Friday, December 28, 2012


Soriba sits on a stool at the end of an empty hospital bed with his arms folded across his green and blue striped shirt. His eyes are fixed on the door. He is waiting for news of Alya, his son, who has been in surgery for nearly three hours to remove a tumor from his small neck.
Across the narrow hallway of the hospital ship, Alya’s skilled volunteer surgeon, Dr. Neil, works diligently with OR nurses to finish up a successful surgery. “Incredible,” he says of Alya’s tumor, which had grown around his windpipe. “He was a few months away from suffocating from this.”
In his six short years, the tumor Alya has had on his neck since birth grew from the size of a quarter to the size of a potato. But today, because of Mercy Ships, there remains only a crescent-shaped scar, made up of a couple dozen stiches, where that tumor used to be.
Before surgery, Alya was teased by his friends for the
lump on his neck.  He as also out of breath and tired.
Now there is just a small incision
where the tumor used to be.

There is a sacred moment in the hospital wards of the Africa Mercy when a nurse tells a patient’s family member that the surgery was successful. Delivering this news is more than just giving an update – it is telling someone that their loved one’s life is forever changed. Mercy Ships ward nurse Rachel Greenland smiles as she approaches Alya’s father. “The surgery went very well,” she says. Soriba’s eyes flutter between Rachel and the translator as the message is relayed in his language, Susu.
“Everything went well. He hasn’t woken up yet, but he will soon,” Rachel says.
Sitting up a little straighter now, Soriba looks around the room. He smiles and in Susu announces to the ward, “My mind is free, my heart is happy!”
Another patient chimes in from a bed nearby, lifting his head to get a better view, as he says, “Let God bring these kinds of people every year in this country!”
“Amen!” says Soriba.
What had been hushed mumbles quickly turns to chatter from the surrounding patients and caregivers. “May God help them to bring healing for other illnesses we have here,” says a woman in the bed behind Soriba.
Soriba turns and holds up his hands, adding, “Amen. May there be healing for all.”
Four days later, a squirmy Alya sits on his knees at the end of his hospital bed, pulling on his father’s shirt. He is no longer the little boy who can’t catch his breath. He is no longer exhausted from his hindered breathing.
Alya proudly wears a red star sticker on the middle of his forehead and a huge smile on his face. Next to him, his father eyes the door – this time for a different reason.  Today, Alya finally gets to go home, and they are anxious to leave.
“Without this opportunity, we don’t have the means for surgery,” Soriba says. “Now I am happy; may you come every year.”

Written by Catherine Murphy
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Paul Millgate and Bright Effowe

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peter's Ponderings

I should probably post some kind of family update after over a month hiatus from blogging.  There certainly has been no shortage of events, happening, fun times, frustrations, school stuff, and work woes to blog about.  Life is very busy.  Good, but busy.  We (individually, as a family, as a crew, as an organization, and as the body of Christ) have achieved some amazing things through His power and grace, and we continue to do so.

However this post is, as the title says, a pondering.  What is a pondering?  It is a musing, an 'I wonder', a rumination, a 'huh?', a consideration...well, you get the idea.

So, here it is: how do you handle generational cultures in the workplace?  Do leaders have a responsibility to understand generational dynamics and adapt their approach and expectations in regard to them?  Do followers (subordinates) have a responsibility to do the same?

We seem to make (or at least intend to make) allowances for cultural differences in regard to race and culture in the nationality or ethnicity sense, but what about generationally?  There is incredible variance in how a Silent, a Boomer, an X-er, and a Millennial see the world around them, interpret things, approach work and goals, etc.  They are vastly different worldviews.  Is it majority wins - whichever generation is most represented in a workforce gets to set the tone and everyone else is expected to conform?  Is there an approach that would be amenable to even, say, two different generations working together?


Friday, October 26, 2012

Keepin' It Casual

After a few days of feeling so-so, my headache, sinus, cough, fatigue yuckiness finally got the best of me today and I opted for a day resting in the cabin.  Xavier decided that I looked like a comfortable mattress.

One of the advantages of working from home is a casual dress code.  Our new personal assistant seems to have taken it to the extreme.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We're Alive!

