their head and wander up and down the street calling out for people to buy from them.

I almost paint a bad picture, but it is not. It is a communal picture. I hear laughter often as moms' joke about something that went on that day (not unusual for me to be the butt of the joke). Many of them lounge in their chairs and chat to one another and let a tape recorder do the calling out. There is even a street performer in one of the byways and people gather around to watch him much like in Paris or London.

People stay in basically the same place day in and out. I’m starting to recognize them. On one of the corners, close to the bakery is a coconut seller. He sells them, chops them open, and takes out their meat while you stand there, all from a wheelbarrow. One has to stand there while drinking the water and eating the meat because he takes the shell back. It’s the same idea with coke vendors. African coke, along with fanta and sprite, comes in a bottle. The vendors get money for bringing back the glass bottle to their supplier so one must drink the coke right there. In America this would never work. People are too busy moving, thus the reason for take away and fast food. Here people stand and chat to one another as they refresh themselves with the best tasting coke I have ever had.

Truly, I have grown to love Africa, and taking walks has done just that.

Note: The pictures taken were from a car, and are not in the places described, but they give a good depiction of what I mean. I rarely take pictures when walking.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Salsa and God

            What does one think of when one says salsa? Well maybe the sauce, but I mean the dance. The picture I get, or I should say got, was sexuality, male with female, gracefulness, maybe some dark lighting. I did not picture myself and prophecies from God. On Wednesday night I went dancing with a group of people who go almost every week. It’s pretty cool to see men and women who did not know an inch of salsa, flying on the dance floor. Well this was my third time, so I’m still not that great (thankfully with the right dancing partner it doesn’t matter because he’ll just fly me around). On one of the lessons, God nudged me (think almost visual picture with a mix of feeling) and said “remember that prophecy."
When I was fourteen at winter camp a lady told me in prophecy form that one day I would dance but she didn’t know how. Well picture a scrawny teenager who is socially awkward and not exactly graceful and see how she reacted. In the years since I have danced before the lord and several occasions.
One of the more notable times, was when I was at church one Sunday and I learned there was a shooting at YWAM where I had gone to school and possibly deaths. I had no idea who was killed. I danced before God then, cause I didn’t know how else to express myself in God’s presence. 
Apparently, my learning Salsa was one of the parts of this prophecy. From what I can gather, dancing is one of the more self assured things to do. When dancing alone I can’t think, or at least not care what other people are thinking. When dancing with another person, I have to be ok with touching other people. Both show a need for me to not care if I make a fool of myself. Anyways, the point is, God said, see I have molded you into such a confident young woman, and I love you enough to get you into Salsa. Hehe. God’s cool.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Still Small Voice

God’s presence is so good. Sometimes it comes in this rush and I am filled with the joy of the Lord. Other times it is just the tender comfort of quiet. I received the later today. Just a sense of calm. I am an extremely analytical person. It means I think through things (usually wrongly) over and over until it drives me a little nutty. Today, as my friends were not in the dining room that I could see, I went up to deck seven to eat. Deck seven is a semi open air deck (think of a porch) with two tables and the corresponding chairs. It overlooks Sierra Leone, which with all its poverty, ramshackle housing, and smoky surroundings, is actually quite beautiful to view. I was joined by one other person, but at first neither of us talked except for the greeting. When we finally did talk it was without the need to put a bunch of words together and fill up space. It wasn’t small talk. I don’t really like small talk. Inside these large spaces I had music in my head and I could talk to Abba, my daddy. I felt calm. Quiet. Peaceful.

Yesterday, I finally bought my plane ticket home. November 27th is not that far away, and the plane ticket brought that all the more close. August 19th was my two year anniversary. I can still remember the day I came here, came home. We landed in Benin, drove, met a bunch of strangers who drove us to the ship. What a comfort it was to see all my gateway family lined up next to the gangway with signs, ready to take me and my fellow travelers (other gateway family members) into their arms. It was surreal but I was home.

This really is home. Here I have grown friends who, once we are apart physically, I will never part spiritually for they have become my brothers and sisters. Here, I learned the meaning of the prophecy told over me; that I would one day unfold and come into myself. Here, I have cried, I have laughed more times than I can count, I have done some crazy things, I have become friends with people from all over the world, I have sung on worship team, I have sung a solo(!), and I have said goodbye to hundreds of friends.

My gateway group, which has started out in the twenties has dwindled to about six. I have been to twenty-four countries. I have met thousands of people, but normally I am the one who says goodbye and drives away. I have become tired and sometimes downright moody. I feel like an old woman sometimes who says “well in my day…” because I do. I say things like, “Well when I started two years ago…”

Am I complaining? Maybe a little, but this little bit of sadness, cannot compare to the abundant joy of the former. I am so so glad I came. This has been a marvelous experience.

