Thursday, January 31, 2008


Yesterday at 2 pm, just 2 hours behind schedule, we set sail for Liberia.

It's amazing to think that we are just 1500 miles away from a world that is so different from our western culture. It's mind-blowing actually.

When we left, a Spanish man, I'm not sure who he was, stood alone on the wall of the port and played on his trumpet "Onward Christian Solider." There something so symbolic about his humble sending off. Here was this small community of average people from around the world, setting sail on a ship that looked a bit pauperish next to the huge cruise ships that came in and out of the port, setting off to do something absolutely amazing, and one man took the time to wish us goodbye.

I think about the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The king of heaven and earth had descended from His place on the right hand of God Almighty and was greeted only by a few poor shepherds. A humble beginning.

Charles Spurgeon, in the wonderful book Morning and Evening said this,

"In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must. after all, be the grand object of our faith. Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed... he (the believer) seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than a conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne...the thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth."

As Christians we are looking ahead, toward heaven, for our reward, our peace, and our rest. Because if this, we will make choices which will not always align with the culture around us. People might think we are crazy, or they might just not notice at all.

If our ship was hosting someone famous or housed some sports team, the port might have been lines with spectators wishing us off. I mean, really, people waited in line for hours to buy their daughters Hannah Montana tickets.

Instead, there was one man, playing "Onward Christian solider". No fanfare, no splendor, no glory. But heaven is the reward and the battles we fight do not go unnoticed.
And I think it's true. The joys of heaven will compensate for sorrows of earth . Therefore, Christian soldier, should we not follow our Lord Jesus who, "Was a man of sorrows, much acquainted with grief?" It's not a popular theological position to take in our culture of self, and even harder to apply to our lives, but we can simply follow Christ, like Paul who said, "not that I have attained or am already made perfect, but this one thing I do, I follow after."

And so we move onward towards Liberia.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

goodnight western world

Last night I said goodbye to Tenerife. After work I walked to the local mall with my friend Abbey to pick up a few items at the Carefore (sort of like wal mart..I remember having them around when I was little) and trying on clothes for fun...just because we could. We finished the night with some ice cream. They have these creamy/ice cream/ Popsicle's things, that provide 10 minutes of sweet goodness for only 99 calories. nice.

Abbey has not yet been to Liberia and I was trying to tell her what it was going to be like. No electricity. No being out after dark. No paved roads. The constant chanting of "white girl, white girl, you be my friend". A completely different world only a few hundred miles away.

Enjoying electricity while we had it, we found these lights on the ground that kept changing colors. We lay ed on the ground and put our faces against it and took some fun.slightly scary pictures. Seeing that we were near a somewhat busy road we got some strange looks from passers bye.

It's a good thing we're comfortable being complete nerds. It's much more fun than being cool :).

the tape of love

One day when I was home in Bucks County I heard roaring laughter coming from the kitchen. It was my brothers. They were watching a music video on U Tube from "the Flight of The Concords" called "sello tape". Tonight I shared a moment of laughter via the phone with my little brother Josh, reminiscing the amazing lyrical content of the song. The depth and beauty of the chorus and verses is amazing. truly.

sello tape- flight of the conchords

Lives are like retractable pencils
If you push them too hard they're gonna break
And people are like paper dolls
Paper dolls and people, they're a similar shape
Hmm hmm hm
Love is like a roll of tape
It's real good for making two things one
But just like that roll of tape
Love sometimes breaks off before you were done
Another way that love is similar to tape
That I've noticed
Is sometimes it's hard to see the end
You search on the roll(search on the roll)
Search on the roll(searching round the roll)
Search on the roll(search)With your fingernail
Again and again And again and again And again.
Brown paper, white paper
Stick it together with the tape
The tape of love
The sticky stuff
Brown paper, white paper
Stick it together with tape
The tape of love
The sticky stuff.
People people
Chorus: Brown paper, white paper
Paper paper
Stick it together with tape
Paper paper
The tape of love
People people
People people
Pencil pencil
Pencil pencil
Paper paper
Put the pencil to the paper
Give the paper to the people
Let the people read about the sello tape

Monday, January 28, 2008

fire drill

Until we are finished sailing, I am official member of the dining room staff. I help set up, clean up, and serve the three daily ship meals. I like it much better then working on galley, simply because I realize enjoy jobs that involve multi-tasking and talking to people (which is why I'm an ICU nurse, and why the galley..12 hours in a steel kitchen box..made me slightly miserable).

