Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships
The largest NGO hospital ship in the world providing free medical care to the forgotten poor

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The End

The end of the year was a whirlwind of activity: final exams, end of the year celebrations, graduation, securing the ship for sailing, and saying good-bye to many crew members. We set sail right after the school year ended.  We were blessed with good weather, calm seas, and many dolphin sightings. The sail is a time of both rest and wrap up. The pace of life is much slower on the sail as the hospital and the school are both closed. I used the time to organize math resources and curriculum for the next math teacher. After teaching many of the same students for 3 years in a row, I am hesitant to hand them over to a new teacher. But I'm sure the new teacher, a young man from Germany, will do a great job.


Getting Ready to Sail
Last Day of School Pool Party

2018 Mercy Ships Academy Graduates: Jessica (Australia) & Elliot (UK)
Last Night in Cameroon
After 9 days of sailing, we docked in Dakar, Senegal for a short visit. While Senegalese officials toured the ship, I was able to get off the ship and explore Senegal. I was especially excited to visit a baobab forest, as baobab trees only grow in a few places around the world (mainland Africa, Madagascar, and Australia). 

Leaving Senegal was bittersweet; I'm not sure if or when I might return to Africa.

Docking in Dakar

Senegalese Sand Artist

Baobab Forest


We found a ropes course in the baobab forest!

Ziplining Among the Baobabs

Our summer maintenance period started when we arrived in the Canary Islands. Upon arrival, I said more good-byes, but also a hello to a special visitor: my sister! My sister traveled all the way from Wisconsin to visit me and see my home on the ship. It was really special for me to have someone from home see the ship. We also took some time to enjoy the island of Gran Canaria. 
My sister came all the way to the Canary Islands to see the ship!

We spent a morning learning to surf...or trying to anyway!

On Saturday, June 30, I finished packing, said a few last goodbyes, and cried all the way down the gangway. This ship is a hard place to leave.


Some of the Things I Will Miss (in no particular order):

1. The people
2. Cabin 4331 and my roommates
3. My students and teaching small classes
4. My classroom with windows
5. Living and working alongside people from all over the world
6. Being a part of a life changing ministry
7. The spiritual community
8. My small group
9. Starbucks drinks that cost less than $1
10. Lots of people to play board games with
11. Learning about and experiencing the culture of different African countries
12. Living on the ocean
13. The weather (I got used to the heat and humidity; I'm going to freeze in Minnesota!)



Sunday, May 20, 2018

Highlights and Goodbyes

The Academy teachers did an informal teacher photo shoot! What a fun group to teach with!

We are ready for an adventure!



The iconic Mercy Ships picture with the orange life ring...we had to do it!

Another  Mercy Ships must have: the jumping photo!

Check out these other highlights from the last few months on the ship.

Cabin 4331: Best cabin ever even if the only communal space is the hallway!

My own Cameroonian style head wrap courtesy of one of our local day crew

My lovely small group (minus 2 who have left the ship already)

With such amazing African fabric all around, how can sewing not become a weekly hobby?


My running buddy Rachel - she has kept me running consistently this year!

Service project for pharmacy department with the 11th/12th graders.


Hanging out with kids at a local orphanage

Getting ready for Wacky Tacky Day 
Academy Wacky Tacky Day

The fuel trucks are finally here! 
Good-bye Tam - my very first bunkmate on the ship in Madagascar

I'm going to miss this view!

This is the season of goodbyes; as the field service winds down this month, every week more people depart - some for good, others for a much needed break before returning for the next field service in Guinea.  Even though I'm not leaving until the end of June, my emotional season of good-byes started in April when Anne, one of my cabinmates left. It was a hard goodbye because Anne, Steffi, and I have shared the same cabin since Benin.  Having the same roommates for 2 field services is quite unusual on the ship where many crew members are constantly coming and going.

In 2 weeks, the school year will end and I will say goodbye to about half of the teachers who will leave before we sail. The rest will stay for the sail and depart from the Canary Islands. All the emotions of saying goodbye are drawn out over these 3 months. It's like a band-aid that needs ripping off, but you can't take it off any faster.

