Mercy Ships

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015


We're sailing! We left Durban, South Africa over a week ago now. If all goes well, we should arrive in Madagascar tomorrow!
It's windy out on the deck!

Due to some unforeseen delays, we sat at anchorage off the coast of Durban for several days. Those first few days were the roughest. Before our ship was the Africa Mercy, she was the Dronning Ingrid, a Dutch rail ferry, designed for short ferry runs.  Needless to say, she was not designed for long voyages in the high seas. Hence, even when we are anchored in one place, the ship gently rolls from side to side ALL the time! The moments when you forget you are on a ship are few and far between and happen almost exclusively while I am asleep. Surprisingly the pitching back and forth  started to diminish when we pulled up the anchor and were on our way.

Now that my body has had some time to adjust, I am happy to report I have found my sea legs and am actually enjoying the sail.  The view out the window is always beautiful and I have grown to like falling asleep in a rocking bed.

View from deck 7 port side

Last night I enjoyed the special privilege of going to visit the bridge. We got to see the navigation computers and maps, the sections of glass floor and the amazing view!

View from outside the bridge

It's been easy to keep busy while sailing.  In addition to teaching (which can be interesting when the ship is rocking), there have been a lot of crew activities: sock golf, talent show, piano concert, lots of communal jigsaw puzzles, and even whale watching!  It's whale migration season in this area, so I've had several math lessons interrupted by whales or dolphins (but I'm not complaining!).  I wish I had pictures to show you, but I'm not fast enough with a camera.  With a whale, you're lucky if you just see it's tail coming out of the water, but the dolphins will jump completely out of the water. It's amazing!

Tomorrow we will spend the majority of the day getting the ship docked in port and clearing immigration.  I'm not sure when we'll get to get off the boat, but I can't wait!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Home Sweet Ship!

I've finally arrived at my new home! After a couple of years of dreaming, thinking, planning, and praying, I shrieked with delight when I first saw sight of the ship. Currently we are still in dry dock in Durban, South Africa, while the repairs to the ship's propulsion are finished. Being in dry dock means several things:
  • You can't go outside without a hard hat on.
  • You can't walk anywhere outside. You have to take a taxi out of the port.
  • You have to wear closed toe shoes ALL the time. 
  • The air conditioning only works some of the time and only in certain parts of the ship, the crew cabins being one of the areas where it never works.
Needless to say, we are all counting the days til we get out of dry dock and finally start our sail to Madagascar.  

Making posters to decorate my classroom!
Once I arrived on the ship, I set straight to work decorating my classroom.  We had a week of teacher orientation and then school started last Tuesday! I teach the following classes: 6th grade Math, Algebra 1, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Bible. I love it so far. My biggest class has 5 students!  But the time I save in grading, I spend in planning for all those classes! Whew! It is keeping me busy!
Teacher Activity during Orientation Week

Kids poking their heads in on the first day of school. Come on in!

I have managed to get off ship a couple times: once to the Lion Park and twice to the beach (first time in the Indian Ocean)! The water was freezing; it's winter here in the southern hemisphere, but my roommate Tam and I went swimming anyway.  Petting the elephants at the Lion Park was the highlight of my summer! It was amazing!

More about daily life on the ship in my next blog post!

South Africa

I can't believe I've been in Africa an entire month! After surviving 2 nights in a row on an airplane, we arrived in the port city of Durban, South Africa.  A 4 hour bus ride took us to Winterton and to the YWAM base near the Drakensberg Mountains where we finished the final two weeks of our training. These two weeks were an amazing opportunity to meet local Zulu people as well as learn more about the culture here.  We also had time to continue team building within our group and experience life together as we lived in close quarters and completed several work projects.

The view outside our house. South Africa is beautiful!
The local school had 70 kids in a classroom, so we cleaned and painted 2 extra rooms to help alleviate the crowding.
Another school where we did some cement work and painting to fix the preschool building.

In addition to several work projects, we had the privilege to join in with 2 organizations who provide home healthcare  to people in the townships and villages.  A large percentage of the population is HIV positive and has TB. Local women walk miles a day to visit people who may not be able to come to town to visit a clinic.

The pictures below shows one of the villages we visited and Sindy, the caregiver who let us come along with her on her visits.

Sindy, Bethany, and me walking through the village

We worked with Tandi to make packages of food to be delivered to clinic patients. HIV patients need food to take their medicine with, so the clinic provides rice, beans, salt, sugar, soup mix, and tea. 

One of the highlights for me was the day we ran into some kids after school who needed help with their math homework.  Of course I was delighted to help! The next day even more kids showed up so I had an impromptu math class.

Photo credit: Katie Keegan

Another highlight for me was all the animals!  Although there were fences, you were just as likely to see cows, goats, chickens, horses, and sheep outside the fences as inside.  I especially enjoyed playing with the sheep!

And there were several dogs who lived at the YWAM base.  Of course they were not as cute as Sophie, but they were just a cuddly!

Here are some beautiful pictures from a short hike we took one evening. I am lucky to have some friends who are amazing photographers!

Photo Credit: Katie Keegan 

My roommates in Winterton were Rachel from the UK and Bronnie from New Zealand. They taught me fabulous new words like "gobsmacked," which means to be astonished or overwhelmed. They kept me laughing even when I couldn't sleep because of jet lag or when it was freezing cold because there was no heat!

After spending almost 2 months together, our team was incredibly close. I thank the Lord for each person and how He used them in my life this summer!