Greetings from the Africa Mercy, moored in the port of Freetown, Sierra Leone. We are getting back into the swing of life on board.
After Bruce returned Monday morning from the CMDA annual meeting in California, things were hectic as we finished packing and getting the house ready for our 13 week absence. Wednesday, two ladies from our Sunday School, Liz Varnadoe and Sue Warren, were kind enough to provide taxi service for our six suitcases, three carry-ons and ourselves. The flight from Raleigh-Durham to JFK in New York City was unremarkable, but the flight from JFK to Brussels, Belgium was a flight from hell. We were surrounded by five families with young children. They were Hasidic Jews. The wives seemed clueless, taking no notice of the rampaging and screaming children and the men were involved with their prayer shawls and religious observances. On a full flight, they argued about why they should get four seats when they paid for three, why other people should move so they could have the window seats for the child carriers and they didn’t seem to think that “stay seated and keep your seat belts on” applied to them. The children ran the aisles, climbed on seats like it was their own private gymnasium and kicked the seats repetitively (that is when they were not slamming the seat-back tables up and down). Non-stop crying was a given. The flight attendants seemed to disappear and made no attempt to enforce the rules. Their shenanigans made us late for departure and therefore we lost our place in the departure queue, sitting over three hours on the tarmac in NYC without any announcements about what was going on. This charming and entrancing behavior lasted the entire 10 hours that we were on the plane.
We landed in Belgium a little after 10:00 AM, almost four hours late. Our plane was scheduled to board at 10:00. As soon as we got off, the three of us hustled as fast as we could. The signs and the layout were not clear, but we finally figured it out. We hustled down a long hallway, up an escalator, through a (thankfully) not-too-busy security check again, then down another long concourse, down an escalator, through a new boarding pass place and then took a shuttle bus to the other concourse. It was now 10:40! When we got there, they were checking passports and boarding passes and it was the usual cattle call, with shoving and no semblance of a proper line. We were just glad that we had made it and we shoved with the best of them.
The flight to Banjul, Gambia and then on to Freetown, Sierra Leone was unremarkable. We were thrilled to find out that all of our luggage had made it, despite the short transfer time. We then loaded into vans, drove a mile or so to the ocean and then eventually piled onto a water taxi for the few mile trip across the bay to the town of Freetown nestled on the side of the mountains on the other side. Getting on and off the boat was hazardous with the waves and wet surfaces. We were glad that someone was carrying the luggage up and down the slippery ramps and stairs. We were then shuttled by Land Rover to the Africa Mercy. It was good to be at the end of the trip, but carrying 350 pounds of luggage up the long gangway in the oppressive humidity and heat was not much fun. We were checked in, fed some leftover supper and finally allowed to escape to our cabin. We are in the same one that we were in the very first time we served on this ship and we like the relative quiet and privacy of being tucked behind the children’s academy. We unpacked rapidly, enjoyed a quick shower and then crashed.
Bruce had some jet lag the first night, awakening at 3:00 AM for a few hours, but no one else seemed affected. After breakfast, he met with the entire OR crew in the OR for morning announcements and prayers, then had a brief orientation before relieving five little children of their hernias, finishing before lunch.
Micky and Sean spent the day renewing friendships, getting settled and then Sean had a brief swim in the new pool on the top deck. He spent the evening with friends and Micky enjoyed “Mom’s night out” with the other mothers on the ship. Bruce made rounds on the fresh post-operative patients. He had finally gotten hooked back into the internet and spent most of the night catching up.
We are planning a quiet weekend on the ship, just resting and starting homework for the next graduate school class. Bruce also needs to do some planning for the residents coming this next week – call schedules, conference schedules, Bible study and so on.
Our schedules for next week will be typical of what we do the rest of the time we are here. Bruce will spend a full day each day in the OR. Micky will be home-schooling Sean, but will have some breaks as Sean has been permitted to attend some classes at the academy. He will go four of five days for PE and then take art, choir and computers at various times during the week. Micky will also be required to do some volunteer time somewhere on the ship but where and how has not yet been settled. We have obligatory meetings on the ship 2 times a week and Bruce has another one for the OR.
If any of you would like to call us, you can do so by calling a Florida phone number and asking for our cabin. Please remember that we are four hours ahead of you. The phone number on the Mercy Ship is (954) 538-6110 and we are in cabin 6219.
- We praise God for traveling safety.
- Please pray for Bruce’s father. He has had increasing instability while walking and a recent MRI confirmed severe cervical stenosis. He is considering surgery to fuse his neck and to remove the pressure on his spinal cord despite his high risk. Please pray for wisdom for them and for the neurosurgeon.
- Bruce’s daughter Bethany has signed up for the short semester at her university. We are very proud of her willingness to take this step. Please pray for her and for her mother who will accompany her to school.
- There are some patients who have some disconcerting complications from previous surgery and their surgeons have left/are leaving the ship. Please pray for wisdom for Bruce.
- Please pray for our PAACS faculty. One director in particular is struggling with burnout. We have arranged for some rest and some short-term coverage for him, but this is a problem for all of them. It is easy to say that a life out of balance is not Christ-honoring but harder to remember that when the needs and demands are so great in all directions. Please pray for peace and rest for all of missionaries you know.
Rocking with the waves – and glad of to be serving the King here,
Bruce, Micky and Sean