Still, thanks God for giving me this one moment of quiet where I didn’t have to put up any mask, and I could just be.

God bless all of you,


Went to the Crown Bakery and had a Lebanese breakfast

 Movie Fest on board - dressed up

Said goodbye to Johan

Country Line Dancing!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Dear Readers,
I beseech you to forgive me. Ok, well I have no good reason for my absence so I will make it up by trying to give a faithful account of life on board in the past few weeks. It’s been interesting.
Every job has its ups and down’s, disadvantages and advantages. The advantage being I get to know almost everyone on the ship. The disadvantage is I have many hours where nothing happens. We do a lot at reception but most of those things only take a few minutes.
This week I worked night shift. Now, most people, when they hear that, feel sorry for me. It’s actually not that bad of a time. I get the quiet time, so rare on this ship, that I need. While I did get my quiet time, I also had a bit of chaos mixed in.
Our most used airways is Brussels and they only use the one plane to go back and forth between Europe and Sierra Leone. That one plane kicked up a rock into it’s engine and became temporarily unusable. This meant the poor people trying to leave the ship went back and forth from the airport twice, only succeeding the third time in getting on airplane.
What this entailed was hours of traveling to the airport, a few hours at the airport and hours coming back. To say the least, people were not happy. It was my job to get them back into their old cabins (hospitality, God bless them, did most of the work on that part) and do the paperwork necessary. I’ve never seen so many people up and about at twelve in the morning, what with drivers, hospitality, and those wanting to greet the poor souls coming back.
To end it all, everyone is safe and sound where they are supposed to be. The arrivals are here, and the departures are gone.
As for me, my most exciting time was going out to eat at a nice restaurant. My roommates and I decided we needed a roommate get together (yes I’m back in a regular cabin with three roommates) and so we went out to eat. It wasn’t so much the eating (my food tasted like street meat and I know that because I’ve had street meat) but the drive back that I found fascinating. Our taxi driver was one I’ve used before so I knew him well enough to sit up front and chat with him. He is a Muslim by the name of Polo. We talked a bit about our religions. At the time it was Ramadan (I think the month of Ramadan is finished now). Religions is one of my favorite things to talk about as well as other cultures. Here I was getting both things in one go. Yes, it was a nice time.
Suffice to say, the past few weeks, has been interesting.
Well, God bless all of you,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Banana Island

Hello all,
This has been a fairly interesting week. Not because there is anything truly new going on, on the Africa Mercy. I am still living in a family cabin (cabin sitting) with Becca. Probably the biggest change on board, for me anyways, is the arrival of a good friend who is back on board and once again our reception team is full. One of the highschoolers was good enough to work here during her summer breaks.

So what I did these past few weeks: the Wednesday before last, we went Salsa dancing again. It was one of my friend's birthday, and as he is one of those who has gone salsa dancing every week, we did that and added a dinner and a cake into the mix. Very tasty and fun.

More to the point was this weekend. A small group of us stayed over night on an island. As I got ready for it, I found out from my friend that she didn't have a clue about the accomadations. I had visions of sleeping on the sand covered beach, with little protection from mosquitoes and small small food. While it was rough with no electricity and we didn't receive food until nine pm, we did have beds, mosquito nets, and coverings from the rain. We didn't do much (kinda the point when one leaves the ship) except lie on the beach, read, watch the sunset, talk, and play the dutch game - jungle speed. It was nice to sit together and get to know eachother a little bit better. I didn't get eaten by bugs too much and I didn't go to bed on a hard ground. I call that a win!

God bless,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dancing + Dress Shopping + Worship = A good week

“People are going to think you’re an extrovert.” That’s the laughing response I got when I told someone I had gotten off the ship yet again. So, I haven’t left the ship every day this week but a good amount.

Wednesday night was the most eventful in that respect. For the past I don’t know how long, a group of people have been going salsa dancing. I joined this past Wednesday. So, I’m still not the greatest dancer – little coordination, but oh it was so fun. I twirled. I floated. I stumbled. I had a blast. What made the evening more memorable was the atmosphere. The dance lessons were held at this fairly large restaurant in front of the ocean with the beach and the crashing waves. What is more: it rained. From the distance we could hear the thunder rolling and see the lightning flash. Awesome.

Thursday, I went dress shopping with a friend who is planning on having her wedding here. Well, that was interesting. I think the Africans like a little flair to their weddings. They like the big poufy dresses, the large hats, the numerous colors. My friend – not so much. We went into three different shops. The first were wedding planners. We shall see on them. The next was a shop where the ladies told my friend all she would need for a good wedding (the big hats, the gloves, and the poufy dresses). They also led us to a dress shop with a few good dresses in it (come all the way from David’s Bridal) but were too expensive. Strangely, because of all the NGO’s the land of Sierra Leone is not all that cheep. We shall see what actually happens on my friend’s wedding.

