Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prayer Request

About a week ago my (Peter) dad fell off of a ladder and sustained some significant injuries; a shattered elbow, broken ribs, and a broken saccrum.  His heartrate was also quite high for a while and they had to cardiovery him (which was successful).  He has a long road of recovery ahead of him.  Also, as difficult as it is for me to be here and not there with him, he is surrounded by people who love him, which is a huge comfort.  I would like to ask you to join me in prayer for my dad as well as my mom, brother, and sisters as they walk through this together.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Schwebel Family Adventures: Mercy Ships Academy Christmas Play

Here's a blog from our Chaplain, Marty Schwebel about the Christmas play the kids just put on. Our kids did an awesome job and we're so proud of them all.

The Schwebel Family Adventures: Mercy Ships Academy Christmas Play: "The boys were all involved in this year's Mercy Ships Academy Christmas play. The title of the play was 'The Fear Not Factor'. At times I sa..."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Day At The Farm

Xavier's class recently got to go on a field trip with some other classes.  They went to a local farm where the kids got to interact with most of the animals.  They got to ride ponies, milk cows, and feed the animals.  It's awesome that they have the opportunity right now to do these sorts of things that aren't generally available in West Africa.

Science Fair

This past week was the Mercy Ships Academy Science Fair.  The junior high and high school students all participated by doing an experiment of some sort and preparing a report and display.  It's so cool to see the creativity of God shining through the kids. 
They did an amazing job and we're so proud of all of the kids in our community.  We're especially proud of Grace and the huge amount of effort and attention to detail she put into her project.  She is so incredibly wise and mature.  We're so honored that God was pleased to enturst us with the treasure of her life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Riding the Thunder

To live out this quote from Theodore Roosevelt is exactly what I need in my life right now.  Maybe it will encourage you as well.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Field Trip!!!!

The Academy has been doing an awesome job of taking advantage of our being in a developed nation by planning field trips for the kids.  Recently, the Elementary went to uShaka Marine World in Durban.  They had an awesome time.  Thanks to the Academy teachers (Dara included) for making the trip possible.  What a blessing to have teachers who care so passionately about our kids!  Here are a few photos of their trip:

The Wealthiest Man on Earth

That's me.  Mr. Rich.  Financially?  Nope.  We're bretty much broke.  But I'm sitting at my desk with Xavier's snot and tears staining the shoulder of my shirt because I was just holding him after he fell down outside.  And it means I'm the richest guy around. 

I was just walking back from checking on things in the kitchen when I saw Xavier running with his class.  He looked at me, squealed with delight, said "Daddy!!!", and then proceeded to catch his toe on the paving stones and fall flat on his face.  And I was there, not at some job site, fire station, or office miles away. 

I live and work in a place where I can hear my kids playing in the courtyard outside.  I get to see my wife and kids every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I often see them while I'm walking from place to place around campus.  I see them walking back from school.  I see their PE lessons when I walk through the gym on my way to the kitchen.

I have a wife who loves me and treats me better than I deserve.  I serve in a role that I love and in a mission that I'm passionate about.  I am a child of the King of the universe. 

Unfortunately, I sometimes forget how rich I am.  It's far too easy to take things like that for granted after a while.  It's also too easy to focus on the stuff that ticks me off or frustrates me.  Community can be trying.  Finances are bad.  The kids misbehave.  My department isn't where I want it to be.  Well, you get the idea.  I end up in self-pity, feeling self-righteous, and acting self-centered. 

The reality is that I'm blessed beyond measure.  A God who calls me His own, a wife who loves me, amazing kids, a passionate purpose, and the opportunity to experience life in a way few people get to. 

Maybe I should start acting as blessed as I am. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

Many of you will find the following comment shocking; I (Peter) struggle with sarcasm.  See.  I've been digging into scripture to find both encouragement and correction in this area.  I find that the amount of sarcasm I use has increased lately and I need the Spirit to help me keep it in check.  I can throw out some zingers that are pretty funny but they really don't acheive anything other than making someone else look bad, which ultimately ends up making me look like a jerk (after everyone stops laughing).  I was looking for a devotional in this area and found the following.  It's about gossip, not sarcasm, but I think the same principal applies for all of the various ways that we use our word for something other than speaking the truth in love.

If you don't say it, they can't repeat it. Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about gossip-makers. One such man had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him. "And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends." The rabbi sighed, "Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back." The rumormonger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi's chambers. "I did just what you said, Rabbi!" "Good." The rabbi smiled. "Now, to realize how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square..." "And?" "And collect all your feathers."
From Hooray for Yiddish. (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/gossip.htm)

I have some feathers to pick up.  You?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Peter's Ponderings

So, the problem with starting a blog is that people expect you to upate it, which cool because it means somebody cares about what is going on in your life (like those of you reading this - thanks).  It feels so hard to strike a balance between not blogging often enough and blogging so much that you're not really writing anything worth someone's time to read.  I've had a lot of fun with previous blogs and so much has happened since my last entry that I feel like I could write 20 entries easy.  What do you want to read about?  Do you want to read about our struggle and the challenges that we face in serving in this ministry, do you want to read about our family and how the kids are doing, do you want to read about our joys and victories, do you want to read about how what we do makes a difference, do you want to read about Mercy Ships as an organization and whey they're (we're) all about, do want to read about what God is doing in and through us, do you want to read about the area that we are currently in, do you want to read about random crazy stuff that goes through my head (like this), do you want to read about...?  How often do you want to read about any of those things?