What have we been up to lately?

Dara is homeschooling Xavier this year.  It has been a rewarding experience but also with many challenges.  He can spell his first and last name out loud, can count to 46, and can read a number of small words.  While Dara is thrilled with the privilege of teaching him those things, it is tough to do on the ship.  She can't really take him on field trips or just pop over to the library.  It also means that she spends her days until 3:20 with Xavier and then helps the other three kids with homework while trying to entertain a 4-year-old who has already spent the whole day in the cabin.  We knew that this would be a challenge but decided that it is well worth it, and Dara is an awesome teacher.

Grace is still planning on going to France for the next school year.  She has begun babysitting and selling cookies to try to earn money.  She is still filling out the application for the organization that she would like to use for her year abroad and is also working on scholarship applications. 

Elijah has started a business taking out peoples' trash.  He is plugging away in school and doing very well considering the challenge of moving up to Junior High this year and doing two online classes because the Academy is short of teachers this year.  The online classes are out of his comfort zone but he has maintained a great attitude about school. 

Malachi went into business with Elijah taking out the trash.  He is still a clown at heart and can't sit still for more than about five minutes.  He is constantly doing cartwheels in the cabin, which is interesting considering the fact that we have 6 1/2 foot ceilings and only about a 4'x4' section of open floor space for him to do them in. 

Xavier is growing up so fast it is incredible.  He can swim on his own now and is fairly intent on being independent.  He holds his own as the youngest and can often be heard hollering at his older brothers and his perceptions of their injustice toward him (which is sometimes accurate and often exaggerated). 

I'm staying plenty busy with my roles of Dad, husband, Chief Steward, and student; taking two university courses per semester.  I am working toward a BA in Organizational Leadership from Regent University.   The Stewards Department have had a particularly busy season with the President of Guinea showing up on two hours notice, a luncheon for the US Ambassador, the first Lady of Guinea onboard last week, several Ambassadors' wives coming Monday as well as the Papal Nuncio, and a number of other smaller events and functions.  Not to mention the usual daily tasks of daily cleaning all public spaces of the vessel, preparing meals for around 600 people 3 times a day, maintenance of guest cabins and preparation of crew cabins, etc., etc., etc.   The managers of the five areas of the Stewards Department, whom I directly oversee, are doing a great job pushing forward in our mission of bringing hope and healing to the poor.  It is a privilege to lead them.  School is going well but requires a lot of time.  I made the Dean's List and continue to do well in courses. 

We are plugging along and grateful to the Lord for His continued blessings in our lives. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

God's Travelling Mercies and Grace

This is a crew announcement...

This is Grace, I am just writing this post in order to notify you that I have started my own blog. If you are interested in seeing it, please click here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Through The Eyes of a Nine Year Old

I don't like to be nine very much because there's one more year before I can go around the ship by myself.  Natty and my other friends, who are already ten, can go up to deck 8 and the Town Square by themselves but I don't get to.

Sometimes kids who are not ten yet run around even though they aren't supposed to.  I don't like that.  It makes me feel a little bit annoyed because they aren't supposed to.  My parents tell me it's a ship rule and I have to follow it even if other kids don't and their parents don't make them.  Grrrrr. 

My mom and dad say that we need to set a good example and that the bible says we should obey people in charge.  I think that it would be fun if there didn't have to be older people in charge but I guess if there weren't then it would just be chaos.  I'm not exactly sure what that means but we did a game in PE and Mr. Calvert said it.  I think it means when everything is out of control and crazy (my sister added crazy). 

When I'm ten then I will be happy because I can go up to deck 8 by myself, I can go to the computer lounge by myself, and I can watch PG movies.  Oh yeah, then I get to have a later bedtime, too.  And birthday presents.   

But there are still some fung things to do now.  I like it when my parents take me places to play and hang out.  I also like to do PE and Drama in school.  They are fun subjects.  I like living on the ship because the classes are small and there aren't very many people.  Sometimes there are yummy things to eat.  It's fun that we get to sail to lots of different places.  And we get to be in new places but still have our house with us.  It'a also fun that we get to drive in Landrovers and go to African places.  Like last weekend we went to somebody's house.  My parents say that it was the house of the acting US Ambassador and his wife.  They invited us over to eat muffins and play in their pool.  I guess most kids don't get to hang out at the houses of people like that.  It's also fun that presidents and people like that come to our ship. 