The third time I went out is not a big deal, so I will keep you from being bored over that. But on Tuesday, a group of us, went up to deck eight and had worship. We watched the sun set and the lightning come in. I could definitely feel God’s presence. Isn’t it good to be in the presence of the Lord?

Anyways, this week has been more than good. It’s been…well great.

God bless,

PS: I'll download pictures later

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Life on My Ship

I normally don’t talk about the organization I work for in itself; most of the reason being, I work in reception where the hospital stuff just doesn’t get by me all that much.

I truly do love this ship. The ship, or I should say the people and the God who dwell inside, bring so much light to so many people. “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn”(Isaiah 60:2-3). There is a lot of darkness over this country. There is the ‘secret organization’, the diamond trade, which works much like a slave force with how much people are paid, and of course the vestiges of war. But the people still smile, and there is still laughter. Satan has not won altogether. Even without us there is light. Still we are the harbingers of light.

Thousands of people have come through our gangway, or the gangways of one of the other ships, facing death and or separation from their families of friends, and left with a better future. Tumors have been removed, cleft lips fixed, and legs straightened. All this is for free. I love that about our ship.

I don’t just love what we do. I also love the society of the Africa Mercy. Numerous times I’ve gone by the café and had to sit down because someone was playing the piano, an impromptu band was going on, or worship was in session. We’ve had trivia nights, sock golf (much like Frisbee golf but safe to play inside), and movies in the international lounge. I’ve been a part of Bible study groups, worship nights on deck 7, and prayer with friends. I love that.

Society means friendship, and with the Africa Mercy this is not a flippant matter. I’ve made friends who I can talk to about anything. Who though we are countries apart, I feel we will always be friends. I’ve laughed with them, cried with them, and worshiped with them.

Why am I telling you this? I thought you should know.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Agriculture Program

I am not the ‘go with the crowd’ charitable person. Not that I am a particularly defiant person but I don’t tend to like to do what I ‘should’ do, so I tend to go kicking and screaming to any of the off ship programs. Of course, I have various good reasons. Making relationships in one day with someone (especially children from orphanages) then only coming sporadically because my schedule doesn’t allow any different, seems almost cruel, and not worth it. Unless I can see a good reason for being somewhere, or feel I make a difference, I don’t see the point. The question comes up if I would do even more evil by going. For example, orphans need constant love, so going to an orphanage, and one of the children get attached (thankfully the orphans seem to have learned and psychologically extract themselves from large groups when they come) then never coming back or only coming back sometimes, only to leave for good in a few months seems cruel. Anyways those are my reasons for not going to our off ships charities often.

The credit for this photo goes to someone other than me.

One of my friends goes to the Agriculture sight almost every week. The Agriculture program is run by Congolese man by the name of Jean-Claude who does an excellent job of teaching about twelve people for three months how to farm and how to teach others to farm. Anyways, my friend wanted me to go with me, and I needed to get off the ship so yesterday I went. At least, I thought, it would be more about the labor than friendship building. Well I was wrong, but it was quite a good experience.
By now the twelve or thirteen people there have been there for two months so they have gotten it down pretty well. They were teaching us (not an incredibly hard thing in my case since I am a city girl I have to admit). Very patiently, a young Sierra-Leonean man and his wife (who had a cute little baby on her back by the name of Anna) showed Penny and I how to plant the seed. They even told us why we did it in that specific way.
Later, after a long lunch break Penny and I went to the other side where a group of men and a woman were fixing plant huts for the saplings (or whatever you call it). They taught us (sometimes patiently and sometimes not so much) how to make very natural rope out of banana palm leaves and tree bark. I am proud to say, I can now do both.
They were very friendly. I felt like I got to know them, which I need to do in another culture. How else can I understand a culture otherwise? Thankfully, they treated me like the friend of Penny and so kept me from feeling as if I have to go back every week, as I don’t think I’d be any use there.
I learned that we have so much to learn from the Africans. They are naturalists by nature. Everything they did at that sight they did without using chemicals and did it with an ease of people who felt that it was how it should be. They understood the need for it better than my American compatriots could. It might be partially because it saves money in Africa, it would not save money in America. Still… I learned. I love learning.
I was probably mostly in the way, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was a complete foreigner and a complete idiot at times, but I’m glad I went. I like it when for once an African is lording knowledge over me instead of a westerner teaching an African.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I don't think Satan likes Mercy Ships by much. I'm not saying every bad thing that goes on is a spiritual attack, but when throughout a field service, bad things seem to happen, one wonders.
Barring a war or something similar, the Africa Mercy is not going to leave Sierra Leone until we have completed our alloted time here. I think Satan knows that, but Christians are a lot less useful when they are discouraged, and that is probably his motive. He knows he's losing in the end, so he's going to throw as much ugly at us as he is allowed.

