Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

This year was incredible.

So much Joy. Faith. Hurt. Stress. Changes. Learning. Travel. Pain. Sickness. Health. Family. Work. Redemption. Provision. Trust. Peace. Love.

Thank you, 2012, for being an incredible year.

My life is such an adventure, and I'm so grateful to everyone who has been a part of it.  Much love to all.




Progressive sunset - 31 December 2012 Conakry, Guinea

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thankful Sunday

I realize this is my third Thankful Sunday in a row. I like it.  A lot.  :)

Today I'm thankful for...

...Imported oranges.  African oranges are green, tough, bitter, and hard to peel (most of the time).  For Christmas we got imported oranges (maybe from Florida?) that were huge, orange, and sweet. Bliss.

...No fire drill this week!

...Christmas eve AM workout class with Missy's dad serenading us on the piano! I wish all our workouts were so lovely.

...Singing Silent Night in 6 languages on Christmas Eve.

... Open cabins! A couple times a year people can sign up for open cabins and people drop in and chat for a bit, enjoy some goodies, and then move on to the next open cabin. Like a big block party or something.

...Sunsets on deck 8.

...The acid bugs are significantly diminished - if you don't know, acid bugs are these 1-cm little devils that burn your skin with acid. (hence the name...) and they were all over the place on deck 8 this fall. They've diminshed alot, perhaps thanks to dry season? I'm thankful they're gone, or nearly gone.

...Answered prayers, divinely orchestrated conversations, encouraging words, the blessing of friendships.

...A pool!  I seem to forget we have a (small) pool up on deck 8.  I've sat up there a few times recently, reading, and it was delightful!

...Surprise donations! (THANK YOU!)

...A fabulous run this morning with a lovely friend.  I'm also thankful that my good runs and running friends make my thankful list every week. I'm also so thankful I have found my rhythm of runs/workouts/rest here that seems to work for me, and I'm getting used to running in the heat.

...Emma's plastic tea set and having 'tea' at the edge of the pool yesterday, with rocks as ice cubes!  So sweet.

...Air conditioning.

...New running shoes!!  My shoes are in bad shape and I've started having some hip pain, and I was dreaming of new running shoes.  Then Erin offered to bring some back with her - hooray!  So next weekend I'll be able to have an even better run! :) So thankful for her, too!

...Mandarin oranges found at a street market.

...The email I received yesterday that said the container I thought would arrive at the end of January is set to arrive a few weeks earlier! (it's not early, I just assumed it was end of January but assumed wrong!) Yay!!  This container is bringing my last box of stuff I shipped from the IOC, including some clothes, books, and yummy snacks/food I am very excited about. Also some gifts for friends here!

...Leisurely coffee with new friends.

...Sleepovers.

...All the photos of snow I've seen on Facebook and news websites, that I can enjoy looking at but don't have to drive in or scrape off my car.

...This picture. Excited for what this new year holds!

 

Much love to all - Krissy

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quirks of ship life: The lines are blurred.


Quirks of ship life: The lines are blurred.

In my previous life, for the most part, relationships were very ordered and delineated.  I had a circle of people I lived with or near.  I had a circle of church friends. I had a circle of dancing friends. I had a circle of coworkers.  I had bosses and managers and those relationships were different than coworkers.  I had other random social circles, too, but they didn’t interact much. Of course there was some overlap occasionally, but for the most part, these different types of relationships each maintained their own level of distance.  Bosses were distant and respectful. Coworkers, friendly but still a bit impersonal.  Friends in varying circles had varying degrees of relationship.  Close friends and church family were very close and deep.

Here… things are different.  My coworkers ARE my neighbors AND my church members AND my friends AND my bosses….. and it’s weird.  Figuring out how to relate to people can be difficult! As an HR professional, how do I spend all day figuring out problems and dealing with people at my company, and then sit down and have dinner with them, or babysit their children, or hang out and watch the sun set? Or how about when my roommate is having troubles at work -  I am the HR representative for the company she works for, along with a friend and a roommate?  How do you just hang out with your boss or your boss’s wife after work? I can imagine it’s hard for teachers who have to discipline the children of their own managers and leaders!  It’s just a very different community – don’t get me wrong, it’s a community I love!! It’s just taking some getting used to, and I’m still trying to figure out where I really fit in.  Definitely stretching me, these quirks of ship life!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

More pictures from the Christmas season...