Monday, October 11, 2010


Just a brief update for those that don't already know, Grace is in Seattle (Snohomish), I (Peter) am in Texas, and Dara, Elijah, Malachi, and Xavier are still in South Africa.  I'm helping to instruct Basic Safety Training at the International Operations Center in Texas, which is going very well.  Tomorrow - FIRE! 

So far my time has been a busy, wonderful season of catching up with old friends, although I'm missing my family terribly.  I'm looking forward to a day and a half in the Seattle area on the 18th and 19th.  However, as much as I'm looking forward to being back with Dara and the kids, I'm dreading the 42 hours of travel to get there. 

More updates to come.  Please pray for all of us as we are scattered and away from one another. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Fish Out of Water

The Africa Mercy in drydock

The Africa Mercy went from wet to dry this past weekend.  The engine room is pretty gutted and filthy.  Please keep her in your prayers, especially for safety for the crew still living on board, safety for the shipyard workers, and a timely completion to the project.

One of the holes in the side where the old generators will be
taken out and the new ones put in (the one on the botton left
with the ladder sticking out)

A hole from the cargo hold on deck three going down to the
engine room that didn't exist a month ago.

Takin' a Drive

Okay, so driving here is a bit different for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, you drive in the left lane.  This takes a bit of getting used to, especially at intersections where you're turning.  Secondly, you would generally have a right-hand drive vehicle when driving in the left lane.  We still have our left-hand drive vehicles so everything is all out of sorts (higgeldy-piggeldy if you want to use a nice British coloquialism).  The third thing that makes it interesting is that, being in a very rural agricultural area, the roads are primarliy a walking path, secondarily a livestock path, and only seem to be considered for vehicles as a tertiary use.  Throw in no sidewalks, no shoulder, and lots of blind corners and it's a bit like playing some kind of video game except you don't get any do overs.  Did I mention the fog?  Yes, in Africa.  Because of our elevation we get fog quite often.  Needless to say, we only drive at night if absolutely necessary.  Here are a few photos to illustrate the situation.

Driving on the left.

People, cows, and a dog - the main users of the road.  If only
this picture had some goats it would perfect.

A typical foggy morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

South Africa Pics

Rolling hills of sugar cane.

More rolling hills

Our dorm bloc.

Malachi on one of the big trees on the church grounds in Wartburg

A messy-faced Xavier outside church

Elijah and Malachi playing with one of the dogs after church.
One of the first dogs they've been able to play with without us
worrying about rabies for a looooong time.

Beautiful tree on the church grounds

Huge spider on one of the beautiful trees

Malachi looking haggard after we got back from the hospital.

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Isaac Newton Experience

Remeber those climbing trees I wrote about in the previous blog?  Well, Malachi decided to test the theory of gravity.  It still works.  He fell about 8 feet from a tree limb onto the concrete below.  For all of you medical folks out there:

7 y/o male 8 ft. fall to concrete.  No loss of consciousness but disoriented and unable to verbally repsond to questions for approx. 5 minutes.  Primary eval. revealed patient was pale, diaphoretic, and hyperventilating with a 7 centimeter round abrasion above right eye, and contusion to right hip.  No other apparent injuries.  Secondary eval. revealed weak grip in right hand, pupils equal and reactive, GCS 14.  Pt. began comlaining of extreme sleepiness, px in right wrist, dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision. 

Okay, so it's not in SOAP format and I got tired of writing a report but you get the idea.  He fell out of the tree, whacked his head, cried a lot, hyperventilated, and started complaining about his wrist hurting.  Dara and I were both about 30 yards away when it happened but neither of us saw it.  One of our friends said, "Malachi just fell out of a tree", and we ran over to check him out.  My first thought when I saw him lying there looking completely disoriented, pale, and sweaty with a bashed head - God please let him be okay.  My heart rate was probably about 200.  My training kicked in and I think I asked the right questions and did the right stuff but Dara and I were both terrified that something major would be wrong and we're an hour plus from decent medical facilities. 

In the end, we calmed down, he calmed down and we took him in to get his wrist checked out (it was already pretty apparent that he had a mild concussion with the blurred vision, nausea, and short-term memory loss).  We tried first the local clinic only about 5 minutes from where we are but their X-ray machine was not working.  So, we drove (my boss drove us with Dara and I in the back with a very sleepy Malachi and Grace in the front) a little over an hour to Uhmlanga Medical Clinic where he was treated quickly, professionally, and well.  He ended up with a possible (tough to tell apparently) buckle fracture to his right wrist, treated with a splint that he can remove for bathing, and a minor concussion. 

