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Mercy Watch

This blog is a journal of Rob and Denise Miller. Currently, we are caregivers and serving God in our community. We were volunteers with Mercy Ships from December 2002 till December 2011. We were long term volunteer crew members on the Africa Mercy and

Last Build Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2018 14:55:46 +0000


Hello! We're back!

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 04:46:00 +0000

We haven't posted in several years and are now coming back to this blog to share our thoughts and experiences with those of you who choose to read this blog.  We enjoyed our time and experiences with Mercy Ships from 2002 - 2011.  What a privilege to serve God with Mercy Ships.

Currently, we are caregiving for Denise's dad, serving our church and our community here in the Washington DC area for God's glory.  We, also, still share about what's going on with Mercy Ships by speaking when we can to various organizations and any opportunity given.  

We were challenged by a class we are taking on sharing your faith through social media to start a blog.  Since we already have a blog, we decided to continue sharing our experiences and faith stories as an online journal.  We will keep our blog content from our time with Mercy Ships as we still refer back to it from time to time for encouragement.  We will just start again now with sharing what is happening in our lives by serving God through caregiving, relationships, and serving Him in our community.

We hope to share prayer points, experiences and other content that will be encouraging to our faith and yours. Please join us in this journey of faith by commenting and sharing with us your stories, too!

We are looking forward to see what God is doing and how we can bring Him the glory!

God's abundant blessings,
Denise and Rob

R & R – Happy to be Back in Sierra Leone and…..some News…..

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 14:30:00 +0000

Mercy Watch           September 2011 R & R - Happy to be Back in Sierra Leone and some News .....Hello Family and Friends,As we ended our last Newsletter, we let you know we were going to take a vacation during June and July. We returned to Freetown, Sierra Leone on the 21st of July. We really enjoyed our time and are thankful for being able to reconnect with many of you. The picture above is of the Africa Mercy docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  We took this picture from the ferry coming from the airport.We thought when we began rescheduling our vacation time from the Christmas season to the summertime it was to allow more time for family and friends over the summer vacation period allowing for more opportunities for short breaks together. This change took us about two years to make with the Field Service schedule and our responsibilities. All along we felt this was a good change to make. We purchased our tickets several months ahead, after processing our vacation request with our respective departments.As our vacation time grew near and all of the details began coming together we received a surprise from our oldest son. About two weeks out from our travel date, we received a phone call from him advising us that he was to be scheduled for back surgery soon after our planned arrival in the USA. We were surprised to receive this news and humbled when we realized God all along had directed our plans so we could be home when our son had surgery. We later became aware that he had been going through, physical therapy, core strengthening exercises, chiropractor appointments, pain therapy for about eighteen months. Even when we think we are doing all of the planning, if we are following God’s will for us He will direct our paths.  Jason had back surgery and is now doing well.  (The picture above was about 1 week after Jason's surgery - on July 4th) Jeff has a job in St. Augustine driving the Old Town Trolly.  The picture above is of Jeff driving, Kendall and Rob enjoying the tour!Six weeks seems like a long time to vacation…but when you factor in travel time from Africa to the United States along with family and friends located hundreds of miles apart across several different states; it becomes a challenge to see everyone. We didn’t get to see all of you and yes, we spent the majority of our time in St. Augustine, Florida with our two sons and their families offering what little support we could during and after Jason’s surgery. We are blessed to have family and friends that desire to visit with us and spend time with us.We also were able to take a short break in the Netherlands with our friends Jan and Elizabeth and their darling daughter, Bella. Rob went into work with Jan, who is a Captain of the inland waterways. Jan was working on a refueling ship and now he is at school in England taking courses to become a Chief Officer on unlimited ships, such as the Africa Mercy! The picture above is of Rob at the helm in Rotterdam harbor!  And the picture below is of Jan, Elizabeth and Bella on the train to Amsterdam!  We had a grand time and enjoyed the Netherlands very much! Such a beautiful country!Since our return we’ve made Saturday our day to join together in one of the Mercy Ministry opportunities available. We are personally involved with the Fatima Children’s Home, Ladies Prison and Yams Farm Wharf. Denise coordinates the Mercy Ministries program, and has Team Leaders for each site. We enjoy going together on Saturday to these different sites as volunteers. We sing songs and tell a bible story and include a skit or activity to reinforce the story we’ve just shared. During a recent Saturday, we went to the Fatima Children’s home and shared the Creation story from Genesis. Afterwards we used Play-Dough to reinforce the story and the point that God gave us dominion over the earth and t[...]