Here are a few more (better) pictures of some of the Christmas events I've already written about :) Enjoy! I'm back to work today- and I'm very happy about that. Cheers! krissy

Sinterklaas celebration (December 5)


Santa Lucia ceremony (December 12, I think)

The mens chorus (they're really good!) at Carols by Candlelight (December 23rd)

Our patients on Christmas!

Rob (Operations Director) said he'd sign anything for just 50 cents during the Winter Wonderland (early December)

Carols by Candlelight

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas on the Africa Mercy

Good Morning! I've written quite a bit about some of the traditions we have here on the Africa Mercy in regards to the Christmas season. It's been a very special time that has honored our multi-cultural crew.  On Sunday the Aussies took over and we celebrated in their style - a barbecue (Braii) and carols by candlelight on the dock! This is traditional in Australia, as of course, Christmas falls in the middle of their summer! Considering how warm it is here (around 90 daily), it felt much more appropriate than singing about snow falling!
Our crew is small right now, only about 275 on board. Here we are eating our yummy roast chicken and fixings on the dock.
We aren't allowed candles on the ship. There's special permission for the advent candles and the Santa Lucia candles during Christmas, but as for crew, we have to be on the dock. :)
 
This is where I spent my Monday and Tuesday morning - the Galley!
 
I don't do down time well - meaning, having five days off in a row is just too much for me, so I went out in search of work. I spent most of Monday and then again Tuesday morning in the Galley - helping prepare for our Christmas feast and scrubbing pots and pans.  There's always people working here, even on our 'days off', and I so very much appreciate them, and appreciate that they let me come help them out a bit :)
 
So Sunday was barbecue and carols on the dock, and Monday I spent in the galley. Monday night we had a Christmas Eve service for the crew, and it was beautiful!  There was a drama, two different choirs sang, then we all sang some Christmas carols.  The last advent candle was lit, and at the end of the service we sang Silent Night in six languages. (English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, and Swedish)  It was beautiful.
 
Christmas eve night we all participate in a Dutch tradition of placing your shoes out for Sinterklaas (Santa) to fill with goodies! This is kind of instead of putting stockings on the fireplace as we would do in the States.  Shoes go outside the doors and in the morning, surprise!!
 
Down the hallway of deck 4, which is only Crew cabins.
 
This was outside of my door - Santa, or Sinterklaas, or my crew members were good to me this year!! Special thanks to the AFM crew who put things out for every single person on board, no one feels left out on Christmas morning!
This is what I was up to on Christmas morning - plating cookies, pastries, and other goodies, and setting up the banquet table in the Dining room!
The dining room on Christmas morning. 
 
Christmas day there was a huge brunch - and I mean HUGE. A full breakfast line, full lunch/dinner line, with chicken, been burgundy, leg of lamb, prawns, etc. It is hard to remember in such an abundant meal that we are living in Africa! It was wonderful and I flitted from table to table greeting friends and family here on board. Then, because I had an early morning, I took a nap after the meal. That afternoon I spent time with some of the families on board, and had some lovely conversations with the people I am so honored to share the holidays with. It was a wonderful Christmas on board the Africa Mercy - thanks to my family here. I miss everyone back home, but of all places to spend the holidays, I'm glad this is where I am.
 
Merry Christmas!! Much love to all, Krissy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thankful Sunday (With pictures!)

 I am so thankful for so many things, and I love blogging my thankful lists (Thanks again, Dianna!) as it causes me to recognize those things even more that I am thankful for!  And even, if I have my camera, to snap a picture!! 
 
So today, I'm thankful for...
 
...The dining room having soy milk again. We have it about two to three weeks and then they run out and we have to wait for the next container to arrive, which is usually a couple of weeks without soy milk. I miss it when we don't have it, but it makes me very much appreciate it when we do!
 
...The coolness of this season (The Harmattan) - instead of 95 and humid it's a much more tolerable 89 and somewhat less humid.

...A job that I love and look forward to going to work. 
 
...My mom sends me letters every single week.  (and she has since I joined the Peace Corps in 2009, with a brief hiatus while I was living in the states).  She writes me a letter on Sunday and mails it on Monday. Thanks to customs holding our mail here, I tend to get two or three at a time. I love it. There's nothing earth shattering or particularly enthralling in the letters, just an update on life... and I absolutely love it, and look forward to it. Thanks, Mom.  (If you want to make my thankful list, anyone else, feel free to send mail. :))
 
...our Deck and Engineering departments who have been working overtime in the last few days to get our fresh water issues under control and get us out of water restrictions.  Thanks so much you guys. You're my heros.
 