What I am trying to say is we need those prayer warriors back home to step up to the plate for us. I'm not going to get into details, except to say none of the problems have to do with the ship's safety. I'll also say, that emotionally I find myself wilted a lot easier. I find my self esteem attacked almost to the same extreme as my high school days at times. I also find I have never been so irritable in my life, and that is saying a lot becuase I have a sister and two cousins that I can be completely myself with.
Anyways, please, please pray for us.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ah a few nice weekends

Ever since the day I went to Becca's and found that my being on board too long affected my ability to keep from snapping at people, I have made an actual effort to leave the ship.
We went hiking. Well sort of. A few weekends ago, about five of us decided we were going to hike Sugarloaf mountain (not sure why a perfectly normal mountain is called Sugarloaf). Well it would seem that this mountain isn't all that normal. At the beginning of our trip we hopped into a taxi, and told him where we wanted to go. We then spent the next two hours looking for this sweet mountain. Hah! We ended up at a waterfall sight where the hike to it was very small, much to the relief of my legs. Becca is slightly notorious in my mind for lugging me on interesting excursions. This was nice because the waterfall was cool, and I knew all of the girls (it was just woman which added to the charm) fairly well. I ate my sandwich, had water, and talked to Becca. It was lovely. So, am I sorry it took us so long to get there? Not a bit. On another note, we also went to the craftmarket where after getting attacked by a bunch of sellers (not literally it just seems that way when people are being so persistant all around you), I found a really pretty African dress. Yes, I finally bought myself an African dress. Sidenote: another team of hikers the very next weekend found Sugarloaf.
This weekend, we went on a less exciting excursion to a beautiful, seldom used beach. We swam, got sunburned, and generally relaxed.
Yes, I am surrounded by abject poverty, demon worship, old vestiges of war, and yet God has enough love to notice little me and my seemingly little problem: Heather needs off the ship.
love you all,

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blessings of God.

It's funny how, as humans, we tend to pile up on things. If things are going bad, we see all the bad and never the good so the bad seems to pile. In the same way, when things are going well, we don't see the bad quite as much. I like the last bit best.
I was having a bad time. One of the reasons was simply that I had not been able to get off the ship in about a month, so cabin fever had set in and I was grouchy which makes me even more grouchy because I don't like being grouchy and people don't like grouchy me. You can see the cycle right there.
Thankfully I have a great friend, Becca, who let me stay at her house (team house), over the night so I could take a much needed vacation. The ship also had a dance party on Saturday night which was a load of fun, though I'll be the first to admit that I make ordinary white people look like good dancers. The next day was church where the sermon was good and wasn't on the ship (I like Africa Mercy services, but sometimes one needs to have a break from that crowd), and then we had a pool party of five people. I showed off how unsportsy I am, but again who cares; I was with friends and I was having fun.
God and I later went to the eighth deck (usually reserved for couples, but there were none last night) and had a good chat. He didn't tell me anything, but he did give me a sense of peace over a few things and I felt his presence.
See the rains don't always last (I like real rain but that isn't the point).
God bless,

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Yesterday I woke up in a bad mood. Just a depression resting on my soul. Thankfully God is good. I was able to be around several friends, and there was a lightning storm. I use this storm in this blog, because I give a good bet you have never seen a storm like this in your life and I may not even know you! Lightning was everywhere and continuous. Every minute there was a streak of lighting brightening up the sky, but even between those there were flashes surrounding us the whole time. I stood on the eigth deck, the rain having stopped at that point and watched the wonder of God before me for an hour. It was amazing.
God's like that. Just when your getting down, he does something amazing to remind you that he is there. He never leaves and he's all powerful.
God bless you all,

The picture was taken by Lourens Lessing

Sunday, May 8, 2011


It is funny how though one is on a grand adventure they can still be in the routine of things. People are embarked, others disembarked. Emails go in and out, and we receptionist do our shifts.
Actually, I'm not complaining, just pointing out irony. Life is ironic that way. One can go across the globe and find that they are in a routine. Even bushmen have routines I'm guessing.
Its also a good thing because that means things are working smoothly. We have patients, our screenings are going well, people are still volunteering, and life goes on.
There are a few non routine things to mention. Somewhere close to the dock is a river where people tend to throw their trash. That trash comes to us and blocks our in-tack valves. Though not dangerous, as far as I know, it is annoying because it means divers have to go down every day to unblock them. Apparently its only going to get worse. Without the intake valves, the engines aren't cooled and air-conditioning is limited. Its not bad at the moment. I still have air-conditioning in my room, but sometimes the main parts of the ship is turned off. The most important thing is keeping the hospitals cool. There are a lot of expensive equipment down their that need to stay below a certain temperature to work properly.
So, anyone out there who has a license in diving, come on board!
God bless all,