Mosquito Nets

Thu, 01 Sep 2011 10:07:00 +0000

Malaria is something we don't often think about in the developed world, however, here in West Africa (we're in Sierra Leone this year) malaria is as frequent as a common cold. You don't ask someone feeling bad if they have a cold, you ask do they have malaria! I'm looking forward to giving mosquito nets to some of the partner organizations that we serve alongside! It's rainy season here and the need is great as the mosquitoes spread malaria to our day workers (local volunteers with Mercy Ships), their family members, and even to our crew. One of our partners is Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order) and they hold a medical clinic twice a week. Many children under 5 and their caregivers (usually their mother) are admitted to the mission for malaria. The sisters ensure the medicine is given properly and IVs are used, if necessary. Sister Josianne is a trained nurse and she holds the clinic. A local doctor comes to the mission once a week (more if needed) to check on the patients. They care mainly for malaria, TB and HIV patients. We visit the patients there on Wednesday mornings and sing, play games, do simple crafts and sit to talk with them. Recently, an article was written about a donation from a church in England given to Mercy Ships for delivering mosquito nets to the people we serve here in Freetown, Sierra Leone:In West Africa, over 3,000 children die of malaria every day; 1 out of every 5 childhood deaths is due to malaria.2 Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds in West Africa. 2 The disease can cause anemia and jaundice and, if not promptly treated, can cause coma, kidney failure, or death.To make matters worse, the West African rainy season that begins in June will cause flooding that will aggravate the problem, since standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the disease according to Robert Agyarko, UN Childrens Fund Specialist on Malaria for West Africa. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, it is estimated that between 60% and 70% of mosquitoes are malaria carriers.The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that malaria can be controlled, and even prevented, using anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, or mosquito nets in sleeping areas. UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, reports, Mosquito nets are still the most effective tool for preventing malaria in West Africa.Mosquito nets are infused with Permethrin, a long-lasting insecticide that acts as a barrier to prevent mosquitoes from penetrating the nets. It drives away the mosquitoes and kills the ones that land. Unfortunately, only 40% of households in Sierra Leone have an insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN). 2 Deck Hand Steve Sesay receives the shipment of mosquito nets onboard the Africa Mercy in Freetown, Sierra Leone. St. Marys Church in Olveston, Bristol, United Kingdom, is taking a stand against this deadly killer. They have donated 5,000 to Mercy Ships for the distribution of mosquito nets at the HOPE Center in Freetown. This land-based facility houses patients who are awaiting surgery and those recovering from surgery onboard the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.  Day-workers Patricia Kamara and Fatmata Parker install mosquito nets at the HOPE Center.  When the patients are discharged from the HOPE Center, they will each be given a mosquito net and told how to use it properly. They will also receive additional information on how to prevent malaria. This promising strategy will make a difference in fighting this deadly disease.1 WHO 2003 Africa Malaria Report 2 WHO 2010 Africa Malaria Report Patients are enthusiastic about showing off the new mosquito nets at the HOPE Center. Story by Elaine B. WinnEdited by Nancy Predaina Photos by Debra BellGod's blessings, Rob and Denise[...]

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Mon, 25 Apr 2011 16:51:00 +0000

Happy Easter to all our Family and Friends! We have had a wonderful Easter and Holy Week on the Africa Mercy.  We’d love to share our Easter with you… Click here to see some pictures and videos----Easter 2011 on the Africa Mercy   if you click on “show info” you will see the descriptions as you look through these. We have certainly hit the road running since our arrival here in Sierra  Leone. We are sorry that we haven’t been in touch for a while.  When we looked at the last update we realized it was just before our first screening.  It was extremely difficult here on the ship after that day for a while.  The screening went terribly wrong and we were only able to be at the stadium for a few hours.  There was a huge crowd of people estimated between 10,000 and 15,000.  About mid-morning after a few hours of screening, there was a huge push of people at the gate and the gate broke down, and one man died and several were injured.  This picture below was taken at the Hope Center of some of our patients before and after surgery.  The Hope Center is a place just outside of the port gate where patients and their Caregivers can stay when they come from outside of Freetown before the surgery or afterwards if the patient needs physical therapy or wound care ongoing. Our hearts were broken as we had to leave quickly from the stadium after trying to get the crowd under control without success. It was one of the hardest things to do….to leave without being able to help those that so needed our help.   We were asked not to communicate about it and then focused on how to hold another screening that wouldn’t put our potential patients or us in harm’s way. Fortunately, we had several previous screenings up country so we had plenty of patients for a while.   Our communications team made the video below to help  explain about the need in Sierra Leone.  The pictures and video come from our 2nd general surgical screening on March 26th.  We had a successful second screening day on March 26th. Rob and several other guys went about 2 pm the day before to manage the line and see that those we couldn’t help would not be waiting in line for a long time.  They had pictures of the types of conditions that we can help with.  Rob and the guys stayed there at the site all night walking the line to ensure peace and give confidence to the people that they would be safe.  The second screening went very well and we were able to schedule most of our surgeries. We may do another screening in August….we’ll have to see if its needed.  Our time here has been good, but we certainly keep busy. Denise is loving her new role as Mercy Ministries Coordinator. It keeps her busy six days a week visiting with the different partnering sites. We visit the prisons, an old peoples home, a home and school for handicapped children, the Blind school, the Missionaries of Charity, Don Bosco’s for the street boys and other sites. The picture above is of one of the Mercy Ministries visit to the Hope Center during a singing time.  We go there twice a week and have a great time with the patients.  Denise was commenting the other evening at dinner that while visiting the Hope Center she was amazed at a young boy (in the picture below) who had cast on both of his legs due to club feet.   This didn't slow him down though, he was crawling all over the center. He'd managed to almost wear through at the knees where the cast had become soft from all of his crawling. This little boy…I call the “hello” boy!  He comes over to the ship to have his casts removed and put back on or physical therapy and my (office) is across the hall from the Physical Therapy and cast removal area – Ward E.  We can always tell when he’s waiting in the passageway….as we can hear his little voice parroting “hello!”In this picture below he is on the [...]