...Emma's joy when she got to lick the spoon during the Christmas cookie decorating time.  And her sweet little 3-year old voice, saying "may I please lick the spoon!"
 
 
...My amazing friend Catherine. I'm thankful for her for so many things, she just loves really well. But today I'm thankful for her craftiness.  She's a very talented artist and loves painting, and also making jewelry!  I brought her a bunch of beads from the states and the other day she made me some beautiful earrings!  I'm not much for jewelry, in fact I brought only one pair of simple silver hoop earrings with me and they were broken... Anyway, I don't think, in my adult life, I've ever had this many pairs of earrings at one time. :) Thanks, Catherine! 
 
...My donors. Thank you for partnering with me in this mission. I'm especially grateful for Microsoft Corporation matching employee donations!  I'm here because of your generosity, thank you.
 
... My dad, cousin, and Nana have all been in the hospital recently, but they are all doing better and are all at home for Christmas. I'm so thankful for that, even if I can't be there with them.
 
...My lovely friends Dianna and Gretchen, who run with me!  Even though I am slow :) Thanks, my friends. I'm so thankful for you.  And running.
 

 
 ... My ipod. I wouldn't have ever bought one but it was an awesome gift that I use every single day. Thanks to my coworkers from The Walt Disney Company who surprised me with this right before I left - I love it!

...Water restrictions lifted!!

...My pregnant twin sister sending me a picture of the baby bump.  It wasn't really real to me until I saw the picture - now I'm so excited to meet that baby next summer!!

...Natural peanut butter and all fruit jelly from the grand old US of A.  A gift from heaven that must be rationed.  Trader Joes peanut butter is also awesome, if anyone is interested in sending a TJ's care package... :)
 
 
...This movie, which I love, they showed last night on all the ships televisions.  Several of my friends had never seen it - a travesty!  I love love love this movie and I loved getting to share the joy with others.  It IS a wonderful life!!
 
 
 

Please, take a minute in the craziness and materialism of this holiday season, to be thankful for what you have.  We're all so blessed.  I'm missing home but oh so grateful for where I'm at and the calling that is on my life to serve here.  Much love, Krissy

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pass the Lefse...

Today is the 22nd of December, and the 22nd is my family's big-loud-messy annual get together, where we make Korv (Swedish potato sausage), and eat it, along with various traditional scandinavian side dishes like lefse and a whole smorgasbord of cookies and bars and sweets.

I love love love my life and family here on the Africa Mercy, but my heart is also getting tugged back with longing to the snappy-cold winter night full of laughs and memories. So, to my family there - enjoy it, I'm thinking of you, missing you all, and dreaming of someday being cold again. :)

I've got a few days off, now, and I've decided instead of sit around and do nothing, I'm going to find some work to do. I'm going to help out in the galley and the dining room, wash dishes, or whatever needs to happen.  Those poor galley and dining room workers don't get any time off like the rest of the ship does.  The offices are closed until Thursday, no surgeries, the wards are slowly emptying out thanks to no surgeries, and everything kid of just takes a breather for the next week - except the dining room and galley!

So anyway, enjoy your weekend, Christmas week, and beyond. I'll keep writing as long as I have words to say. :) Much love to all - krissy

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Memouna Laughs

Hello my faithful readers!  I want to let you read a patient story written by another crew member.  YOU, my friends, are helping in this mission and serving people like Memouna who are desperate for the healing we can offer them. Thank you for being a part of this mission and for allowing me to be a part of it, too!  Much love, Krissy
 
Go down two flights of stairs on the Africa Mercy, and you’ll find you’ve stepped out of a ship and into a busy buzzing hospital. On the wards you’ll find kids playing, doctors praying, patients visiting, and plenty of African music. Listen . . . you’ll hear conversations in English echoed by translators in French or one of Guinea’s local languages – the chatter forms a background like white noise. 

One would expect that a 13-year-old girl would be among the chattiest – but not Memouna. 
 
Memouna’s pronounced facial tumor began above her left eyebrow, spilling down her face to the corner of her mouth and displacing her left eye. This tumor, a neurofibroma she has had since birth, left her looking like one side of her face was sliding off – like Dali’s famous melting clock in a desert. From behind the curtain of her deformity, Memouna saw the world with her good right eye. And . . . to her despair . . . the world saw Memouna. 

