Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Here is a video for you to watch. I'm off ship today where I can get media that is normally blocked on the ship.
It's a reminder of  the things that are taken for granted in the US and the way things happen here in Sierra Leone.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dr. Ayo Bello

“Doing ten [cataract surgeries] a day, I thought I was the best eye surgeon in the world,” said Dr. Ayo Bello. But then he met Dr. Stan Pletcher at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Georgia, who told him he knew someone who could do 50 cataract surgeries a day. “No way! It’s just not possible,” said Dr. Bello. Dr. Pletcher assured him it was true and agreed to direct him to Dr. Glenn Strauss. “And he did!” said Dr. Bello.

“It’s not been the same ever since,” he admitted, “because Dr. Strauss is a wonderful teacher and a marvelous man.”
At Dr. Strauss’ invitation, Dr. Bello came to serve on the Africa Mercy for the first time in 2009. “The first day, he only did 35 [surgeries] because I was slowing him down. He was showing me the steps one at a time, watching and holding my hand through it all,” he explained.
According to Dr. Bello, Dr. Strauss’ method works on all types of cataracts, hard and soft, and the technique is faster, safer and cheaper for the patients. For these reasons, he is now using it at his hospital, the Ayo Bello Memorial Hospital in Ilorin, Nigeria. The hospital is named after his late father.
His association with Mercy Ships led him to examine his life. Reflecting on the sacrificial life of Dr. Strauss, he started the Ayo Bello Foundation which offers eye surgeries to the poor, without charge. “Why shouldn’t I go to the next town in Nigeria to do something good?” he asked. To date, well over five hundred surgeries have been done. Dr. Strauss’ technique has helped the foundation reach many people, which is why Dr. Bello feels more support will be forthcoming. “As the word gets out,” he said, “we’ll be able to recruit more doctors. Mercy Ships has done this, which insures the good work will continue. It looks like now we’ll do even more, since we are training other doctors. We are multiplying what I’ve learned, to produce many Dr. Glenns,” he said. “We have to clone him, if possible,” he chuckled.
Dr. Bello earned his medical degree at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and did two years of residency in Nigeria, followed by two more years in the UK. For his fifth year, he served in Nigeria to complete the program and began his practice in Nigeria in 1986. He is currently serving short-term onboard the Africa Mercy for the third year in a row.

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by David Peterson

Saturday, October 22, 2011


When our hands become His hands we let others see the cross

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned

 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function
 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

 Romans 12.1-5

Came across this picture today and had to share it. Can't take any credit for it. I've never felt more like a part of the body of Christ. To live on a ship where each person has a very specific purpose and knowing that things don't get done without each person doing their part is a true testimony of the power of Christ.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Picture Update

Here are a few pictures that have taken over the last week.

I went with the agriculture team Friday to see one of the farms that I mentioned last week. Above you can see the seedlings that have sprouted up in their new nursery. Below one of the students is explaining some of things that they have learned.


It was a small walk from the Land Rover to the area that they were farming, We passed through a very nice shaded area where huge fern were growing on the trees, to the right you can see that the leaved are 3 - 4 feet long! Below is the farming area/teaching area. The instructor went through training that Mercy Ships provided. Now he came back to his village and is teaching people from surrounding villages so that they can go out and teach more people how to become sustainable farmers. If you look close there are areas marked off that each student is in charge of.

After a tour of the area we went into the hut for a small meeting with introductions, encouragement, and thanks. Above you can see where the ladies of the community played and led songs for everybody. Below you can see The group from Mercy Ships, the thirteen students and a few people from the community. 

Here is a better picture of the whole nursery area. 
You can also see the students and their teacher proudly showing what they have made.

Saturday  I went to the HOPE Center with Tori to play with the kids and take some pictures for her. Below you can see two cleft-lip patients. One before and one after. It's amazing to see them smile. Makes me wonder why I wouldn't smile all the time.

Monday I said goodbye to two friends from Canada, Torey & Tara . 
Would love to go visit them next year since I have met many great Canadians on the ship.