Up date on Screening, yesterday...

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 21:58:00 +0000

So sad to think of the people we came to help that we weren't able to screen today! Please pray that God will make a way for them Please pray today for our Leadership as they look for a way forward to see those we couldn't yesterday. We were able to do several hours of screening.  We do have plenty of patients to begin the surgeries with, so it won't affect the surgery schedule as far as I know. We had a good debriefing meeting last night. Lots of questions...working on the answers. Seeking God to see His way! Our hearts are broken for the people of Sierra Leone. Thank you all for your prayers! Link to the article about the Screening Tragedy ---> Here.

View of the ship from outside the Port

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 19:57:00 +0000

Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman.
Our ship is surrounded by containers and just down the road from the Hope Center (where our Dental Clinic and Hospitality Center are). This is the view from outside the Port.

Please Pray for Screening Today!

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 22:26:00 +0000

Screening Day - Togo 2010
We arrived in Sierra Leone a week ago, today!  It's been an incredible week!!  And tomorrow is our surgical screening at the Sierra Leone National Stadium!  Tomorrow is the day that we will screen hundreds, perhaps thousands of potential patients.  People that are usually hidden away or outcast from their communities.  We will look in their eyes to see them as Jesus does.  There are probably people there waiting already at the stadium as I write this... local people have told me this week that people have already come from the outside of Freetown in hopes that they will receive a surgery that will release them from their bondage!  Please pray for us as we listen to the Holy Spirit intensely tomorrow, so that each person who comes will receive what God has them there for!  It may be prayer, it may be a touch, it may be a hug, it may be someone who will listen, it may be a word spoken, it may be love shown.  We don't know, but God does and we will be His hands and feet!  Thank you so much!

Where are we?

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 10:02:00 +0000

Location 19 Feb
Originally uploaded by MercyWatch.
We are headed to Sierra Leone and currently we are in the Atlantic Ocean well off the coast of Angola! I'm thinking that we will soon be as far into the Ocean as this ship has ever sailed! We are having a wonderful smooth sail and most of the crew are really enjoying it! Last night they played sock golf and Friday night was Karaoke in the cafe! Thanks for all your prayers!