For 13 years she was taunted for her appearance. Moreover, superstitions run deep in West African culture, and physical deformities are believed to be the sinister mark of someone cursed. Memouna was not only teased by peers – she was completely dismissed. The drooping facial tumor became the source of a broken spirit.  

“She was not happy because in Africa people stay away from her. She would cry because she did not understand why no one liked her,” said Memouna’s 17-year-old sister, Aminata, the oldest of her nine siblings.  

“I had so many sleepless nights worrying how to help my child,” said Memouna’s father, who was trying to sell his car to afford her surgery when he learned the Africa Mercy was coming to Conakry. “I was told that no one would be able to do the surgery except Mercy Ships. I had no money to pay with . . . and then God paid!” 

On Wednesday, 26 September 2012, Mercy Ships surgeons removed Memouna’s tumor. After her operation, even under layers of bandages, the transformation was profound. Memouna’s profile no longer appeared rough and misshapen. Her face had been physically lifted from the weight of the tumor. Nurses hoped her spirits would follow, but removing years of social isolation is a much more complicated procedure. 

In the days after her operation, quiet Memouna said nothing, while her father and sister took turns staying at the hospital and speaking on her behalf. “I’m sorry, maybe she will talk more another day,” her sister would say to visitors. 

Mercy Ships ward nurse Lynne White said, “It was a long time before I realized she spoke. She was so silent that I didn’t think she could. But I can understand it. She went from spending her life keeping to herself with no friends, and then she came here and was overwhelmed by the attention.” 


One night a week after the surgery, Lynne came into the ward to find Memouna listening to headphones, nodding her head to music and mouthing the words. “I couldn’t believe it, so I did whatever I could to try to get a laugh out of her – I started dancing!” Lynne said. “Memouna just laughed and laughed. It was wonderful!” 

Two weeks later Memouna arrived on the dock with her father for a check-up. She kept to herself, waiting on the benches. “Is that my Memouna?” Lynne exclaimed. Hearing her name, Memouna glanced around to find Lynne, not walking, but dancing over to her. “It’s you, you’re here!” Lynne cheered, waving her arms in the air. 
 
Memouna clapped her hands and covered her mouth, trying and failing to hold back her giggles. 

Even though Memouna does not give up her laughter easily, she lets those who show her love see the real Memouna. In those moments, there is a cute teenager in a pink sweatshirt and orange nail polish . . . where a timid, downcast child used to be.  
 
The removal of Memouna’s tumor marks the beginning of physical . . . and spiritual . . . healing.
 
Written by Catherine Murphy
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Relax, and take a sip

My lovely friend Maryke, (pronounced mah-ray-kah), has been a wonderful influence on me in many ways; The notable way for this post is she’s kindly pointed out how I tend to eat my meals quickly and then rush off. She’s encouraged me to relax, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and stay awhile.

It’s amazing how much this little thing has changed my days, attitude, and perceptions!! I have never been very good at just sitting around. I tend to need to have purpose or a good reason to be doing something. Intentional, planned coffee dates are completely different, I enter those with an agenda, or a list of things to talk about, or even just a reason to have it – catching up, storytelling, etc. But to just sit around together, with whoever is there, without a set reason or purpose except to simply enjoy each other’s company? Foreign. I got things to do and places to go, people! But reality is, while that might have been the case back in the States, it just isn’t the case here. Most of the time, I don’t have somewhere to be immediately, and I don’t have urgent tasks that warrant me running off. Life here on board is blessedly simple, convenient, and predictable. When I used to rush off after a meal, I usually ended up feeling restless, bored, irritated, lonely, or any combination of those things. Yes, I do continually have items on my to-do list. But ultimately, nothing so urgent that I can’t sit and enjoy the company of friends for a few extra minutes. And I’ve found, over the last few weeks, that I am much less restless, bored, irritated, and lonely.

Thanks Maryke, and Dangyra, and Yfke, and my other relax-and-take-a-sip friends. :)

My lovely friend Maryke
 
Until next time! Krissy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Photo day!

I spent some time yesterday exploring the photos our fantastic ships photographers have taken and shared with the entire crew. Here are some of my favorites:


We go through a lot of produce feeding our hungry crew!



Kids playing around at the Hope Center



Baby Diallo's life has completely changed though she doesn't realize it yet...


