Mercy Ships

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Grass, Giraffes, and Sleeping with the Windows Open

Every 3 years, the Association of  Christian Schools International hosts a large conference in Kenya 
and after months of fund-raising, the whole Mercy Ships Academy staff were able to attend!

When you teach in a school as unique as ours and in an organization where only a tiny percentage of the people are teachers, going to a teacher's conference is a big deal.  I am the only math teacher on the ship, so getting to "talk shop" with 30+ other math teachers at the conference was a welcome opportunity. I'd actually been saving up questions to ask!

Only in Africa can you stop to take a picture on the tarmac!

The theme of the conference was Teaching with Wisdom and many of the sessions focused on the questions like "How do we teach students to love God with their mind?" and "How do we help students grow in character, not just knowledge?"  This was my first Christian school conference and I was inspired to think about the role I play as a teacher to help my students get to know and love the Lord. 

The conference was hosted by ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International). They support international schools all over the globe as well as training local people to start Christian schools in their communities. My ears perked up when they talked about the need for teacher training, especially in Africa.  Many of you know that professional development for teachers is one of my passions; I have always envisioned myself doing that in Amercia, but who knows? Maybe Mercy Ships won't be the end of my time on this continent. 

A great time of bonding with my colleagues

Besides the camaraderie with other teachers, all of us were looking forward to getting off the ship for 5 days! We are used to living in a port where there are no trees or grass, just concrete, metal containers, barbed wire and lots of trucks.  My favorite part of being away from the ship was getting to sleep next to an open window and wake up to the birds singing.  Another highlight was spending a couple of hours sitting on a blanket in the grass, journaling and drawing.

We were only in Kenya for 5 short days, but we did have time for one excursion. Given several pre-planned choices, I of course chose the one that including seeing baby elephants and feeding giraffes!
At the elephant orphanage we learned about how they care for elephants who have been orphaned due to poaching, disease, and other disasters. The elephants are bottle-fed for several years in the nursery.  When they are old enough to survive on their own in the wild they are moved to another site where they can mix with wild elephants during the day. After 1-2 years, a wild herd will adopt an orphan elephant and teach it how to become wild again.  I was so inspired by these stories of redemption for these baby elephants.

The baby elephants were so excited to get their milk!

Selfie attempt not working so well

At the Giraffe Center we learned that giraffes are slowly losing their habitat.  Many giraffes have been relocated from places of diminishing habitat to this reserve.  The center seeks to educate the public and especially school children about the importance of conservation and protecting wildlife.  The best part of our visit was getting up close and personal with the giraffes. They use their long, sticky tongues to eat right out of your hand.  They are huge, but gentle, allowing you to pet their faces.  Although, as per the warning on the sign, watch out for headbutts if a giraffe thinks you are withholding its special treats!

Our trip to Kenya was a gift: refreshing, restorative, and energizing. Thank you to everyone on the ship and at the ISC who participated in our auction, bought cards, or donated in other ways. We are so grateful!


  1. I love how taking this leap of faith has opened up a whole other realm of possibilities for you!

  2. WOW, that looks so fun! I can't wait to see more pictures and hear your voice telling me about it soon!

  3. I love the idea of a Christian teaching conference!