So, here's the best part.  He was feeling a bit nauseous the whole time but never threw up (I brought a bucket along just in case).  After the hospital he was much more awake, talkative, and in good spirits.  There was a McDonalds just near the hospital (the first one we've seen in about a year) so we stopped in for some late dinner (it was about 9pm by now).  No sooner did we have the bags open and the smell hit his nose did he say, "I need by bucket!".  Well, you can imagine what happened next without much detail.  He did his thing and we pulled over to dump out the bucket, which I rinsed out with the rest of my coke to keep the car from smelling like puke for the rest of the hour drive.  We're about 5 minutes down the road and he says, "I'm hungry now" and proceeds to eat his entire Happy Meal and then sleep on Dara's lap for the rest fo the drive. 

He's doing well now and I'm sure will be back to climbing trees before we know it.  We thank God for protecting him from what could have been a much more serious outcome that now just gets to be a childhood battle scar and a cool story to tell.

Hodge Podge

So much has happened since our last post that it's hard to decide what to blog about.  We are fairly well settled here in Appelsbosch, South Africa after a pretty grueling few weeks of moving most of our shipboard operations ashore, the details of which I'll not bore you with. 

The old college campus that we are staying at is a bit rustic (water outages, toilet issues, ticks, etc.) but absolutely wonderful.  We are pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which suits us fine.  The areas is a primarily agricultural, Zulu community of rolling hills, most of which are full of sugar cane (photos to come).  The people here are wonderful; warm, welcoming, and kindhearted. 

One of the greatest blessings so far has been that there is so much room for the kids to run around.  There is a gymnasium, trees to climb, plenty of concrete walkways for scooters, roller blades, etc., and all sorts of fun bugs and lizards. 

We also got to experience a first for us - a Mercy Ships wedding.  One of the couples who met during their Gateway course with Mercy Ships has been dating since and had their wedding ceremony here at the campus.  It was a pretty low key but beautiful and fun atmoshphere.

Our first church experience was at the Lutheran church just outside of the campus gates.  It was a high service, which the kids had a hard time sitting through (about 3 hrs. long).  The singing was indescribable.  It was like tangible joy.  Absolutely amazing!

Yesterday we went to Wartburg Christian Revival Church.  It's a small, contemporary, grass roots church set in a picturesque landscape (and the service was only an hour and a half).  We were warmly welcomed by the church family there and will likely be going back often. 

Well, we're all doing well and enjoying South Africa so far.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


We arrived this morning in Durban, Republic of South Africa.  Things have been quite hectic with all of the effort that has gone into planning, logistics, and packing things up to move ashore.  The Africa Mercy, as most of you know, will be in dry dock for the next few months getting new generator installed, among other things.  It's a huge project that will pay off in the long run with a greater capactity to bring hope and healing to the poor.

Tomorrow about 150 crew, the Koontz family included, will be moving to rural Kwa-Zulu Natal (the region of South Africa that we are in) to an area called Appelsbosch.  It's about 1 1/2 hours from the ship.  We will be living at an old college campus that has been vacant for a while but has been spruced up for us.  We are quite looking forward to being out in the 'boonies' for a while.  There will still be around 100 people onboard doing technical projects. 

We thank God for a safe sail and arrival and look forward to what He has planned for us at Appelsbosch.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whales for Breakfast

NOT the whale we saw, just a close representation.
As most of you reading this blog will know, we are at sea on our way to South Africa.  Most mornings we will eat breakfast in the dining room.  Today, we were running a bit late so we decided to have cereal in our cabin.  Well, those of us that were awake, anyway.  Let's just say it was a mens' breakfast.  Anyway, the common room of our cabin (combination living room, dining room, 'kitchen', storage...) has windows along the wall, which is a huge blessing when we are at sea.  As I (Peter) was looking out at the water over my bowl of Cheerios a leviathan of the deep surged up and broke through the surface of the watery expanse, exposing itself to the rays of the early morning sun, and crashing back down into the rolling sea, shattering the white capped waves into an explosion of crystal like droplets (a whale jumped out of the water and made a big splash).   There's nothing like jumping, multi-ton, aquatic mammals to break the monotony of cabin fever for 7 and 10 year old boys.  God is good.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


"Okay", you ask, "so what's the deal with the blog title"?  "I thought you lived on a ship".

Well, we do.  When we finally decided that we wanted to start a blog to communicate more regularly with you about what is going on in our lives and ministry, we sat down as a family on several occasions to decide what to call it.  A lot of ideas were thrown around, most of them nautically themed.

We decided on 'Ketchup' mostly becuase we just thought it was a really fun play on 'catch up'.  Also, with Peter's role as Chief Steward which, among other things, means he is responsible for food and catering operations onboard, having a condiment in the blog title seemed appropriate.  Lastly, we hope and pray that this blog will add a little flavor to your life from time to time.

We plan to use this as a place to share stories, thoughts, questions, musings, prayer requests, updates, photos, etc.  We hope that you will 'ketchup' with us from time to time by reading our blogs and posting comments.  In so doing, you accompany us on this amazing journey that we could not be on without you.