Water, Water, Everywhere

Sat, 19 Feb 2011 15:59:00 +0000

Hello Friends, We are sailing on the Africa Mercy en route to Freetown, Sierra Leone.  This simple statement seems totally lacking in describing what has transpired to arrive at this point. Since September of 2010 actually for a period of five months and ten days the Africa Mercy underwent a major renovation project in the Southern African Shipyard in Durban, South Africa.   The picture below was taken by a plane as we were sailing out of Durban down the narrow channel in the port. During this project the four original Frichs Auxiliary Generators were removed along with two of the original MAN B&W Alpha engines that had previously been converted to Harbor Generators and both of the Sabroe Air Conditioning plants used for cooling decks 2,5,6 and 7. Out with the old and in with the new…four new MAN Diesel Generators, two new Carrier Air conditioning units and associated controls, new wiring in excess of 7 kilometers was installed. This list is by no means complete but just gives you a general idea that a very complicated and difficult project phase has been completed successfully by God’s grace.  Denise’s thoughts: Just imagine how many cables are connected to your desktop computer….if you get a new one and disconnect all those cables and put in a new one and connect the new ones … usually Rob and I would both do this one on top of the desk and one of us below.  Dropping down cables to connect and wiggling them to be sure we have the right one!  So that in your mind.  Think hundreds of cables snaked through the deck heads and walls from the bridge on Deck 7 to the control panel on Deck 2 and to the new Generators and A/C units on Deck 1!  Back to the computer – one mismatched cable….it doesn’t work quite right!  This doesn’t even try to explain all the piping work!  We are so amazed that all the testing is completed successfully and we are on our way! This has been an incredible project!   Thank you so much to the technical team and project team and contractors!  And especially to God who gets all the Glory!  Here is a link to a video that we took on our last Sunday at the church we attended while in South Africa (Northside Church) ----> Monkeys Back to Rob…. We had a short 24 hour stop in Cape Town to fuel up the ship, drop off contracted crew and give the crew a short time to explore and rest (?). Here is a link to a video of some seals playing in the harbor as we approached Cape Town ---->  Seals For those of you interested…. a link to Photos from our 24 hours of Cape Town is here--> 24 hours) Most of the crew went out exploring and we decided to go to Hout Bay, a fishing village on the other side of the Cape Peninsula.  We took the Blue Line Hop on Hop off bus, so we also were able to see around the town and up the coast back to Cape Town.  Denise and I are excited as we draw nearer and nearer to Freetown, Sierra Leone where we will serve for the next ten months. Since our last field service in Togo we both have changed jobs. Denise in her new role as Mercy Ministries Coordinator will be coordinating teams of crew as we partner with local ministries to come alongside them and bless them by showing love and deeds that can be done on our crew’s off time.  These partners could possibly include Prison Fellowship, Pastors, Homes for the Elderly, Children, Physically and Mentally Challenged, Schools, Hospitals, etc.  Rob’s new role is supporting the team in the Stewards Department as the Stores Manager ordering and keeping track of our “Food” and other necessary items.  We look forward to serving in these new ways! The picture below is of the Africa Mercy as we leave Cape Town, next stop Freetown, Sierra Leone!  It’s exciting to be[...]

Merry CHRISTmas!

Sat, 25 Dec 2010 12:21:00 +0000

Merry Christmas!
Originally uploaded by MercyWatch.
We hope your Christmas is full of peace, joy and love! May God bless you abundantly as you celebrate His incarnate coming to earth in the form of a baby born in the town of David, Bethlehem!

New Logo on the Ship’s Funnel goes up!

Fri, 26 Nov 2010 15:05:00 +0000



A larger version of the Mercy Ships logo is added to the funnel of the Africa Mercy - one of the many additional projects underway in the Durban shipyard in South Africa.

Looking good!

(Photo: Chuck Dodgen)

We thank God for you and all our blessings!

Wed, 24 Nov 2010 12:45:00 +0000

Happy Thanksgiving to all our Friends and Family!Where does the time go? It seems we just completed the October Newsletter and it is already near the end of November and so much to tell you! We pray this Newsletter finds you all in good health and good spirits! And looking forward to Thanksgiving and Advent!We will have a Thanksgiving feast as the Stewards department is planning a lovely dinner for us all as we celebrate and International Thanksgiving!  We wish all of you a wonderful day and however you celebrate it or when ever you celebrate giving thanks to the blesses HIM!One of the new Carrier Air Conditioning units We give thanks that much progress has been made on the Africa Mercy as she has been in dry-dock near us in Durban. This is one of the new Carrier air conditioning units! These have been put on the ship and are in process of being installed. The ship has now moved out of dry dock and is in the water alongside the dock in the shipyard as work continues.One of the Frichs generators coming out!The two Harbour generators have been removed, the four Frichs auxiliary generators have been removed, and the two Sabroe air conditioning units have been removed along with all associated ancillary equipment. These generators are 30 years old and the new replacements will save fuel as well as being more reliable and provide a quieter environment for the hospital, allowing us to fully utilize all 6 operating rooms and all 4 wards.  This is a picture of one of the generators coming out of the ship! The four new MAN generators are now onboard and are in process of being connected onboard along with the two new Carrier air conditioning units. One of the new MAN generators The two access holes cut in the side of the ship have been welded back, the ship floated again and moved from dry-dock. There is much work to reconnect all the wiring and run the new wiring and install the control units in the engine room and on the bridge. There is also pipefitting work to do in the connection of the cooling and fueling systems for the generators and A/C units. Much work is taking place all over the ship as different systems are upgraded and annual inspections are performed. The web address on the side of the ship has been repainted and is much larger. We can now easily find our cabin window as it is over the "g" on the starboard side.  This picture gives you an idea of the size of our ship! You don't often see the underside below the surface. We thank the various crew members and Mercy Ships for sharing their pictures of the ship as the work progresses. We are able to work at the ship for a day once a week and usually go there on Thursdays to do our work. It takes us an hour and a half each way riding on the shuttle bus to the ship and back. Rob is preparing the food storerooms for shelving to be installed and I am taking inventory of the staff development library.Please continue to pray for the safety of the crew and shipyard workers as they labour to complete these many projects. You can read and see much more pictures about this on the Mercy Ships page, "Power the Vision". We are thankful for a short break we were able to take over the weekend a few weeks back and went on a overnight trip with a few of our fellow crew members. It was an amazing time! The tour company picked us up from Appelsbosch and we began our three hour ride northeast up along the coast.   The Dumazulu VillageOur first stop was a recreated Zulu village where we observed and were guided through the many aspects of daily life in a traditional Zulu village. This was much like visiting an American Indian Reservation where the people dress and act as they would have during the[...]