- Malachi

Monday, September 10, 2012

Locking Shields

Today was one of those days.  You know the kind I mean.  I'll no go into details but suffice it so say that most of it revolves around being offended; either me offending others or them offending me.  It seems like 'taking offense' is spreading like the plague in the first few weeks of this field service and in times like this, when I am reflective and prayerful, it is so easy to see the hand of Satan at work encouraging 'offense' to create division and broken relationships.  A very wise friend shared a few days ago an image he had about all of us, in addition to putting on the Armor of God, needing to lock our shields together and advance as a team to that we all remain protected and the line unbroken.

Really, the things that offended me were not particularly major and allowing myself to be offended was a reflection of my lack of willingness to lay down my 'rights' and die to self.  It really isn't worth the energy to be offended and it certainly isn't worth the harm that it does to relationships. Choosing to be offended weakens the line and leaves others unprotected.

Will those of you who read this and are followers of Jesus please pray with me that the Lord would crush the spirit of offense in the crew of the Africa Mercy, that He would replace it with humility and a willingness to believe the best in others, and that we would live up to the admonition given in Galatians 6:9-10 - "So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." (The Message).

Pressing On,

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Conakry, Guinea is our home for the next 9 months.  Guinea is a bit smaller than the state of Oregon with a population of just under 11 million.  Islam is the major religion, with approximately 85% of the population adhering to it.  The average life expectancy is 58 years. It is ranked 178 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.  Guinea is the second largest producer of bauxite in the world.  French is the official language but there are 24 other languages spoken in the country. 

The need for both the specialized surgeries that we provide and the light of Christ in the nation are quite evident.  We are looking forward to new adventures, personal growth, and to be used by the Lord to help accomplish His purposes in this country.

Malachi's class on arrival holding their Guinean flags.

The view of the dock toward the stern of the ship.
The view of the dock towards the bow of the ship.

Sunset over the harbor on the sea side of the ship.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Making Waves

We set sail from Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Thursday and are on our way to Conakry, Guinea, where we will spend 10 months sharing the love of Jesus with one another and those who we have been called to serve in the nation. 

Seas have been calm and it has been a great voyage so far.  We saw some whales off of the starboard beam today and then played sock golf in the afternoon (a bit tough to explain in writing). 

There are many aspects of living on a ship and doing what we do that are challenging and trying.  However, being at sea is something incredibly special and we are always reminded of our blessings as we sail. 

Here is the view of the sunset out of our cabin window the other day:


I was appalled to see that it's been over a month since my last post, especially since my previous one promised BST pictures "soon".  Evidently, that's a relative term.  So here's a bit of a catch up.

BST Photos (thanks to Josh Young):

How not to handle a hoseline :)

Fake smoke - I promise.

After 12 days in Texas assisting the BST course Grace and I flew to the Seattle area for 6 days.  We had a great time connecting with family and friends.  Here is a photo of Grace with some of her cousins:

Canary Islands.  While Grace and I were in the United States, Dara and the boys had to move ashore because the Africa Mercy was in dry dock, which isn't a safe living environment for kids.  Mercy Ships obtained quite a number of donated and reduced rate hotel rooms on the south end of Gran Canaria.  They were in the hotel for 19 days.  They generally had a good time but 19 days is a long time to live out of a hotel room.

The hotel they stayed at.

They got to go bowling, which Xavier had never done before.
 That pretty much brings us to the end of our time in the Canary Islands.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stars and Stripes

Grace and I (Peter) are back in the good ol' US of A.  We arrived last week Thursday.  I'm helping to instruct Basic Safety Training at the Mercy Ships International Operations Center in Lindale, TX.  Basic Safety Training (BST) is a maritime training course that covers firefighting (thus my involvement), CPR/First Aid, personal safety and social responsibility (a.k.a. workplace safety), and personal survival at sea. 