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter break

Happy Easter,
It truly has been a good holiday. No, I was unable to be with my family, but friends are able to become family in times like these.
To the credit of my boss, I had three days off for the Easter weekend. Friday was spent doing things with my friends. Becca wanted to cook for her boyfriend, so she, another girl, and I went to the food market where an assortment of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish (yes that is a type of meat too!), and herbs, lay on the ground (that is the road), on little rickety structures, and in bowls. When one goes to the market around here, there are a few tricks one has to learn:
1st: Don’t get claustrophobic – the crowd likes to surge around you and muffle you.
2nd: Watch out for cars – it’s still a street and when a mini-bus comes through everybody squeezes into the sides of the street including vendors with large bowls of whatever food they are selling in the middle of said street. No, my toes were not squished and yes, I am fine.
3rd: Bartering! Never, ever, buy something in an African market at the price set. The vendor knocks the price up real high so one can barter. When selling things like cloth or little wooden paraphernalia, vendors tend to say things like. “My friend. My friend. I give you special price. Just for you.” In the food market, this did not happen. I don’t think they knew what to do with a bunch of white girls buying African items.
So, that was the first half of my Friday. The second, I went out with Alice, a friend of mine from Sierra Leone who took several of us out to a place called the China house. It is not Chinese at all so I shrug my shoulders at the name. Its basically a bar ( I had three very non-alcoholic cokes, so bar or no, don’t get angry at me), a dance floor, and a band stand. The live music didn’t start until after we left, and their was no dancing until then, but it was still nice to sit down with my cokes and chat with friends. We had street goat-meat (it came and talked to me later but not too badly so I won’t complain), wrapped up in newspaper, which tasted really good. After, we wandered the streets and looked into the shops, including a shop with copyrighted movies and music (most copywriting seems to happen in the third world, being cheeper and all), and other interesting items like headphones and phone cards.
That was Friday.
Saturday I did nothing, so we shall skip that day to Sunday, Easter.
Easter was not a crazy busy day, but relaxing, and good to just be. There was a sunrise service (I didn’t go so don’t ask), and then the Easter service where I was in the choir. We only sang two songs (there were lots of other songs sung, but not by the choir), but it was good being a part of it. There was interpretive dance, a sermon, worship, and sign dancing. Really, it was very good. Of course my favorite part about Easter on board came next (I’m not very righteous when it comes to matters of the stomach).
We had an Easter brunch. The galley did a very good job preparing breads, quiche, fruits, and chicken salad. Yum.
I took a nap after.
When I got up and went into midships, a pleasant surprise awaited me. A small group had formed an impromptu (I think it was impromptu) band. There was jimbes, guitars, vocals, and piano, all while the café was up and running. It was wonderful. I sat in midships for three or four hours rotating between reading, chatting, and listening. Yay. It was a good day.

Anyways thank you all for your prayers and support. Love you

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Hello again,
I can't quite remember how long it has been, but it feels like a while. In a way there are a lot of things going on over here.
The ship first. We have patients so that is a plus, and a full crew. Another plus. Problem is we seem to be using way to much water. I have my guesses on that, but I won't state them. So, the crew has to go through a showerless weekend. Hopefully today we get to take a shower otherwise my hair is going to be very scary. I am just thankful that I did not go to the beach. Those who did, have to shift with briny hair with road dirt salted in. Gross.

Actually we seem to be hitting a lot of road blocks lately. Something happened to one of our containers and is just now getting it when it should have been here more than a month ago.

In all this we must remember one thing: we are missionaries here to serve God and the people who have their surgeries done in the OR. Sometimes we get a little comfy around here with our starbucks coffee (its out of caffeenated coffee and chai so a hit on people like me who seem to be getting addicted to caffeen), our internet, our comfy beds, and our air conditioning. Funny how most of these things have been challenged for me during my time on board. We had no air conditiong in South Africa and it was Summer. There was a brief spell of bad amounts of internet, and now I have to deal with no Chai and no shower. Oh woh is me. Considering Queen Elizabeth only took two baths per year and they thought her crazy for the one extra, I can deal. Thank you all for the scarves I received for Christmas. They are coming handy.

Anyways, as to things I've done of note - not much. Becca took me with her to the Hope center (where the patients go when not in the wards), where I had the pleasure of narrating a story for the sake of a teaching exercise Becca was doing. It was fun, they really got involved. Becca and the interpreter (the people here speak Creol which is a very strange version of English and does need interpretation at times) acted out the bits beautifully.
I think that is it. Please pray for us out here.
Love you all,