Painting the parsonage for a new pastor in Appelsbosch

Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:17:00 +0000



Rob is looking on as Denise cleans the scraper (machete).  One of the local guys let me borrow a scraper….little did I know it would be a machete!  I should have known! 






Denise is brushing off the dust after the sanding to prepare for the paint to come!








We really had a GREAT time preparing the parsonage for the new pastor to come.  He is supposed to arrive in February, so this is an ongoing project.  The Mercy Ship kids have begun to help weekly as a service project! 





Leah was able to stand on the ledge of the window to paint the upper part of the window.  We didn’t have the proper accessories for painting…such as a ladder! 

Greetings from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa!

Sat, 09 Oct 2010 19:12:00 +0000

MercyWatch    10 October 2010 Greetings from Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa!The flags above were flying from the mast as we were coming into the port in Durban,  South Africa.  The yellow flag is to invite the customs officials to come onboard for inspection and clearance for the ship and crew.  The other flag is the Republic of South Africa country flag!  We always fly the flag of the nation we are entering into.  Photo credit: Dag Tvedt Arrival in Durban, South Africa!On 01Sept2010, we arrived in the port of Durban, South Africa.  The Harbor Pilot arrived by helicopter!  This was the first time on the Africa Mercy that the pilot arrived from the sky instead of from a Pilot boat pulled alongside!  The harbor in Durban does this all the time!  We had to have special drills to practice for a helicopter arrival and painted a big yellow dot on the aft of Deck 8 as the arrival zone!  All of the deck had to be cleared of anything that might be blown away as the force of the wind from the helicopter blades was very strong!  The fire teams were on alert and ready in case of an accident and the crew was cleared from the aft of the ship just as a precaution.  The arrival was very smooth and we had no problems. You can watch a video (thank you, Pete for taking the video) of the delivery of the pilot by clicking here:          Pilot Arrival Video (Any one on the Africa Mercy can not see this Video - please ask Denise or Pete Johnson to see the video).Before we sailed into the harbor, the deck crew on the bow of the ship, stopped their work to pray for our safe arrival and for the country of South Africa that we were entering! The crew stood alongside the railings as we sailed into the beautiful Durban harbor.  We were all excited to be coming into South Africa and to see the sites of Durban from the ship as we sailed in! If you look closely, you can see Rob standing along the rail on Deck 7.  We had been watching the coastline along the horizon for several days as we sailed up the coast.  After 17 days of sailing from Togo, we were ready to be on land again!  We did see many  dolphins, whales and flying fish along the way!  We had a wonderful sail and are now no longer slimy pollywogs, but trusty shellbacks!   27 hours later.......  Appelsbosch!As soon as we docked and were cleared by customs and immigration, we had literally piles of work to do!  Our friend, Penny, came to welcome us to South Africa and see the ship sail in.  She even helped with all the work of moving boxes and equipment from the offices and Academy (school onboard) to the mid-ships pre-staging area on Deck 5.  The Academy had over 200 boxes alone! All of the offices and the Academy had to be relocated ashore while the ship is in shipyard and drydock. After dinner, we had a briefing from the Advance Team and the Project Director for the Generator Project.  The next morning, after breakfast, all the crew that was moving off-site, approximately 150 crew, brought their belongings up to the mid-ships area.  When the trucks arrived about 9 am, we moved all the bags, boxes and various items down the gangway onto the trucks!  Then lunch and at 1 pm onto the 2 buses and 10 Land Rovers for the 2 hour journey to our new temporary home (for 4 months), Appelsbosch!  Yes, that is our convoy of Mercy Ships Land Rovers and yes, in South Africa we drive on the left-hand side of the road! We had to navigate through the city of Durban...the 3rd largest c[...]

Greetings from Rob and Denise as we sail to South Africa!