This was a photo snapped at a recent outreach by our dental team at a local prison.  Great job, team!

Someone donated a whole bunch of new clogs for our hard working nursing staff - happy feet!

Until next time - krissy

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Wonderland

One of the annual Christmas events on board the Africa Mercy is a craft fair/bake sale called Winter Wonderland - I bought some cards and some wonderful baked goods. :) The entire crew shows up to the 25-ish tables that are full of incredible jewelry, cards, cookies, cakes, toys, and other fun things made by the crew. It was fun!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

A thankful Sunday...

Today I'm thankful for....

...Freakish ability to make beautiful paper snowflakes while most other forms of craft or art make me break out in a rash.

...All of the technology involved in being able to make a phone call to the US and have it sound like they are sitting in the next room.
...Two different colored eyes.  I used to hate it, but now I think it’s cool. And when people realize it, they usually think it’s cool, too.
...Anonymous donors.  All donors, really. But today, especially the anonymous kind, whose generous and totally unexpected gift has allowed me to buy a new pair of earrings as a special something for myself.   
...The friends who have encouraged me to NOT rush off after a meal but rather to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee afterwards. Some really lovely conversations have come out of this time, and it’s left me feeling much more rested and less restless. 
...Meetings with my boss that I leave feeling even more excited and energized about my job, and my future here. 
...Friends who will run with me even if I do run slow!
...Recreational coffee drinks – otherwise known as ‘fluffy coffee’ – or coffee with milk and/or sugar and/or flavorings and/or other additions.  I only drink them on occasion and usually with friends, so they are a special treat.  The coffee I drink in the morning is not recreational, but therapeutic, necessary to sustain life, strong and black.  I’m thankful for that stuff, too.
...The library back room – it’s cold and quiet.  You don’t find either one very often here in Africa.

...The love I have for speaking French – Little did I know back in 9th grade when I was trying to choose between French and Russian that I would come to love it and live in it every single day.

...A a great morning run, even though it included an injury time-out.  Afterwards, headed just downstairs to the hospital to get the rocks removed from my hand by my new friend Laura. Thanks, lovely!
Laura cleaning the rocks and e.coli out of my scraped up hand.  So very thankful for her, and the hospital ship I live in! 
Until next time - Krissy

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quirks of ship life: The Laundry Dance

Our laundry room has 10 washer/dryer sets, and everyone is allowed only one load per person per week.  You have to sign up on a time sheet and signing up for 10am will give you the washer at 10am and the dryer at 11am.  If you’re the type that runs life a bit behind, there’s a 10-minute grace period for washers; after that, you lose your machine.

What this schedule means is that all day, on each hour, the laundry room has about thirty people in it.  The ten people taking their clothes out of the dryers, the ten people transferring their clothes from the washers to the dryers, and the ten people waiting to put their clothes in the washers… with very little space, I call this “the Laundry dance”.  The room is not huge, and with the big table in the center, everyone carrying baskets or bags of laundry, and a couple ironing boards out… it gets crazy. And don’t even think about being late if someone is waiting behind you, or you might you’re your wet clothes in a basket somewhere, your name being cursed under the breath of the person who got to (awkwardly) remove your underwear from the machine so they could get their own started.  Friendships can be made or destroyed in the laundry room!

The Laundry room at a non-busy time!
 
Loving life on a ship!  Krissy

Friday, December 14, 2012

St. Lucia

Last week Sinterklaas came to the Africa Mercy - this week we enjoyed the St. Lucia celebration! A tradition that hails from "the lands of long nights" (Northern Scandinavia), the ceremony was so beautiful I got a bit teary!  Sorry this was the only semi-decent photo I took, my camera isn't great in low light.... I'll try to find some better ones! In the meantime, read about St. Lucia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy%27s_Day



I love being part of such an incredible, multicultural community! Much love to all - krissy

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sinterklaas!

Sinterklaas came to the Africa Mercy! 

One of the awesome blessings that comes with living on board a multicultural community is all of the different traditions and celebrations that are shared. On December 5th, in honor of our Dutch crewmembers, Sinterklaas made a visit!  This is the celebration of St. Nicholas's birthday.  They tell me he comes from Spain, and the little children that are bad don't get any gifts and might even get taken off to Spain themselves! His little companion is Black Pete, who is said to be the one who actually goes down the chimneys so he gets really dirty, and throws candy and jumps around.  Children place a shoe by the fireplace in the evening, and in the morning, it's full of presents.  I was asking a Dutch friend about it and she was saying this is a much bigger holiday in Holland than even Christmas!



