Monday, November 28, 2011

What If?

Well, I'm not always the most politically correct person around, a fact that does not come as a surprise to those of you that know me.  As we approach the end of our 10 month field service in Sierra Leone I'm beginning to think about doing a post on some end of field service statistics (of course said blog post thoughts are due entirely to my lovely bride who helps keep me on the straight and narrow and blogging about things in something like a timely manner).  That blog will be coming soon.  At any rate, a thought occured to me.  What if?

What if I didn't post about the number of surgeries that the Africa Mercy has performed in the past 10 months?  What if I didn't post about how the work that Dara and I do is integral to successfully bringing hope and healing to the poor?  What if not one single person in Sierra Leone came to a personal relationship with Christ in the past 10 months as a result of the work that Mercy Ships does and the witness that we provide?  What if I told you that this field service has been rife with demoralizing challenges and frustrating circumstances?  What if I I let on that this beautiful community isn't always forgiving, merciful, graceful, and caring?  What if I told you that there are people here that I don't like?  What if I told you that there are days that I struggle to find contentment in what God has called me to and I'm unsure not of the calling but in my ability/willingness to continue to surrender to His will?  What if......?

Here's the deal - reality is that at times I feel as though we have to 'sell' ourselves through these blog posts; that people reading it will be more inclined to pray for us, financially support us, and believe that we are really being effective for the kingdom if we can 'prove' it through patient stories (especially those that involve a commitment to follow Jesus), statistics, stories of personal sacrifice and surrender, etc.  Now, to be fair, the fact that I sometimes feel that we need to 'sell' ourselves is not a reflection of who you are as a reader but rather of my sometimes cynical views of the body of Christ, especially in the western world.  It is a gross generalization.

Also, I recognize that there is incredible value in reporting statistics, stories of lives changed, etc.  There certainly isn't a lack of desire on our part to communicate those things.  We want to share that joy with you.  We want to be accountable to our worldwide 'family'.  But what if we didn't?  Can or should someone's effectiveness for the kingdom be communicated and validated through numbers and statistics?  Does bringing someone directly into a saving relationship with Christ make someone more valuable?  Do we need to prove ourselves to you or is simply living a life of obedience to Christ and sharing our joys, victories, struggles, failures, doubts, contentment or lack thereof, thankfulness, heartache, worship, etc. enough?  Because the reality is that we do have times and seasons of struggle.  There are things about this ship and community that chafe us.  We work 'behind the scenes' and witness primarily through trying to walk in obedience, loving others, and being an example by ministering within the body here onboard.  In the years that we have spent here I have seen no more effective witness than living a life that glorifies God and displays true sacrificial love to all, beginning with those closest to you. 

What if that were enough?  What if we lived our faith rather than just talking about it?  What if...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Words of Encouragement

We were incredibly blessed to receive the following comment from our friend Dr. Neil Louwrens on one of our blog posts in March:

"I was privileged to be the Crew Physician in April of 2010 aboard the M/V Africa Mercy in Togo, West Africa, and observed first hand the contributions of Peter to the entire well being of the ship community. Let me make it very very clear to all who read this blog: the role of the support staff in the execution of the ongoing mission of the M/V Africa Mercy, and therefore by direct implication, the whole Mercy Ships as an organization, is entirely, and inextricably dependent on the efficient functioning of the support services such as that which Peter provides. I have worked alongside Peter, as Crew Physician, in efforts on board to curb transmissible diseases to crew members from local volunteers and he was very responsive to the solutions offered. Correction. He was 'immediately' responsive, and through his leadership, aided by the Captain, instituted sweeping (literally) measures that brought about beneficial and tangible change, ensuring a continued healthy (and well fed!), and happy crew.
It is true that the medical team tends to 'steal the show', but that is inherently important to the 'face value' of the organization and is tied to its needs to illicit the support of the world to continue it's ministry. But we know as believers, that you don't judge a book by its cover, and that behind the scenes are the true heroes. Peter, and his supportive family, are some of those unsung heroes, and I would ask that you seriously consider supporting him financially as he and his beautiful family serve on your behalf, and His behalf, in a foreign world of heartache and pain. Thank you for your support, and may God bless you and your family!"

Thank you, Neil, for your kind words and encouragement.  We pray God's blessing on your life as well. 

We also pray that those of you reading this will consider his words and visit our support page.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"I'm Thanksgiving for cookies"

So, as we went around the table at dinner tonight asking everyone what they were thankful for, Xavier says, "I'm Thanksgiving for cookies".  It was hysterical.  Three-year-olds are awesome and I'm thankful for ours.

Some of the other things that we're thankful for:

- friends and family both near and far
- green bean casserole on Thanksgiving in Africa
- sailing and the fact that we get to do it again in a few weeks

- an amazing God of forgiveness, patience, redemption, grace, justice, mercy, and love
- my beautiful, patient, and incredibly wise wife as well as my phenomenal children
- the privilege of serving God on the Africa Mercy amongst this amazing 'family'
- supportive, encouraging, and sacrificial friends
- for the Stewards Department and the honor of leading such fine group of men and women

- for the school onboard and all of the teachers that sacrifice their time and give of themselves to help me get a great education
- a chance to travel around the world and learn about and interact with different cultures
- for the close community on the ship and my friends that are always nearby

- animals
- the ship
- tasty food

- fun places to go like the beach, the Seaman's Mission, and Fil-O-Parc
- toys
- my friends

- cookies (as previously mentioned)
- my friends
- for my Daddy

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Photo Blog

Monkey Business

Well, apes, actually.  I must confess that I've lived 34 years without knowing the difference between monkeys and apes.  Our guide at the Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary outside of Freetown was only too happy to explain the difference.  Actually I didn't even ask, which leads me to believe that perhaps I'm not the only who was unsure of the difference.  Monkeys have tails, apes don't.  Who knew?

The Tacugama chimpanzee reserve was officially established in 1995, although the founders had been working towards it for a number of years (you can find the full story here).  The purpose of the reserve is to provide a safe home for orphaned and endangered chimpanzees.  Many chimps are orphaned as a result of poaching and the illegal animal trade (more info here). 

We had a wonderful time and learned an incredible amount of information both about chimpanzees and the rehabilitation process.   
Our little ape (and a big one, too)