Sat, 21 Aug 2010 13:36:00 +0000

Mercy Watch 16August2010 The crew of the Africa Mercy - 29July2010.  After the fire drill, the communications department had planned for all the crew to have a group picture taken!  This took a lot of planning as they needed to figure out how we could all be seen...the crew is about 400 people!  So they decided to use the Land Rovers.  So crew climbed up on the Land Rovers sat on the hoods and stood on the running boards.  Rob and I stood in front of the Land Rovers.  See if you can find us....hint:  Denise has on Orange and Rob has on Green. We were told to where our branded shirts!  It was great fun and only took about 15 minutes to get the picture!   — LATEST NEWS & EVENTS —This has been a really busy month for us. We’ve had several adventures to tell you about. You might want to get a cup of coffee, tea or some other comfort drink to settle in. This may be a longer than usual Newsletter, so be forewarned. A Trip to the Village of Gape AloyiDuring July, we had the pleasure to accompany Tim and Sharon Tretheway to the remote village of Gape-Aloyi, north and east of Lome, Togo - about a 2-3 hour drive from the ship.Tim and Sharon became involved with this village through a friendship with the French Navy Attache in Lome, Togo. On this particular trip Tim and Sharon were taking donated medical supplies from the Africa Mercy to the village of Gape-Aloyi.The story of a previous visit to the village can be read here.  We were not along for the first trip.  We were privileged to join on the second trip and drove a Land Rover full of medical supplies for the village.The trip to the village took about three hours by vehicle from the ship. The first hour going along on the highway and paved roads. The second part of this trip began when we turned off of these developed roads onto the dirt roads through the bush for a couple more hours through the lush West African countryside.  The washboard roads and assorted water filled portions of the road made the ride slow. We were in the last vehicle in the four vehicle convoy and occasionally took the opportunity to stop for pictures. We were amazed by the size of some of the trees. These trees must have been there for centuries!  In this picture you can see the size of the trees compared to the SUV going by it! Upon arrival at the village of Gape Aloyi we were all greeted by the Chief with warm hand shakes and smiles. Getting directly down to business we were escorted to the community meeting place. Relationships are very important and time is given to introduce everyone for the guests to be properly welcomed by the Chief and other elders in the village. Many of the villagers only spoke and understood the local language, so translation was from English to French to the local language or the other way around depending on who was speaking!The business at hand was to sign an agreement of understanding between the village, a building contractor and a French Foundation (represented by Tim's friend, Eric) for the building of a new school.This process had been ongoing for two years with incremental steps along the way. With involvement and actions required from all parties. The village provided the land and the labor to clear the land for the new school site. Additionally the village had taken the step to hire a school teacher themselves to begin the process of teaching their children with the curriculum from the Togo school system.  The school where the children currently attended sch[...]

The Crew of the M/V Africa Mercy

Sun, 08 Aug 2010 15:47:00 +0000

Originally uploaded by MercyWatch.
The communications team had a plan and the transportation crew set the Land Rovers out in a line across the dock, so that our crew of about 400 could all be seen in the picture. After the fire drill, the emergency teams came to the dock to join all the crew who had mustered on the dock. All of the crew was not here as some were working in the wards with the patients or off the ship at the hospitality center or in various roles that needed to continue. Most of the crew gathered and in just about 15 minutes we had taken the picture!

Greetings From Togo! #2

Sun, 04 Jul 2010 09:23:00 +0000

MercyWatchGreetings From Togo!    #2 July 3, 2010The Changes Should Settle Down NowThank you for your understanding and support as we've changed from our previous provider to iContact. The administrative process seems to be complete. So from here on out we should be able to concentrate on bringing you some news and stories about our adventures.Remember God's Provisions and FaithfulnessOver the last several weeks I (Rob) have had occasion to remember God's faithfulness and provisions. I don't think I'd actually forgotten them...maybe just became a little used to them and started taking them a little for granted. So God has ever so gently reminded me in my prayer time and moments when I'm left with my own thoughts of Him. Do you ever find yourself at a crossroads or a point of decision? Sometimes these periods can be so daunting and I (Rob) must confess I'm the worrier. It helps me to remember and reflect on the many times God has provided for us and answered prayer. The many times He has surprised us yet again with His attention to detail and how He knows our needs better than we know ourselves. It is in this season I've spent some time over the last several weeks. Remember your story of God's faithfulness and provision. Have you shared it lately? I hadn't...I had to dust it off and confess it was me who had withdrawn and stopped looking for the opportunities to share. We each have a story to tell, let's not keep it to ourselves.My Lovely Wife, Shares Her Smiles and God's GraceHave you ever gone to an office and really appreciated the way you were greeted? Maybe the appointment wasn't the most exciting, but the manner in which you were greeted made the visit more pleasant. This is what I see each time someone has an encounter with Denise. She is a very busy lady these days wearing the hat of the Staff Development Manager and the Human Resources Manager. She manages these two roles excellently and with a smile for everyone. The other day we were reading our daily devotional together where we were reminded that God's grace is new each morning. We don't have to store it up, but pour it out into a hurting world. God will fill us up again each morning. I see evidence of this in Denise daily. Her spirit is full of grace and it shows.The following story is provided by the Mercy Ships Communication Department.  It is about a precious young boy, Abel.  Our good friend, Elaine, was able to be a part of the team taking Abel back home, she told us it was an experience she will never forget!   Abel's StoryAbel had a normal childhood until a problem arose following an injection. His parents noticed he was having difficulty learning to crawl. His muscles had stopped growing, but his bones had not. As a result, his legs were not growing correctly because there was so little musculature to direct them. They began to bend backward at the knee, forcing his upper thighs out behind him. His parents took him to three different doctors, but none of them knew what to do for him.Despite this condition, the resolute Abel learned to lean forward, correcting his balance enough to walk, climb and do just about anything any other active boy can do. He even became the goalkeeper on his football (soccer) team. The only thing he couldn’t do was ride a bicycle, since it requires sitting straight on the seat and pushing down on the pedals.Abel’s physical deformity made him the target of ridicule from other children.  But he remained optimistic thanks to his joyful spirit and his wonderfully supportive parents. One day, there was an announcement on the radio that a Mercy Ship was comin[...]