We did our fire field exercises yesterday (I'll try to get some photos soon) which involved Search and Rescue, Class A and Class B fires, and  a simulated Class C fire.  The students got to use portable fire extinguishers, protective fog pattern to access and shut off a fuel line valve, and indirect hose stream attacks on a pallet fire in a shipping container.  I think our max temp was around 700 degrees.  Not too hot but hot enough. 

Grace has been hanging out with her friend Bess who we know from the ship.  Their family has been kind enough to allow us to stay in their home while we're here. 

Tuesday the 17th we fly up to the Seatlle area for a few days before heading back to the Canary Islands to meet up with Dara and the boys (who we both miss very much!).  I will be giving the message during both services at Crossview Church in Snohomish on Sunday the 22nd.  Any and all are welcome to attend.  We're looking forward both to that and a brief opportunity to reconnet with family and friends in the Northwest.  Please contact me at if you live in the area and would like to get together for our brief time there.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Slow Boat to China

Okay, so we're not really sailing to China.  Slow Boat to Tenerife just didn't have the same ring to it.  The slow part is accurate, though.  As an inter-island ferry originally, the Africa Mercy wasn't exactly designed for ocean going passages.  She pretty much plows through the water and rocks like a milk carton in a bathtub.  Actually, Elijah is fond of saying, "sailing rocks!". 

We cleared the breakwater in Lome yesterday morning and are making our way to the Canary Islands for a shipyard period.  I had the opportunity to get my hands dirty a bit and work the aft mooring deck, which was a welcome change of pace from leadership and management duties.  I was tough to miss in my day-glo orange coveralls and helmet.

We had an amazing dolphin show yesterday afternoon.  There were hundreds of dolphins swimming, jumping, spinning, and splashing around the ship.  

     Our family love being at sea and so far no seasickness!  Please pray that that continues to be the case and for a safe voyage to our next port of call.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Surreal Experiences

There have been a number of interesting things that have happened lately.  A couple of weeks ago we had Scott Pelley and the 60 Minutes team onboard to do a piece on Mercy Ships (don't know when/if it will air).  Every Sunday morning our family walks down a flight of stairs the the Starbucks Cafe onboard to have a latte or coffee-less frappuccino.  Elijah was standing in line wearing his pajamas and with his hair all frazzled right next to Scott Pelley.  Would've made a pretty cool picture.

Minister of Health Agba addressing the crew.
We had our Thank You reception last week.  This is an event we hold at the end of each Field Service to thank church, government, and business partners.  As such, it wouldn't typically fall into the 'surreal' category except that this time around the managers in the Stewards department did such an amazing job that I could actually participate in the event rather than work behind the scenes for it.  I had an opportunity to chat with the Togolese Minister of Health, the US Ambassador, and the Bishop of Lome, among others. 

The US Charge d'Affaires, Simon Hankinson, and I.

It was a wonderful reception that showed our appreciation for those who have helped us to bring hope and healing to the poor of Western Africa.

From last Thursday I have been the Acting Managing Director whilst our MD and his family are away on holiday.  That in itself is somewhat surreal but to add to it twelve of us from the ship were invited by the Minister of Health (pictured above) to a wonderful dinner out last night.  Dara and I and the Captain were seated with Minister Agba and his wife.  The minister toasted us and I had the opportunity to respond in kind, which I think went fairly well.  We also exchanged gifts and then chatted over dinner and dessert for the evening.  It was a lovely evening where we had the ability to exchange our thanks to one another in a more intimate atmosphere than the Thank You reception.

Today was the last day onboard for most of the Day Workers of the Africa Mercy.  These, too, are amazing partners who for ten months have served diligently.  I have learned much from my brothers and sisters of Togo and neighboring nations through the relationships that we have developed this Field Service.  So, too, have most of the crew.  The event was lively with great worship.  I had the honor and privilege of sharing a message of thanks on behalf of the crew, as did the Captain.  The Day Workers will be sorely missed in many ways.

I'm not sure what other experiences and opportunities are in store but I am appreciative of the ones that I have had lately.  I also appreciate Dara, Grace, Elijah, Malachi, and Xavier for their support and love.  I am thankful to be on this ship and serving with such an amazing group of men and women of God.  I am thankful for those who support us through prayer, love, and finances.  Most of all I am grateful to God for His faithfulness, mercy, and grace.

