Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Calaba Town

What are so thankful to experience Africa together!

A few girls from our team, along with our local friends.

All week, we drank water from this little bags!

One of the last nights, we had a dance party with some of the locals. So fun!!

John and I, along with a team of seven others from the ship, spent June 21 - 27 in the community of Calaba Town. Our task was to build a church for the local community. There was a "church" in the town, but it was just four sticks with material around it, providing just a little shelter. Over the week, we build a really solid foundation and begin the construction of the church. What a week! We stayed at the home of the pastor, which was quite a tight fit for nine of us, plus him! We certainly had a interesting time as there was no running water and electricity only came on for a few hours twice during the week. We were so thankful for the opportunity to stay among the locals for the week though. We found it fascinating to observe how they do their daily tasks -- washing, cooking, ironing, and bathing. What a eye-opening experience for us. Wow.

We built incredible friendships with the locals. A group of the church members helped us each day in building the church. They were so strong and such an incredible help. They were so warm, kind and open with us. We also loved meeting all of the children of the village. They LOVED playing with us and we loved playing with them too! :) Two very special friends we made were Mustapha and Patrick, whom both dedicated their lives to the Lord. Praise God! This week will certainly be a week we'll remember for the rest of our lives. God truly broke our hearts for the things that break His.

New ShipShots Video!

Watch the latest ShipShots video called "Worth Seeing a Smile." Click here!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


We made a wonderful new friend in Sierra Leone named Emmanuel Shaw. A friend of mine from home, Rachel, met Emmanuel several years ago while she served on Mercy Ships. She has stayed in close contact with him throughout the years and played an big part in helping him found an orphanage called Mercy Children's Orphanage ( Before we arrived in Freetown, Emmanuel was a big help to our advance team. He also volunteered on board in our galley while the ship was berthed in Freetown.

John and I had the awesome privilege of visiting his orphanage last Sunday. Emmanuel picked us up from the ship early and we spent a full day going with him -- going to his church and then spending the rest of the afternoon at his orphanage in Waterloo. He has 10 children at the orphanage and also one biological child. The children were so sweet, friendly and well behaved. We brought lots of books with us for the children and also for Emmanuel and his wife. We had a great time reading the books to the children, singing songs, playing games and a few of the girls even braided my hair. We were so encouraged by Emmanuel's work. He has a wonderful property and grows most of his own food. Also, a team of six people from the ship were able to go out to the orphanage last week to help him build a new fence around his property. We were so glad we could help him in this way. Please keep Emmanuel and his children in your prayers.

Goodbye Sierra Leone!

We sailed away from Sierra Leone yesterday morning and are due to arrive in Ghana on Friday morning.  Sierra Leone was an incredible port for us.  We hope to blog more soon!  It's been a BUSY two weeks!  We had 42,608 visitors in our two weeks in port. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa, bordered by Guinea in the north, Liberia in the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of 27,699 square miles and has a population estimated at 5.2 million. The official language is English, but Krio is the national language spoken by all. The capital is Freetown (where we are berthed) and it has a population of 1.07 million.

Sierra Leone is very rich in mineral resources, possessing most of the known mineral types of the world, many of which are found in significant quantities. The country has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. The country is among the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world, and mineral exports remain the main foreign currency earner. Sierra Leone has the largest known titanium reserves in the world. The country is also one of the largest Bauxite producing nations on the planet. Sierra Leone is also a major producer of gold. Despite being rich in mineral resources, the majority of its people live in poverty. The average annual salary is $200. Sierra Leone is the third-lowest-ranked country on the Human Development Index and eighth-lowest on the Human Poverty Index.

In 1462, Sierra Leone was visited by the Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, who gave it its name Serra de Leão, meaning “Lion Mountains.” Sierra Leone later became a center of the transatlantic trade in slaves until 1792 when Freetown was founded by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for formerly enslaved African Americans. In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1961, Sierra Leone gained independence. Sierra Leone struggled through Civil War from 1991 – 2000 (made famous by the movie “Blood Diamonds.”) Sierra Leone is perhaps best known for its blood diamonds that were mined and sold to De Beers and other diamond conglomerates during the civil war, and whose monies were used to buy the weapons that fueled the atrocities of the civil war.

Sierra Leone is mostly a Muslim nation, comprising of approximately 60% of the population. About 30% of the nation is Christian and the other 10% practice indigenous religions. The Sierra Leone government officially recognizes fifteen ethnic groups, each with its own language and custom. Unlike most African nations, Sierra Leone has no serious ethnic divisions and no serious religious divisions. People often married across tribal and religious boundaries.