Wednesday night a group went out to say goodbye to my room mate Andreas, from Norway. Every time I go out on the streets it still surprises me to see the things that I do. I will forever think twice before complaining about traffic.

Thank you again for keeping up with what's going on in my life. I'll be home in two months. Thanks for the prayer and support.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Food for Life

There is an off-ship department that does different ministries on the main land. A few weeks after I arrived in Sierra Leone the agriculture team had their graduation. Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to visit one of the sites, where one of the Food for Life graduates use their skills to grow food sustainably. It should be very exciting and I hope to have a follow up story to go with this soon.

In July Mercy Ships held the Food for Life graduation ceremony beside the St Clements Junior Catholic School in Waterloo, a suburb of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sixteen trainees graduated from the Agriculture and Nutrition Project. The event was attended by a representative for the Minister of Agriculture and the Mercy Ships Food for Life in-country partners – City of Rest, Heifer International Sierra Leone, Hope of Glory, and Sierra Canadian Humanitarian and Development Organization.

The Food for Life program focuses on long-term sustainability of organic food production using conservation-oriented methods supported by dietary health benefits. Its train-the-trainer approach will have far-reaching effects across the nation for many years to come. To reap the optimal yield per harvest, the training utilizes natural, practical, low-cost, non-invasive farming methods taken from the Scriptures. It also provides fundamental nutritional advice about creating a healthy balanced diet by using the food grown in each crop. This knowledge will help reduce common illnesses by increasing the volume and variety of vegetables and by improving nutrition.
Each partner in the project recruited farmers to participate in the four-month Food for Life course. The trainees were selected from a wide area of the Western Province so they can support each other as they set up their own training sites. 
Upon arrival, each trainee was allocated a garden plot for implementation of the new techniques. Each day started with a Bible study. Then farming methodology was taught by Mercy Ships Agriculture Program Facilitator, Jean Claude Mouditou. His wife, Anastasie, provided training in nutrition – the nutritional content of specific foods and methods to create a healthy balanced diet – thus supporting long-term health care in Sierra Leone.
Bambay Sawaneh joined the program with his wife and baby despite a physical disability he suffered during the war. Rebel soldiers chopped off both his hands. A compassionate nun arranged for him to have a surgery that split the stubs of his arms to allow him to grasp things. Without that surgery, farming would have been impossible. His dedication to farming comes from a family history in agriculture. In comparing the Food for Life methods with the traditional ones, he said, “Through this form of training, I came to learn that we have been wasting our time and wasting our energy. It’s like we’re working like an elephant and eat like ant…We destroyed everything out of ignorance.”

Traditionally, African farmers brush and burn the land before scattering seeds, followed by fertilizing with bought products and watering. The organic methods, which do not use brush and burn techniques, produce a high yield of a greater variety of well-formed vegetables three times a year. The investment of money and labor is reduced, while optimizing natural materials to conserve the environment. For example, farmers produce their own compost, rather than purchasing harsh chemicals. Bambay expressed the hope and enthusiasm the farmers have received from the training, saying, “It’s wonderful! I never knew that we are destroying what God has put on this ground to bless us…Now my eyes are open, we can do it the organic way.”
On the day of the graduation, many guests gathered to celebrate the success of the Food for Life Program in Sierra Leone. As they took their seats, they were entertained by the vibrant choral songs of the Women’s Empowerment for Self Development Association. Mercy Ships Programs Administrator, Keith Brinkman, began the ceremony with prayer and worship. Then Bambay Sawaneh, representing the student farmers, gave a comprehensive summary of the knowledge delivered through the program. Next, Jean Claude addressed the trainees, saying, “In Africa, we are blessed from the West to the East. We are living in the blessing of the Lord. You’ve learned a lot, combining agriculture with nutrition. I’m very proud of you people.”
The final speech was delivered by Mercy Ships Off Ship Projects Manager, Tracy Swope. She emphasized the importance of partnering with fellow non-governmental organizations to ensure the new prosperous future.  