What's next?  Sailing and whatever other adventures God has in store...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hole in the Wall

The title is what came to mind as I looked at the porthole in my office window.  It's actually a hole in the door but, well, you know...

My door isn't really four feet high, I just took the picture from a funny angle and from the wrong perspective.

 My office is on deck 5 near the Reception counter.  It's about the size of a walk-in broom closet but has two windows and I thoroughly enjoy it.  It also doesn't have chair.  About a year ago I bruised my tailbone (doing cannonballs into the pool - go figure) and it was torture to sit.  I realized that my desk was adjustable so I moved it up and got rid of the chair so I could stand to work.  I enjoyed it so much that I've kept it this way. 

My slightly messy, chairless office.  Photo taken from the porthole in the above door.
I haven't actually measured my office but I have just enough room to lay down on the floor with my feet at the wall where the windows are and still have a book in front of me when I do homework at night.  I suppose if I were to offer it as real estate it would have descriptions like 'quaint' an 'cozy' but I love it.

Our Managing Director is on holiday and I'm filling in for him for about a month.  That means that I have the keys to his palatial office (complete with executive corner desk, book shelves, and a four person meeting table) but I'd have to sit at his desk instead of stand and my kids' artwork isn't on his wall.  I think I'll stay where I am.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Around Lome

We were out in town the other day and thought it may be worthwhile to share some photos of a typical Lome day with those of you who read this (and don't already live here).

Side of the road livestock grazing

Shoe store.

Shoe store with marketing panache.

Typical traffic.

Tire store.

Fast food (these roadside 'street meat' stands are about as plentiful as coffee stands in Seattle).

Produce stand.

Portable sporting goods store.
Delivery truck.

Home sweet home - well, almost.  This is the drive through the port.

Nearly home.

There she is.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movin' On Up

Elijah is now officially in Junior High!  When Grace moved up from Elementary to Junior High she and Dara went out with the other kids that were also moving up and their moms.  We continued the tradition except this time I (Peter) took Elijah out with the other kids moving up (all two of them) and their dads.  We went to Cote de Jardin in Lome.  It is not exactly fine dining but is one of the nicest restaurants I've seen in West Africa.  It looks pretty bland from the outside but is gorgeous inside.

Outside of the restaurant.
One of the highlights is the English menu, which is literally translated from French.  Here are a couple of humorous options:

I can't even figure out where "Feeling Falling" comes from in a side dish description. 
"Plate of Rawness" is a personal favorite
We had a wonderful time celebrating the kids' move to Junior High (6th grade in our school system) and prayed for their lives and their future.

Front Row: Elijah, Rick, & Ananda.  Back Row: Dan, Kylie, and Peter

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hittin' the Books

The kids finish their school year next week.  I've got six weeks left in my term!  Yes, that's right, I've gone back to school.  Through much prayer and discussion Dara and I decided that it was time.  I am seeking a degree in Organizational Leadership from Regent University, a Christian university in Virginia Beach.  I didn't get a degree out of high school, though I did take some community college courses that have transferred over.  I am technically a Sophomore.  Regent offers several degrees that are entirely available through online learning.  It has been a bit of a challenge to adjust to non-classroom learning but I'm getting used to it now. 

My first session I took Public Speaking, which was a significant challenge as it required uploading recorded videos of the speeches I delivered.  Seems straightforward enough - except that our incredibly narrow satellite internet bandwidth doesn't support large uploads or any streaming media.  Thankfully our Information Services department took pity on me and made a few timely exceptions.  Last session (Regent has a semester system that they then break into two, eight week session each) I took Academic Research and Writing and Making of the Christian Mind (a Christian worldview course).  I got 4.0 in all three courses.  I am currently taking Shakespeare, which is proving my most difficult class so far, and Introduction to Christian History and Thought.  These classes, as you can see, are general education requirements and are not Organizational Leadership specific.  I am taking a hiatus from classes for the second summer session but will take my first Organizational Leadership course in the Fall along with French. 