Find our more about the Sinterklaas tradition here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas 

Happy Birthday, Sinterklaas!  krissy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Incarnational vs. Proclamational

This post is intended to answer some questions I’ve received about the faith-based organization I am a part of (Mercy Ships) and what that faith looks like in the practical, every day work here in Guinea and elsewhere, in my own life and the lives of my fellow crew here on board.  Reminder: no one is forcing you to read or agree with me or Mercy Ships.  However, I’m super happy to dialogue with ANYONE about ANY of the issues I put out on this blog.  But you do have to be nice. And respectful. And I offer you the same. J

If you read the title of this post you may be saying, huh?  Those are two really big words that describe a pretty simple concept – how we share what we believe.  Incarnational is a form of the word incarnate which means living.  Proclamational is a form of the word proclaim which means to speak or share. 
Let me put these into context.  We all believe something about God (or whatever you might choose to call a higher power, or creator, or deity) whether you are atheist or Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or Christian.  We all also choose how we live or share what we believe.  

Mercy Ships is a Christian organization, with the mission statement of “Following in the footsteps of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”  It was created by people who wanted to do just that – follow the example of Jesus and how he helped the lame to walk and the blind to see.  (Which we actually GET to do here - it’s incredible). 
Mercy Ships is an incarnational ministry.  We chose to live the way that Jesus lived – bringing hope and healing, loving the unloved and the forgotten, and serving others with respect and dignity.  We are not a proclamational ministry – one that goes out and speaks the words and seeks to bring people to knowledge of God through words.  Many Christian organizations out there are proclamational in mission – they seek to get people saved, for lack of better terminology. I’m not here to debate the merits of that, or to say its right or wrong. I’m simply here to say that’s not how I’m wired or my desire in serving the God I believe in. 

I love the incarnational model of Mercy Ships.  I believe that God has created me with special gifts and given me specific experiences so that I can be here now to serve the crew and patients on board the ship in a way that brings glory to His name.  I have no interest in going out and preaching on a street corner or converting lost tribes to Christianity.  Again, not arguing for or against either of those things.  I’m just not called to that type of ministry.  And Mercy Ships is not that type of ministry, either.   Which is a part of why I can get 100% behind this ministry model and be willing to commit my future to it’s work.
You do not have to be Christian to be a patient with Mercy Ships – we help anyone and everyone who we can, regardless of religion or ethnicity or financial provision.   We won’t force anything on our patients, we respect their beliefs, seek to accommodate their needs in any way we can. We do have a hospital chaplaincy which will answer questions that patients have and make sure they are cared for emotionally as well as physically.  We love it if the way we serve people bring them to a place where they can receive the knowledge that God loves them, too. We’re just loving them because He does!
You do not have to be Christian to work for Mercy Ships as a day worker – you have to be of good character and follow the rules of the organization, but anyone is welcome to apply.
You do not have to be Christian to serve on Mercy Ships as a crew member!  Our crew is made up of people from over forty nations and every background imaginable – every denomination of the Christian faith is represented, from Catholic, to Mennonite, to Baptist, to Pentecostal, and everything in between. We also have a fair number of crew members who are atheist or from other religions who just want to come be a part of bringing healing to the forgotten poor in Africa.  This is awesome and they are very welcomed – You do have to realize much of the crew is Christian and you have to live under our code of conduct (rules) which align with biblical principles.  If you can’t get along with Christians or the thought of having to go to community meetings where we pray together disgusts you, you probably aren’t a great fit for Mercy Ships.  But, if you can respect our beliefs, we can respect yours!  Long term crew members must go through Gateway (the training program in Texas that I went through in September/October!) which is very Christ-centered.  

I love this organization.  I love the mission and vision, to help the forgotten poor.  I love the people, from all walks of life and faith.  I love that because we are such an open community, debates and disagreements are commonplace and appreciated, not dreaded. I love that somehow this mishmash of people from all over the world can worship together, the things that divide us in the outside world somehow just don’t matter that much here on the ship.  We’re all just here on the same mission, to serve.   From the outside so many people wonder, “How on earth does that all work? So many cultures, beliefs, languages, customs, preferences…” Yep. Testament to the existence of God that this organization has not only survived, but thrived and grown and keeps drawing more and more incredibly gifted and talented people into it’s ranks.  For that, I’m grateful.