Friday, April 1, 2011


Soooo, admitadly I lazed out and didn't make a blog this last weekend.
That is why I shall do so now.
We did have the screening, and it went extroardinarilly well. Their were no riots and a lot of people came to terms about what happened through this screening. Yes, God is good, and He knows what he is doing. It's just that as a rephraze from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, God is not a tame God. How can we know what will happen next and what He will do in each situation, not that He is the one who created what happend the first time.
The ship has been pretty steady on every other note. We have had a flow of visitors from both the US and Norway. We call them vision trips and it is full of people who want to know what we are doing on board. There has also been several big functions, one with the President's wife, and one for all the medical people from Sierra Leone who have helped us out. Without either the Vision Trip people or those we did functions for, the ability to run this ship wuold be nil. So I am not complaining about the vague offset from rotine. We are not here for ourselves but for those in the hospital, and yes we have patients!
I went all around town with Becca yesterday. That was fun simply because I was with a friend, but it was also good because I got to see diferent parts of Freetown. Most of it is full of shanty housing and tiny shops selling everything from electrical fly swatters to fried plantane chips (these are delicious). There were some nice buildings, such as the Judicial hall and other governmental building. Also the areas where foriegners live. That is the hardest part about living in low income country. Sometimes the poverty doesn't seem to end. Then I also see bits and pieces of the war: people without certain limbs.
Then Becca said something which kinda jerked me for one a bit. She said, they were happier here than in Togo. It reminded me to look at their faces. Sometimes we are so caught up with what's going on with their physical being that we forget about what is important. The people here do seem happy. They laugh and chat in the market place. They go to work, they come home, they are normal people with lives. Yes they are poor but first they are humans.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Comming Up

Well, I’m back on night shift again, land of solitude, movies, and random nigh owls. Strangely, I like it.
Since the last time I wrote, not much has happened. I have gone to the beach once and had an African meal on Monday (specifically made so westerners can consume).
After much thought, the Africa Mercy crew is having another screening on Saturday. Surprisingly, people seem even more driven to be a part of it. This is why we are here, and the saddest part of last time was the fact that people would not be seen. So now a chance has been renewed and everyone is getting ready. Please pray for that day.
Thank you for all your support.
God bless.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pics of Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone from the ship at sunset. Absolutely beautiful.

Our Dock and home for nine months


So, the reason why I uploaded these photos instead of writing about my adventures is, I haven't had any lately. I've been working night shift, but as I was posting these pictures a group of patients came in. Each one of them had various expressions on their faces: hope, fear, awe, and even blank looks. They have tried to get this healing for so long they don't know what to think and are saving the happiness of health for when it actually happens. Still, it is such a good reminder of why I am here. It makes me happy that the patients pass by me as they come in.

Thank you all for reading and praying for me,

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Good Day then a Bad Day

After ten days of working at reception, I finally got a day off on Saturday, and went to the beach with my good friend, Becca. This was also a bittersweet day since Leah, another good friend, had gone home. Nearing the end of our time at the beach on Saturday, we went for a walk then met up with one of the people Becca had met before when she was scouting beaches (she was making up the intertainment book for the Africa Mercy). In both Togo and Benin, the people I interacted with, especially potential patients, did not speak good English. It is so much harder to click with someone you do not speak the same language as, then with those you can understand. I did not understand this fully until I met this man. He spoke fluent English. My brain instantly clicked him as being my equal. I hate to say it, but sometimes I find that hard to do. Now, he did not want to become a patient, but his father was going blind. The hope on his face was absolutely beautiful when we told him his father might get treatment and see again. It instantly brought to life the hope people gain when they even hear the name of "Africa Mercy". See, they aren't just thinking rich people, white people, westerners, a nice facility. We are their only hope of ever walking, seeing, or being normal again. Most African countries have minimal health services and even smaller surgery ability. When they do, there is no insurance affordable enough for more than half the people. Sometimes it is easier to remember them as a statistic, but the hope I saw in that young man's eyes, when he heard there was a possibility that his father, a man he loved, could see again, then that statistic fell away, and I saw a human being clinging onto something. That is so powerful. Hope can be dangerous.
Today Mercy Ships had screening day. It is when thousands of people come to a large stadium or building to be looked at and get the yay and nay on getting a life changing opperation. This is a lot like getting in line for that Peter and John miracle in the Bible with the lame guy. Same desperation.
I'm not sure what, so I am not going to speculate, but something went wrong. Quite a bunch of people got into the gaits before they were supposed to and a lot of other things escalated to created panic, panic born of desperation made worse by hope. Something I almost feel bad about, is I am thankful no Mercy Shipers got hurt.
Amongst the Africans who were in the midst of the chaos there were injuries and one death - an African man who only wished to be looked at and maybe cured. Hope had spured him. I have no idea who this man was. I do not know his family. I have never see his face, but I pray that his family will be ok and that the comfort of God will flow over them.
This makes what we are doing so much more real. This is why I'm here. To help those doctors and nurses who are essentually being Peter and John. Peter and John did not give money. They did not tell the begger he needed to follow Jesus first. They just layed their hands on the man and he was healed.
Who are we? We are just tools God uses, and Satan hates that. Satan hates healing, joy, and hope. Hope is a powerful thing.
So please pray for us on board the Africa Mercy as we process everything that has gone on today. It is a tragedy that Satan used what we ment for good. Still, God is powerful and will use this tragedy for good. Thank you God.