The kids start their Summer Program soon.  It is sort of like day camp.  They do art projects, games, go on field trips, etc.  They start school again in August.

We pay school fees for the kids and tuition, of course, for my university courses.  I have received the Pell Grant which covers a fair bit of the cost but not all of it.  And there are still books to buy, which we have to ship via international mail at a very high cost because the required course book list is not published early enough for us to have them shipped via container.  If you are interested in helping to cover school costs for the kids or me, you can do so via this web page:  There is a note section where you can write in what the donation is for. 

We would also appreciate your prayers, both for our current courses (Grace has finals next week) and the next school year.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Perfect Timing for Romeo

Romeo in 2010 very malnourished.
In 2010, one-week-old Romeo Touloulou was one of the youngest patients ever to board the Africa Mercy hospital ship. Romeo, born with a cleft lip and palate, was in dire condition. He was unable to take nourishment. Weighing only 5.75 pounds (2.61 kilograms), he was on the perilous brink of malnutrition.

Romeo was immediately put under the tender care of volunteer nurse Melissa Davey in the Mercy Ships Infant Feeding Program. Melissa and Romeo’s mom, Badokideou, worked hand-in-hand. They were very patient as they gently encouraged and helped Romeo feed on infant formula from a plastic cup. Spectacular progress was achieved. Romeo gained the weight needed in order to have surgery to repair his cleft lip. Following his successful surgery and now very proficient at feeding from his cup, Romeo soon tipped the scales at 13.5 pounds (6.12 kilograms). Everyone was overjoyed at the progress of the smiling and chortling baby boy.

Romeo’s mother felt deep gratitude. “My Romeo was blessed with perfect timing. He was blessed to have been born at a time when the Africa Mercy was in port in Lomé, Togo. Thanks to Mercy Ships, Romeo is a now a healthy and happy five-month-old boy,” she said happily.

Romeo's cleft palate visible.
However, Romeo’s cleft palate, a hole in the roof of his mouth, could not be repaired while he was still so young. Nurse Melissa was ecstatic when she learned that Romeo would be a Mercy Ships patient again during the 2012 Togo field service. Once more, Romeo was blessed with perfect timing.

“It was wonderful to see Romeo’s name on the admissions list for a cleft palate repair. While Romeo would not remember me, I recalled his sweet smile as if we had seen each other yesterday,” Melissa remarked.

Badokideou, Romeo’s mom, recalls that, “within minutes of being with Melissa, Romeo was smiling and eagerly reaching for his welcome hug.” 

For this visit to the Africa Mercy, Romeo was under the gentle care of dietician Jessica King in the Infant Feeding Program. She shared the joy of following Romeo through his cleft palate surgery. “Being here for moments such as this to witness Romeo’s triumph over a very hard challenge is so special. I am so glad for Romeo and his family to have the peace that comes with this restorative surgery,” she explained.

For Romeo and his family, there is much happiness and more gratitude for the second blessing of perfect timing. In the words of Romeo’s mom, “Thank you, thank you, Mercy Ships!”

Story by Joanne Thibault
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell, Lesley Buffington, JJ Tiziou, and Melissa Davey

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Humpty Dumpty

Xavier 'playing dead' with a fat and bloody lip.

So, I (Peter) managed to drop Xavier on his face.  Needless to say, I felt horrible.  We were up at the pool and he wanted me to wrap him up in his towel with his arms in.  I had him in one arm and his life jacket and pool toys in the other.  I carried him safely down three flights of steps.  The fall didn't happen until after we got into the cabin.  I had just walked through the door and he is so used to just wiggling to get down that he did just that.  However, his arms were wrapped up inside the towel and I had stuff in my other arm.  In an instant he fell flat on his face on our cabin floor.  He split his lip open and knocked one of his front teeth a bit out of alignment.  Less than a week later his lip is almost nearly healed now and his tooth is fine.  He cried for a solid 45 minutes when it happened, though and looked like he lost a prize fight. 


We had a great Easter onboard the Africa Mercy.  It is always a fantastic experience and we joyfully celebrated the resurrection of our Savior.  Here are some photos of our Easter:

Easter Egg Coloring in the Dining Room

More Egg Coloring