This sentiment was echoed by a representative from Heifer International Sierra Leone, who stated, “It is very good training to improve knowledge and skills for organic farming from cultivation to harvest. People will have more fruits to sell, and have money, and have nutrition and benefits from the foods.”
Then jubilant celebration erupted as the student farmers officially graduated. Each one received a certificate presented by the Africa Mercy interim Managing Director, Kerry Peterson. They also were given wheelbarrows, pitchforks and seeds.

After the ceremony, the newly-graduated farmers led the guests on tours of the cultivated garden plots at the Mercy Ships agricultural site. The plots were densely flourishing with an impressive array of shiny vegetables arranged in tidy rows. Hannah Nasu, one of the farmers recruited by Hope of Glory, confided that she expresses her new-found passion for farming in her spontaneous dancing as she sings gospel songs while watering her garden plot. She explained, “I love the work so much that I built my well to water the plants. This is farming God’s way. Everything God has done is perfect.”
Another farmer, 64-year-old Victor Tamba, impressed guests by energetically leaping around his garden plot. His life was filled with unhealthy living and alcoholism, but the training transformed his life by giving it a new purpose. He is delighted that he can share his new knowledge with other families, bringing joy into their lives. He confidently explained, “God opened my eyes. I have come and learned better things for the future.” In fact, he has already used his newly-learned farming methods to create a vegetable plot at home to start feeding his family home-grown vegetables.
The Mercy Ships Food for Life Graduation Ceremony symbolically marked a new beginning, bright with hope for the future. In a country suffering a shortage of food and high import prices, there must be a radical change in food production. The Food for Life Program has the potential to develop the nation agriculturally as the trainees become

trainers in their communities. In Victor Tamba’s words:  “God gave this to me. I never dreamed of it. Now I’m an agriculturist. I know my future will be very good now. I can never, never forget it!”

Story by Claire Ross
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Liz Cantu


Monday, October 10, 2011

Digging deeper

It's midnight and I'm sitting behind the counter at the Starbucks cafe. I find my self here almost every night serving the nurses and night shift workers of the Africa Mercy. It's not something I really talk about much, but the nurses really love it. That's why I continue to find myself awake at the wee hours of the morning.

 Today one of my best friends left the ship. It's been a really rough day. Many of you have been to a week long conference, camp, mission trip, or vacation and know what it's like to say goodbye to a place or a group of people. You think it's really hard, but you get through it knowing that everybody else that was there is going through the same thing. Well here at Mercy Ships we say goodbye to people on a regular basis. The people we work with, the people we eat our meals with, the people we hang out and play games with, the people that we serve Christ with, the people that we love because they're so amazing. With being here almost thirteen weeks I've said goodbye to so many people that it almost takes the meaning out of saying goodbye or I'll miss you.

 I was sitting eating lunch with my friend James today before he left. As he looked around the room trying to process the fact that he was saying goodbye to the place he called home for the last two months he said "Everything keeps going." to witch I replied, "The ship must continue to sail." He was commenting on how as his time with Mercy Ships was coming to and end the lives of all 400 other people continues to troll along at the same pace. I hope he realizes that even though this place continues to operate that the lives that he touched won't be the same; patients that he helped admit into the hospital on his days off, day workers that he cared enough to spend the night with, local fishermen whose life he wanted to experience so much that he woke up early several morning to try and go out into the ocean with, galley crew members that he served with listening to their life story and giving them advice and encouragement to, friendships he formed playing ping-pong in the dinning room till one in the morning. James is such a great guy that I could continue to writing about the great things that he has done while he served on the Africa Mercy but I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate it, he just came to love and serve the Lord. James like myself is going home to uncertainty, he's not sure what God has in store for him. This past spring he graduated with a degree in psychology and pre-physician assistant. He's worked previously as an EMT but since he didn't have enough experience he was placed in the galley to feed the crew. As he goes home I pray that God will continue to use him in unexpected and unexplainable ways.