Transformed Lives Video

Sun, 20 Jun 2010 12:29:00 +0000

This is just a glimpse into the lives that are transformed by our surgeons and crew onboard the Africa Mercy.  Abel just went home to his village this past week and our friend, Elaine Winn, traveled back to the village with him.  She is a writer onboard and a team from Communications went to the village to document Abel's homecoming.  Elaine told us that it was just like a movie....the village was far in the bush up north in Togo and the entire village welcomed Abel home.  They couldn't believe that his legs were now straight!   We are so privileged to be here and be a part of these transformed lives! Your prayers, encouragement and support all play a part, too!  Thank you for your part in transforming these lives, too!

Happy Father's Day!    

Click here to watch the video!

Part 2 of the iTV Video News Clip on the Africa Mercy

Sun, 06 Jun 2010 22:29:00 +0000

In this episode you'll see a story about a MaxFax Patient and Surgeon, Tony Giles.  Also covered are Engineering, the Academy onboard and the Cole family.  Please pray for the Coles as they had to go back unexpectedly to England last month.

Watch the video - here

Greetings from Togo - May Newsletter

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 12:58:00 +0000

Great Response and Changes for our NewslettersThank you so much for the great response that we received from our short note on Mother’s Day! It was the best response that we’ve ever received from our friends and family! What a great encouragement! We must apologize for the “Dear” not actually making it into the note – it was a button that we wanted to try and I forgot to enter it before sending the note out! Oops! I’m (Denise) so sorry! We have decided to change providers to send our Newsletters. After almost 8 years of using inJesus and going through changes with them as they've grown, their newest change to netatlantic is just not working for us! So we went looking for providers and we believe that iContact is going to work for us! We were very impressed that they gave us a call the day after we began a 15 day trial and offered us a 20% discount for being missionaries with Mercy Ships! If you've received this newsletter in your email...then you know it's working! Thank you for confirming your subscription to Mercy Watch!Thank YOU! and Photos from the USA A slideshow photo recap of the time in the US is available for those who would like to see it - here. Unfortunately, we didn’t take pictures every where we went so in putting this together we did miss some photos of those we visited and regret that we didn’t take pictures! We do love and miss you all!As you can see from this picture, we experienced some SNOW in Texas as we spent time there with friends and family during February! This is Rob in front of John and Ruth's home in Van, Texas. We are very thankful for the time we had to reconnect with family and friends. Each of you holds a special place in our life! As we traveled some seventy-five hundred miles from January through April we were very blessed to share time with you in your homes. You all made us feel very special and reminded us again just how blessed we are to have family and friends like you! We also were able to spend some time in Sunny Florida with our family, friends and our home church! This picture is of Rob and our leased car (Thank you M.A.T.S) on the beach in St. Augustine about 6 blocks from our son, Jason's, home during the month of March! As we settle back into community life onboard the memories we carry back with us are priceless. Thank each of you for your love and friendship! It is a humbling experience to realize how much we are loved by so many. Thank you for your many expressions of this love! This picture is of our leased car in Virgina as we experienced spring in the Mid-Atlantic during the month of April! Information on TogoWe are now here in Lomé, Togo! The ship has been here since mid-February and will stay until mid August. It has been a busy time and many opportunities to share God’s love and care with the people of Togo. Screening has been done a bit differently here in Togo and there is much need for the services Mercy Ships can offer.Togo has about 6 million people and just over 1 million reside in Lome. The country is about 100 miles wide at the widest part and about 360 miles stretching north from the Gulf of Guinea. The countryside is two savannah plains separated by hills from the southwest to the northeast. The per capita income is about $900 (US) or about $80 a month. The official language is French, however, many local languages are spoken (Ewe, Mina, Kabye). Mercy Ships was last here in 2003 and Togo was the first African Nation that welcomed Mercy Ships in 1990. We plan to do about 2,000 surgeries during our field service from February to A[...]