One more thing!  Mercy Ships has redesigned it's website - it looks amazing! Please check it out - www.mercyships.org
 
Until next time - Krissy

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thankful

A few months ago I heard a speaker say something that has stuck with me, and I think of often – he said, “What if God gave you today only what you thanked Him for yesterday?” – Wow. What WAS I thankful for yesterday? Or did I just cruise through my day, only really noticing the things that were irritating or not working as opposed to the abundance of good things, words spoken, hugs shared, or moments longing to be cherished?  What if I woke up tomorrow only with the things I was truly thankful for today? I might wake up to an empty parking spot or a pretty sunset or something equally as inconsequential to the larger story… but not much else.

A friend of mine (someone I’m very thankful for) writes a lovely blog that is mostly lists of things she’s thankful for at any given time.  She says some days it’s easier to come up with a thankful list than others, but ultimately, it’s a beautiful reflection of her heart of thankfulness and has got me thinking about how blessed I really am.  And I encourage you to consider the question of what are you truly thankful for today? Big or small, I challenge you to appreciate what you’ve been blessed with.  
I’m thankful for… (This is by no means an exhaustive list, that would take me… forever.  This is just what I can think of right now… expect more of these types of posts in the future!)

… My lovely friend Dianna who writes the above-mentioned blog, and also runs with me in the mornings, is such an encourager, with a sweet heart for others.

 …A body that can run, that is strong and healthy, and that I can continue to strengthen and pursue excellence in running, even in Africa.
 …The incredible women and men who have invested their time and energy and love and wisdom into my life. You know who you are. Thank you. I am eternally grateful.
 … The fact that in the last two months I’ve been hospitalized, treated for heat exhaustion/dehydration and a severe ear infection, had a dental checkup and cleaning, and xrays all for free.  Awesome. 
… Washing machines.  No matter how finicky they can be, or even if they don’t get your clothes super clean, I promise they are better than hauling your (dirty, muddy, amoeba and parasite infested) water from a well to scrub your clothes by hand.  
… Coffee. Dark and strong. And chocolate. Ditto. 
… The ability to print, in color, most of the time.  I am currently frustrated at the printer that won’t print and want to remember that they do usually print and I should be thankful for that. 
… My donors – it’s because of you I can follow my dreams and heart to Africa and serve on this crazy big white ship that’s a hospital and a small international city all in one. Thank you, from my whole heart! (not just the bottom J)
…Blog readers who stick with me through long and boring posts, or long breaks between posts. Especially those who comment on my blog or send me an email afterwards with encouragement or comments or even disagreements.  I love that stuff, so keep it coming.  

…The journey. 
… Salmon for dinner tonight.  Yum-o! 
… Friends who I can sit with for hours without saying a word but enjoying their company.
… Christmas decorations around the ship that make it feel a bit more festive, even if it is 90 degrees and sweaty outside. 
… Josh Groban singing “Little Drummer Boy” – it’s straight from heaven, y’all.  
... Stunning photos like this one from Suzanne - so grateful for this place and these people. Also grateful for the lifeboats we've never had to use!!
Lifeboat 2 was my lifeboat on the sail from Sierra Leone to Ghana. Not sure where I'll be assigned for the next sail!
 
Until next time - Krissy

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One month in... (a wordy post)

I haven't written much in the last few months... er, that is, I haven't written much of substance... On this blog, on other blogs I guest-write for, or even in my journal for that matter.  Why?  There are a lot of reasons..., which I could or may go into some other time, but ultimately, I've succumbed to caring more about what people think of my writing than the actual need that I have to write.  And really... this isn't okay.  I've realized over the last several years that I am a writer. There are words in me that must be written, and many shared, for my own journey and to strengthen the journey of others.  Someone said to me the other day, if I'm not writing what is in me to write, I'm not only depriving myself of the freedom it brings, but depriving others of experiencing the same.  Wow. Words have power, my friends, in so many ways. 

SO, all of that to say, as a preamble... I'm sorry if anyone is offended by anything I write, it's not my intention.  I love to dialogue and discuss the big issues of life and joy and struggle and love and God and relationships and this big crazy mission I have been given to walk in light and love others well. Just because I don't agree with you doesn't in any way mean I don't value you as a voice, person, identity, friend, or family. No one is forcing you to read my blog, agree with me, or judging you for believing something different.  I hope and pray my freedom in words allows others freedom in theirs.