God bless you all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sierra Leone

Well, I'm here!
My camera is full, and believe me I have found no time to take download those pictures so I can take more, so you'll have to live without for a bit.

Anyways, it is absolutely beautiful here. The city of Freetown is basically crowned by mountains and water. People have built their houses all the way up the mountain, and the two are so close together, that we can see the individual lights of the houses up the mountains. I haven't been here long to gain a general outlook on what the people are like, and what the atmosphere is like here. I took one walk from the port to one of our houses, which took five minutes. Still the walk was somewhat adventurous, considering how friendly people are here. Everybody stopped to say hello and ask how we were. There are little shanty shops all the way up the road but people aren't grabby about getting customers just a friendly hopefulness.
I think I'm glad we are here.

Work itself has been a tiring, long process. I can't complain. Most of the time we have little work in comparison with everybody else. Still, work has been non stop busy. On monday I must have worked for twelve hours all together and stayed up till one am embarking thirty new crew members. The next day was quite the challenge. Its been good though. I feel useful, and like I know something. Just tired. God is good though, and he has provided the strength I've needed.

Well, I hope all is well. Don't forget about us here in Sierra Leone.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

@ Sea

Once again we are sailing. This will be my... let's see... my fourth and last time sailing. That is a somewhat depressing thought. In August I am planning on leaving (unless God says differently) for home, making a few detours to Swaziland and Europe along the way. Yes, it's six months from now and I'm already starting to think about it. Humph. That's probably not a good thing

Ok, so sailing. Its been fairly relaxing. Sailing is the period of time that I have more days off reception than on. I also don't feel as obligated, as its my fourth time, to do all those things one does while sailing (going to the bow, looking at the stars from deck eight, sleeping on deck eight), which is also nice. That is not to say that I am not keeping busy in my own way. As those who know me, already know (bad sentence structure there but oh well), I want to be a writer, so I've been studying on that. I've been reading a book called Self editing for fiction writers and taking notes. Its a good book. I've also started a blog up on my life as a newbie writer (as a sort of advertisement: http://insignificantwriter.blogspot.com).

Yesterday was busy in the fun department. One of my good friends on board just had a big birthday, so I attended her potluck lunch (had really good chocolate cake). Happy Birthday to Kathy!! One of the families on board had an open cabin (there are no houses so its kind of like an open house) and I hung out with them (popcorn). For dinner we had cake once again, as one of the babies on board turned one. Happy Birthday Lily! Yes I know this is getting listy (no, that is not a word). We then had worship on the bow (the bow is the most forward part of the ship and in this case is outside with the waves - think Titanic), which is always amazing. I love having worship in the middle of nature with the sun setting and the water splashing - purely magnificent. The last mass crew event was sock golf. Now, I'm a nerd when it comes to any type of sporty event, which means I'm terrible, even at sock golf (sad, very sad). Ok, so explanation: think Frisbee golf except with socks rolled up and on a tipsy ship. Hah! Oh well it was fun anyways... that is until I got annoyed with myself.
Ah well it all rolled up and got sleepy when my normal group of friends (they call themselves the nerd herd for some strange reason) and I watched Eureka in one of the family on board's cabin. Its something we do almost every day, and is a good way to take a breather before the end of the day - watch a few television episodes than go to bed. After this horrendously long day (started at twelve pm but don't tell anybody), I curled up in my bed, finished my book, read a bit of my Bible, and fell asleep. All in all, it was a good day.

Ok so yesterday was busy in the fun department, but that isn't to say I haven't been working, wasting my father's valuable money (he's supporting me). When I have been working, works been a lot. We have badges to do, packets for the forty some odd arrivals boarding when we get to Sierra Leone to make up, emails to answer, questions to direct, phone calls to answer, notice board stuff, and a host of other piddly but time consuming and much needed stuff to do.

In all, after my bout of not bearing the seas to well (not quite sickness but discomfort for sure) I have had a nice sail. Hope your having a nice week too.