The pain of goodbyes is intense but I remind myself of these wise words:




Friday, March 16, 2018

Going Home

Last month marked the 3 years anniversary of this blog! At this time in 2015 I started making plans to quit my job, sell my stuff, and move to Africa. Now three years later, I find myself again in a period of transition, making plans to return home in August. With 4 months still ahead of me on the ship it feels early to blog about the conclusion of my time with Mercy Ships; however, it is often on my mind.

I can't believe I've been blogging for 3 years!

In June, I will enjoy one last sail with the ship as we travel from Cameroon to the Canary Islands for our annual period of maintenance. On the way, we will stop in Senegal, where plans are being made to host the ship for the 2019-2020 field service. After a bit of traveling on the way home, I will return to the States at the end of July. I am excited to spend time reconnecting with friends and family all around the US and then settle in the Minneapolis area. I chose Minneapolis because I like the big city (thank you Houston) and it's only 1.5 hours from where I grew up and I'm ready to be near family.



I alternate between sadness about leaving my community and excitement for what lies ahead. The ship has been an amazing home; I love the spiritual vibrancy of this place, how easy it is to make friends, and the shared purpose and commitment of the crew. I love the adventures that await in each new country we travel to and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. For these and so many more reasons, it will be incredibly difficult to leave the ship.


Why am I leaving? There are still dreams and goals I would like to pursue beyond the ship, the most significant being foster care/adoption. And so I am preparing to say good-bye to a place and people I love. To ease the pain of leaving, I'm collecting a list of things I'm looking forward to in this next season of life: being in driving distance of my family, being in the same time zone as my best friend, choosing my own food, getting a dog, living in a neighborhood instead of a port, having more access to nature, cool weather & the 4 seasons, learning to skate ski, not taking malaria medicine, and taking showers that are longer than 2 minutes.


When I first came to the ship, I missed a lot from home. I caught myself thinking, "When I go back to the U.S., then I'll have ________ and then I'll be happy."  This was counter-intuitive, since my decision to come to the ship was based on these thoughts: "When I live in community, then I'll be happy." Maybe one of the best lessons I have learned from living on the ship, is that in every season of life, there will be blessings and challenges, happy times and times of grief. So I try to remind myself, when I feel especially sad about leaving the ship, that there will be wonderful things about going home and hard things too, just as there are on the ship.


Monday, January 15, 2018

The Twin Lakes of Mount Muanenguba

Cameroon is often referred to as "Little Africa" due to its diverse geography, climates, and cultures. In Cameroon, you can find tropical rainforests, mountains, active volcanoes, black sand beaches, grasslands, and deserts, all in a country under 200,000 square miles (about the size of California).

I was lucky to see many of these different landscapes on a hike to two craters lakes up in the mountains. The lakes are side by side and separated by a large grassy ridge. The larger lake is considered the female lake. It is considered "gentle" and you can swim in it. The smaller lake is the male lake, which no one swims in.

 At 9000 feet, it was a strenuous hike, but well worth it. The temperatures got quite cold that high up and it was a nice break from the stifling heat of Douala. We hiked through forest, villages, and the wide, grassy slopes of the mountains alongside grazing sheep. Wildflowers and butterflies were abundant.

Female Lake

Male Lake

My hiking buddies Steffi, Des, Missy, and Anne and our 2 guides Aliou and Sebastian

A refreshing swim after our 10 km hike 

We stayed overnight in a small shelter above the lakes.

Relaxing at our shelter

The view around the lakes

While everyone else was enjoying our campfire...


...I was hanging out with s village kids who were fascinated by my "white person" hair.

Good thing I like braids!

Along the way

The forest section of the hike; see the butterflies?


I counted at least 20 different types of wildflowers, after that I lost count.




Hiking with the sheep


I tried to pet the sheep but they kept running away before I could get close enough!

Grazing cattle near the end of our hike