1st in a series of 5 short news clips on the Africa Mercy

Thu, 27 May 2010 21:25:00 +0000

This is the first of five in a series of short news clips (about 5 minutes) describing what the Africa Mercy was doing on our mission in Benin last year.  These clips come from iTV Tyne Tees in England near where the Africa Mercy was refit.  We lived in this area for about 1.5 years (from Nov 2005 until May 2007) while the ship was in shipyard prior to being operational.

In this clip there is a short ship tour and some everyday life in Benin shots.  Also, a shot of when the ship left Blyth and the townspeople there that welcomed us so much as we prepared the ship for service in Africa!  Watch closely, you can see Denise in a blue shirt walking down the passageway while they are talking about the ship shop.

Watch the movie

Happy Mother's Day!

Sun, 09 May 2010 20:51:00 +0000

Happy Mother's Day! We have arrived in Togo on the 29th of April! We are settling in and are working on a newsletter. We wanted to send a short message to let you know that we arrived safely and found out when we got back that the injesus email system that we have always used to send messages has changed a lot! So we are in process of learning how to use it and will hopefully get out a newsletter in the next week! This is sort of a test message - in addition to letting you know where we are and that we are well. Above is our son, Jason and his daughter, Kendall. Please let us know if you receive this email and if your name appears after the Dear above. This too is different and we just want to know if it works well or if we need to do this another way with possibly another provider. We've always been happy with injesus and have used this system since we first began writing newsletters back in 2002, so we wanted to try to use it first! Above is our son, Jeff and his children; Ryan, Chloie and Averi. We enjoyed our time back in the US! We are really glad to be back in Africa!!! Thank you to all who have prayed for us, met with us, hosted us in your home and supported us in many many ways! We love you and miss you all! God is so faithful and He had our time back in the US planned and arranged. We felt as though we were in just the right place at just the right time in each and every place we traveled! May God bless you abundantly as you trust in Him!God's blessings,Denise and Rob You are currently subscribed to mercywatch as: Add to your email address book to ensure delivery.Forward to a Friend  |  Manage Subscription  |   Subscribe  |   Unsubscribe God's blessings, Rob and Denise[...]

Maternity Centre opens in Sierra Leone!

Sat, 01 May 2010 13:12:00 +0000

The Aberdeen West Africa Fistula Centre (founded by Mercy Ships) in Sierra Leone is now the Aberdeen Women's Centre (managed by the Gloag Foundation)!  The Maternity Clinic was recently opened and the First Lady of Sierra Leone attended the Grand Opening.  The Centre now has a Fistula Clinic, the Maternity Clinic and a Children's Clinic to serve the women of Sierra Leone! To read more about here.

Happy Easter!

Sat, 03 Apr 2010 12:14:00 +0000

 Just a quick note to let you know where we are and wish you a Happy Easter!  We'll be posting some pictures of our journey and relating some stories soon.  We have had a wonderful time here in the US and are continuing to visit our family and friends in the Washington DC area.  We are spending Easter with Denise's sister and her family in Delaware.  

One quick story....we hope to see a friend that we haven't seen in years, David Burke!  David was the youth leader at our church when our sons were in youth group at LakeShore UMC (Jacksonville, FL) in the 1980/90's.  David is now serving as staff at my sister's church in Delaware!

May the power of the resurrection be real in your life as you celebrate the sacrifice Jesus, our Lord and Savior made for us!  Our prayer for you this Easter is Ephesians 1:17-23.
God's blessings,
Denise and Rob

Connections - A Mercy Ship Update about the Togo Field Service

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 22:39:00 +0000

We are in the United States (currently in St. Augustine, FL - visiting family). Our granddaughter, Kendall, turned 7 years old last Tuesday! We enjoyed celebrating her birthday with her. The following video is of the Africa Mercy's arrival in Togo! We will join the ship in Togo at the end of April. Included in this video is also some information about the UK Africa Ball hosted by Lord Ian McCall, a new Mercy Ships International Board Member from the DR Congo (we happened to be at the International Operations Center during this meeting) and a new song written for Mercy Ships introduced at the New Zealand benefit for Haitian Relief Variety Event.

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