God bless
Heather Out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cape Town

There are some days where I feel extremely blessed. After a three day journey, the Africa Mercy docked in Cape Town for twenty-four hours. Cape Town is a beautiful city, being enfolded by large, oddly shaped mountains, and the crystal sea, but that is not why I felt so blessed. A good friend of mine is from Cape Town, and is at the moment going to school there. She picked me up from the ship, and we went to her house where her family was having a get together. The family immediately incorporated me into the group, and made me feel at home. Even though my friend had to go to band practice at church, they chatted with me, and hung out, though I was a completely new entity in their environment. I went to church with them, talked with them, and later after church, had junk food with them. Its strange how nice junk food can taste after being on a ship where the meals are made from scratch most of the time. I went to bed at their house, comfortable and welcome.
The next day, I was dropped off at the ship at around nine am, and I got to do more the touristy thing. We road a bus where we put on earplugs to hear the automated tour guide, and heard about the history of the city. Cape Town, for being so young, has a lot of history. A lot of it is racial problems, but it does seem that they are repenting from that scar. It is a beautiful city and faintly reminds one of California. The rest of the day, we went up the mountain in a cable car (I'm not a hiker), ate schwarma, and went to a bookstore. So, maybe I didn't get to wander the streets, but still it was memorable. Its always the little blessings that seem to stay the longest.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pool and Other Important Matters

Guess what! We now have a pool. Yes that's right, they filled it up with clorinated water and I have swam in it three times! So my griping about it is over.
In other news, we are hoping, praying, and crossing our fingers, that we will leave tomorrow, and get to Cape Town in a few days time. That is even more exciting than the pool as I have friends down there who I hope to see again.
The plan is to only be in Cape Town for one day then to set sail for Sierra Leonne. The next part of our sea voyage will be the interesting part, as I'm sure you can imagine. We are to cross through the cape of storms. That's what the sailers named it. Hah! Well last time God protected us, and I trust he will do so again. Still, pray for us and our journey. Still, I'm excited. The crew happen to be very good at keeping themselves entertained during a voyage. There are numerous games, movies, and other various entertainment to keep oneself busy, not to mention the marine life that occasionally pops up to say hi as we sail the Atlantic.
Yep, I'm excited.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Sound of Children

Once again, there is the sound of children's laughter. I didn't really know I missed it until I heard it again. Two things are back on the ship: the crew who went to Appelsbosch and air conditioning. The air conditioning I had realized I'd missed. It's hard not to when one wakes up to the puddle of one's own sweat in the morning. The thing about ships is that they are metal, and being so they tend to radiate heat. I tended to go outside just to cool off. But now we have both the crew and the air conditioning and I don't really know which I'm more happy about.
It's nice having my little friends come up to me just to say hi, or be pounced by one of the teenagers on board. The ship has about fifty kids on board, ranging from six months to eighteen. During shipyard faze we did have little Lily, who was too young to trip over wiring, or go where she'd get hurt, so stayed and became our mascot. Still, there were no other children. Yep I'm glad they are back.
Actually things are beginning to regulate once more. The academy is back on board, the ship shop is starting, if not now, than soon, the reception is at full steam ahead, and the hospital is slowly becoming spotless once again. I just ran into a few people hard at work getting black marks off the hospital floor. Home is becoming normal again.
I like that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reception again!

As I sit here, on the first night shift reception has had in months, I had the epiphany that I it has been a while. Do to setbacks in the engine room, we are still in Durban, and most of the crew is still in Appelsbosch, a place about an hour and a half from here. At the moment it is beautiful, with just enough of a breeze to make me slightly sleepy and the lights from the harbor glancing oddly off the water. There is something very beautiful about a harbor at night time.
We have become a bit of a tourist attraction, we and our boxy hospital ship. During the day and certain times in the evening, tour boats chug slowly through the harbor as they tell their human cargo about the different sights around the port. We happen to be one of them. It is fun to wave and see how many participate and wave back. I am sure I am on a few cameras by now. How is that about getting famous?
At the beginning of the field service, before I went home to see my family for two months (Jessica was beautiful in her wedding gown), I left reception to work as a steward. What did this envolve? Well, every morning we had a meeting in the psudo auditorium on sixth deck, the international lounge as we call it, at seven thirty. After a half hour of singing much rowdier tunes than we like in the morning and getting the daily update, I go down to the fifth deck for yet another meeting, and the day starts. For a few hours we cleaned the ship. At normal times at field service there is usually about four or five people (not sure here) who clean the ship top to bottom for eight hours every day. As there was only four of us working for a couple hours on a good day, we only got the most necessary places cleaned. There was an amazing amount of dust build up after such things as sand blasting (using sand to get rid of paint) and needle gunning (using an interesting appliance to get rid of paint or rust or something). Still we had to get onto the next thing, which was dining room. That job pertained to setting up, mopping the floor, cleaning surfaces, and dishes for a hundred crew. It’s larger than you would think. I’ve known two people who have done dining room their whole time in field service and I respect them greatly. Sufficient to say I think I lost weight by all this extra exercise.
Thankfully, I am back in reception. Reception is a lot of work, but it tends to be all at once with quiet moments in between. I have moments of being overworked with the huge desire to go to the bathroom, when I can’t leave the reception desk, to moments of extreme relaxation writing. I like it that way. At the moment I’m on night shift talking to you. We are hoping to be setting sail too. Next stop… Sierra Leone!