 Earlier this evening as I was unraveling today's happenings with a friend I compared Mercy Ships to drugs. Not that I have any experience with them, but if I were to imagine. I imagine that they are similar in the way that when you get involved with them the more you give to them, the more you get involved with them the more it hurts you. And as you try to heal from being hurt you find yourself diving deeper into the same things that caused it. I'm not sure if you can see the relevance there. Maybe you can, but as I find myself getting hurt by saying goodbye to the friends I love I know that tomorrow when I wake up I will continue to make more friendships to heal what has been broken today. A cycle that will continue till the day that I leave this ship. I pray that it will be easy, but to be honest I know with out a doubt it will be much harder than I can imagine, even harder that it was for me to decide to come on this journey. So until then you'll find me here in Starbucks at midnight serving these people that I love.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tell Papa God Tɛnki

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to go with a group of people to paint a house. Now if you have the mentality that I did about five years ago you would picture a youth group at World Changers using tarps, nice extension ladders, 5 or 10 paint brushes and a few rollers. But as we say here "TIA" (this is Africa) so the following pictures will show you what an adventure looks like when you set out to paint a house.

We met at 8 o'clock, there was a group of eight of us that had signed up to go. Our fearless leader was Rosie Timms, a good friend of mine sine I've come to the ship, who has already been helping this family. She sent out an e-mail to her supporters a few weeks back and they had raised the money to fix a few things on the house; put on a back door, patch a few wholes in the roof, put stucco on the walls, and put some covering on the floors. Since all of this work was being done she made a sign-up to see if any of the crew would want to but a gallon of paint and help paint the house. Five of us ended up buying a some paint and she got some equipment: two small paint rollers and two small small paint brushes.

Clinton, an approved Land Rover driver, had signed up to get a vehicle that day so we all piled in and made ourselves comfortable for the journey to the house. Rosie was the only one that had been there before so it was a journey for the rest of us. We made it through the traffic in the city and when we got about ten miles out of town we started up a pretty large hill. When we got to the point that the path was smaller than the vehicle we stopped to see the amazing view from where we would be working.

From on top of this hill you could see the river and quite a ways past it, probably the best view I've seen since I've gotten to Sierra Leone. There at that point Rosie had planned for a man to meet us and lead us up to the house. Once we got out of the vehicle the children started coming. At first there were only two or three but by the time we got to the house there were probably ten or more.

The house isn't much to speak of, just three rooms that the family live in and then another room (which we didn't go in) that they rent out to somebody else. We got to work pretty much right away, using a few random plastic containers that we had brought from the ship for paint trays. A few people outside and a few people inside. Before we knew it we were out of paint. with only half of it painted outside and a room still left to get painted inside. With it only being somwhere around 11o'clock we sent somebody back into town to get two more gallons of paint, because that's all the money we had on us. ( Yeah, hard to imagine, but we don't really carry much with us when we leave the ship) We knew it would be over an hour for the paint to get back so we started entertaining the twenty or so kids that had gathered to watch the white people paint.
That's when I got to pick my camera up and get some good shots. As you can see in this picture on the left, the kids picked up our tools as soon as we sat them down ( think they just wanted to be like us). With not many options of entertainment we started by playing some basic Simon says and then did a very basic ad hoc puppet show with our paint rags.

  After about thirty minutes of entertaining kids that only understand about half of our language they decided to show us down the road where there is a creek that runs through. They had told us when we arrived that Saturday was the day that they do their brooking (krio for laundry). As we walked down the path we could see where the creep was and the spot that they were doing the wash.

When we first arrived they were fast at work. Many kids and some of the mothers getting their work done. Just a few minutes later when they realized that there were some white people standing there watching them the kids took the first chance to goof off and started jumping and playing in the water

We made it back up to the main path and soon heard that our paint had arrived. After less than an hour we had finished all that we could with the supplemental paint and began to get things ready to eat. Rosie had told us the day before that when we packed our lunch to bring a few extra sandwiches because she knew that the kids would be there when we ate and didn't want them to have to watch us eat. Rosie and I sat down and started cutting them in half to make sure that each kid got some and then we even had enough to pass them all around again. A few people had brought some hard-boiled eggs and the family was very happy to see them. So with the eight of us from the ship we had at least twenty-five sandwiches! After getting all of the lunch cleaned up and giving the family the extra food that was left over the grandma burst out in song. Praising God she sang "Tell Papa God Tɛnki " (thank you) a very popular Krio song here in Sierra Leone.