A friend and former crew member now lives here in Cotonou, Benin after marrying a local pastor. She has a children’s home in Abomey. We were invited for the official dedicaton back in February. She shared how it is a children’s home, not an orphanage – the children have Mamas, Papas, brothers and sisters. Some friends organized a Christmas / Farewell party on Saturday and so we celebrated with the kids. They particularly liked the bubbles and taking photos with my camera. I was so encouraged as after a time of singing, some of the children 10-13 years old – stood up and quoted scripture in French and in English.
To honor our dayvolunteers (locals who have worked with us), we had a DayVolunteer Thank You Reception. The event started with a great African lunch and then the reception in the International Lounge – I served again as the MC for the event. We started with praise and worship african style as we worship our great God. We had two speeches by the Managing Director and the Captain – which was followed by three of the dayvolunteers sharing. Ice cream was the final touch as closed out the event.
One of our construction projects this year was to complete one building and to construct three smaller buildings – which all will serve as a pedatric orthopaedic clinic for children in the southern half of Benin. The organization is called OSAREH. We have known the primary surgeon for several years. The photo is from the day of dedication.
Many of our patients are now leaving the ship as soon our Hospital will be closed as the surgeries have finished. For those on board, we are praying for them to complete their recovery process. Arrangements are being made locally for some on going care for those needing dressing changes, etc. In the photo, there are some of my patient friends who wanted to have a photo taken together in front of the ship in normal clothes and not in their hospital gowns. I will write more in a future KRB Update on some of my patients.
During this field service, our dental team has gone mobile – to a psychiatric center that our mercy ministries team visits every Saturday – to a refuge camp near to the Togo border and for the last two days to the main Civile Prison here in Cotonou. They were primarily doing extractions and some hygiene lessons – I have not received the count yet on how many people, but my friend Joycee who is the receptionist shared it was greater than 300 people cared for.
One of the events I enjoy inviting the patients that I am visiting in the Hospital Wards to – is our Sunday Morning Ward Service. It is an optional for the patients to attend. It is conducted by our Hospital Counselors (local nationals serving with us) and as you see in the photo we have worship and then someone sharing a short message and usually a testimony. It is limited to only one hour.
Earlier this week, we had the privilege to host a Rotary Event on board the ship. Rotary International was conducting their West Africa Project Fair and we extend an invitation for them to visit us as their project fair was right here in Cotonou. Rotary has partnered with us on various projects, sponsorships of the International Lounge and other locations on the ship – in addition the Rotary club members have aided us with contacts and other resources in the port cities we visit here in West Africa. It was a good visit – in the photo the main Rotary representative from Benin was sharing and being translated into English.
KRB Update #2146 November 12, 2009 Assessment
In the Mercy Ships world, there are various stages of assessment. Some assessment is done on a general level of the entire nation as a possible future country that the Africa Mercy would visit.
After the leaders have looked at the possible nations in our region (currently Western Africa), a pre-assessment team is sent out or a full assessment team – depending on timing of a visit and whether we have been in the nation before or not. I have served in the past on pre-assessment and assessment teams – this is one aspect on my job description, though there are those who do this as their full-time responsibility. Pierre and I were asked to do the pre-assessment in late June for Togo – only a three day trip with set objectives. In September, I was a part of our larger team which traveled from Cotonou to Lomé, Togo by vehicle. We arranged to stay at a Wycliffe-SIL mission guest house for our time there. Our initial meetings were with the Christian Churches of Togo association & with the Ministry of Health, which is our main government partner. We also revisited the Port of Lomé to meet again with them on the needs of the ship and all the needed logistics from crew and patients getting from the main gate to the ship, to refueling by bunkering, security, water purity issues, etc.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs received us very well and was very friendly and helpful. Relationships are important in this culture and so building those relationships is vital for the present and for the future. I know personally sometimes I can become task-orientated and I have to be reminded to be more relational and yet still get the tasks done.
Besides meetings, we were tasked in finding possible options for the off ship facility needs – 1) one location for the Dental Clinic, 2) two locations for the Field Eye Team, 3) Hospitality Center for patients pre and post-operative, and 4) Programs Support Facility – team housing. As we presented the basic details on each facility need, we visited various locations to report on them if they are a possibility or not.
In addition, we are looking for possible partnership for our capacity building/training projects and our construction projects. Prior to leaving, I had a friend translate the document from English to French so that we could present them the document and what we would need to learn from them to consider a partnership.
All you can imagine, there is much going on during assessment – you usually start out early in the morning and go into the evening – no 8am-5pm for this type of service. Though, if we can successful with our relationship building and the information that is gathered, the better success for the field service and for the Kindgom of God.
Serving Together, Keith