Soapbox finished (for now).

SO... I've been a crew member on the Africa Mercy for exactly a month.  Wow. It's been a roller coaster, for sure!  In the weeks leading up to my return to the ship, I was really excited about the community... and really not excited about my job. 

My memories from the three months I spent here in Sierra Leone last year were rich with conversations and encounters with others that filled the desperation in my heart for community and relationship, after coming out of 27 months of solitude in the Beninese bush.  I loved everyone, loved the environment, was blessed with incredible roommates and relationships and friendships that I knew would last a lifetime. 

This time it's different.  This time, I didn't come from two years of solitude.  I came from an incredibly close, deep, rich, challenging, loving community to which I poured myself out to and loved and was loved deeply.  These are people I can jump right to the deep heart issues I am wrestling with, seeking healing and freedom and to be challenged in my journey, and they know me and my heart so well I don't have to explain myself, or fear being rejected or judged.  It's a special community, one I'm so grateful for and am really missing now.  Here on the ship, it seems every conversation begins with "So, where are you from, how long have you been here, how do you like it so far?" - these conversations are great and important, and I do want to invest in the lives of my fellow crew members no matter how long they are here... but a big part of me misses and longs for depth in community, conversation, and friendship, that I just don't have here.  I know, I know, you're probably saying, along with others who I've expressed this to, "Krissy, it takes time. Give it time." - I know. But I don't like that.  Things just move quickly in my life. I learn quickly and work quickly and find myself getting irritated at people or processes that don't; applies to friendships as well. I want things to move much more quickly than most, and find myself frustrated so much of the time at the fact that I need to just calm down, relax, trust and let things happen in their own time and speed.  Ugh. I'm learning. 

Many words ago I said I was excited about community and not really excited about my job.  Now that I'm here, I'm finding that I am struggling more with community than I imagined I would... and, surprise, I really love my job! 

As far as work goes, I am the Technical HR Facilitator, which basically means I support the HR function of all our technical crew (Deck, Engineering and the Purser's office), and I also handle all the HR functions of our day workers (210 at last count).  Traditionally the HR Facilitator role on the ship was pushing paper.  They've had a whole string of short-term HR people, have been mostly understaffed, and haven't had a long-term HR Manager at the helm for almost two years.  They've had to focus entirely on getting paperwork done to bring people on and off (a tremendous amount required by maritime law), and putting out fires.  Three months ago they finally brought on a long-term HR Manager (my boss, Nick) and now we are fully staffed with long-term facilitators.  It's exciting for everyone, because Nick and the rest of the management chain is really focusing now on a vision for growth and becoming what a real HR team is elsewhere - focusing on not just getting people on and off, but developing our crew, retention, simplifying processes and eventually doubling our crew as we move towards the building and staffing of a new ship.  We're really moving from a reactive to a proactive mindset and I love it.  Nick is really a great manager and I've enjoyed getting to know his style and figuring out how we can best work together.  I love working with people, developing better processes and learning more and more about the ship and how thousands of people across the world come together to make this amazing thing happen.  It's exciting and I am really loving it. 

So anyway, I feel like there are so many more words I want to get out right now, but this post is pretty wordy as it is.  I'll continue to write more in the coming days and weeks and months.  Until next time, here's a photo courtesy of Suzanne, of the sunset from deck 7.  Stunning.


Love to all. K

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Deck the halls....

Yesterday we decked the halls! I can't seem to get my photos to load so all of these are courtesy of the always lovely and faithful picture-taker Suzanne.... Enjoy.  Now it does feel a wee bit more like Christmas, even if it is hot and sunny outside.  Well, not today, it's overcast... but anyway, it looks great and I love the Christmas traditions that have been built here on the ship... I'll write more on those later...
 
 
This is Midships (The Town Square), by the cafe and the ship shop...


The dining room - this is where the crew takes the majority of their meals, except families often get food but eat in their cabins.

The gangway even got lights!
 
This is the Starbucks cafe, from the stairway in a previous photo - with Christmas trees above on deck six in midships.

Love to all, Krissy

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baby Rescue Center

Two weekends ago I got to serve at the Baby Rescue center - they take in abandoned and unwanted babies and they love it when we come to hold them! 




They all cried when we left. I hope to go back next week!

Love to all, krissy