Education in Sierra Leone is legally required for all children, but a shortage of schools and teachers has made implementation impossible. Two thirds of the adult population of the country are illiterate. The Sierra Leone Civil War resulted in the destruction of 1,270 primary schools and in 2001, 67% of all school-age children were not in school. The situation has improved considerably since then with primary school enrollment doubling between 2001 and 2005 and the reconstruction of many schools since the end of the war. Healthcare is also a struggle for the Sierra Leoneans. The country has a very high infant mortality and a very low life expectancy. The maternal death rates are the highest in the world, at 2,000 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our 3rd Anniversary!

Today we celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary in Freetown, Sierra Leone! What a contrast to being in London, England last year for our 2nd anniversary. What an AMAZING 3rd year of marriage it has been! We traveled to 18 countries and four continents over the past year. We are so thankful for God giving us such an incredible year. We have LOVED spending our 2nd and 3rd years of marriage on the high seas. We have had enough stories in this year to last a lifetime. The highlight of the day was making Indian curry and chippati and then eating it outside on our deck overlooking the city. But man was it HOT HOT HOT! ;)

Monday, June 14, 2010

We made it to Sierra Leone!

We are so thrilled to have made it to Sierra Leone!  The morning was filled with lots of emotion for me (Jennifer) as we entered a new continent!  We are thrilled beyond words to be here.  We can't wait to get off the ship once it's cleared!  There was an African band on the quayside welcoming us in with African dress, dancing and drums!  What fun!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


We want to share with you just a few of the things we've been learning in our African-preparation trainings that we've found quite interesting.  Africa is the 2nd biggest continent and has the most amount of countries of any continent.  All of the African counties are very unique and diverse, just like the different countries of the Caribbean.  It's incorrect just to clump them all together and make generalizations.  In some ways, the Caribbean and Africa are very similar -- for instance, the people are very warm, friendly, welcoming and hospitable. 

One piece of advice we were given as Westerns is the importance of partnering with the people -- not coming in and starting to offer advice and solutions.  We want to partner with the Africans and together, make a difference.  Another great thing we learned is that the Africans are VERY people-orientated, so relationships are very important.  We can't just come in and do programs and activities, we need to spend time with the people, building relationship and trust.  Also, as Westerners, it easy to think of Africans as "poor."  But what do we really mean by that?  Yes, they may not have lots of cash readily available, but the fact most Africans have food and a place to sleep makes them rich in many ways.  We need to change our view of thinking of poverty.

Here's a couple of statistics that might blow your mind -- Over 70% of the continent's population is young people and the average age is 17.  One-third of Africans don't get enough to eat.  Eight out of ten of the poorest counties in the world are in Africa. 
There is so much more, but I'll leave you with that for now.  :)

Almost to Sierra Leone!

We're on our last day at sea!  Hard to believe that our two-week sail is almost complete. The time has flown!  The 14-days have been a really special time for the crew.  We really enjoyed having lots of fun, community events plus lots of great training to prepare us for Africa.  We have a family from OM Africa on board with us for the sail that have been giving lots of training session to prepare us for Africa. 

In a way, our visit to Africa will be similar to our visit to the Caribbean in a lot of ways.  Our Experience Deck will be open (book fair, I-Cafe, and Journey of Life display) to the public.  We'll also do lots of on board events for pastors, youth, woman, schools, etc.  Plus we'll send lots of team out in the community to visit orphanages, hospitals, local churches and prisons.  But one area that will change (that we're REALLY excited about!!) is that there will be a big increase in the amount of practical aids we'll be doing.  For instance, just in Sierra Leone alone, we'll be sending out 50 people to villages throughout the country to help in practical ways for up to a week.  John and I will be a part of a team week after next that will go into a community for a week to help build a church!  We can hardly wait!

Other really awesome ways we'll be helping out the communities will be dental and medical clinics, distributing school supplies to children, giving out books and resources to pastors, doing eye exams and providing glasses, and helping to start up libraries in the community.  We'll also be doing a big blood drive on board the ship (nurses will come on board from Mercy Ships!).  Praise God for giving us the resources to really be able to ramp up the aid we provide for local communities!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cape Verde!

Yesterday, we had a stop-over in Cape Verde to refuel and fill our water tanks. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to go on shore for a few hours, which was quite nice after being at sea for nine days! What an interesting and unique place. We thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to explore yet another new country.

Cape Verde is an island country, spanning an archipelago off the western coats of Africa, opposite Mauritania and Senegal. Cape Verde is composed of ten islands (of which nine are inhabited) and eight islets. The country is estimated to be 1,500 square miles with a population of 500,000. The previously uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century. They gained their independence from Portugal in 1975. The official language is Portuguese. The country is officially an African country; so for us, it was like our gateway into Africa. We are scheduled to arrive into Sierra Leone Monday morning.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Videos!

Check out these two new videos from the ship! The first video is called "Hope in the Caribbean." View it now! The second video is a new ShipShots video called "Sports Connection." View it now! Enjoy!