Between lunch and dinner I have a two hour break which I have been utilizing to take a healthy jog. There are lovely running trails and I am enjoying them while I can. Here and at home, jogging is a calming, mind clearing experience. However, I believe my friend Crystal best described jogging in Liberia when she said

"After running in Liberia, how could you ever enjoy running at home ever again! Without the feeling of imminent death every step of the way, running will just be boring. You'll probably fall asleep going for a run back in your Mr.Rogers neighborhood."

I know that makes my mom feel good.

When I was coming back from my jog, I found Abby, a 19 year old from Australia, who I work with in the dining room, walking away from the ship. Apparently very shortly there was to be a fire drill. I took her advice and walked back towards town with her instead of going on the ship to attend the fire drill. I made sure I said thanks for the hot tip.

One of the nicest things about living on the ship is being surprised by people. SO I often, I fall into the trap of labeling people based on the impressions I form by what I see. At home, I would probably just keep people labeled without any further investigation. but here, due to the small living space, you can't help but get to know people.

I talked to Abby learned a lot about her that gave me a deeper appreciation for the lovely person she is. It was nice to miss the fire drill together.

But I'm not sure the captain would think the same thing. He scheduled a second drill for tomorrow, one of the reasons being lack of attendance at today's.

I'm not very good at taking fire drills seriously; maybe I shouldn't post such a confession.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

every day is a winding road (or a winding trail)

The day started at the un-Godly hour of 5:30 am. I don't think I'll ever be convinced that human beings were designed to be awake that early. But I was meeting eight of my Mercy Ships friends at 5:45 to drive to Mount Teide, a volcanic mountain and the highest peak in Spain, to ascend towards the summit.

Armed with filled nalgene's, peanut butter sandwiches, and granola bars, we piled into a Land rover, took winding drive up the mountain to the opening of the trail (the curvy ride almost made me throw up), and began our summit quest as the sun rose at 7:45 am.

It's been really nice to spend time with people outside of Liberia. There is such a stressful atmosphere in Liberia. Everyone is busy and mildly tense, by default simply because of the intensity of Liberia, the fact that over four hundred people are crammed inside a small fish bow, and the sometimes overwhelming sense of the work that needs to be done. I have always realized that I was surrounded by some really amazing people but here, without the pressure, I have been able to see it even more. The group I was hiking with was simply lovely.

I don't have much experience hiking, but I am pretty certain this was a fairly decent climb. The trail was rigid, steep, and at parts icy. I slipped at one point and cut open my knee, got blood all over my pants, but I didn't even bother to stop and apply a band aid so I guess that just means I'm tough :). The peak is over 12,000 ft above sea level, and as we climbed the altitude and thinning oxygen was apparent. I must admit, at times during our assent we all the I-probably-should-have-just-gone-to-the-beach thought, but it made reaching the top all the more enjoyable.

You need a permit to take the trail to the summit, My lovely friend Maria had applied and gotten permits in town for the entire group. The summit trail was steep and the air was thin, but the top was breathtaking. You could see the entire island as well as peaks from the surrounding islands slipping through the clouds. The rocks were white and had a distinct, less than lovely sulfur smell. We ate our lunches at the top while we enjoyed the view and tried to stay warm (I didn't realize how cold it would be on the mountain and was mildly unprepared).

I really love going on adventures and feel blessed to be having these kind of experiences. When we were climbing up a particularly steep and icy part of the mountain I shouted to my friends, "You know, we are not normal. Normal people don't do this kind of thing." My friend Rachel shouted back, "I think we are all crazy."

You have to be at least a little crazy to think living on a hospital ship in West Africa sounds like a good idea. And even crazier to actually go.

After the climb was over, we went out for a hearty Indian meal and spent the hour drive back to the ship singing an enjoyable medley of classic Disney songs. I must say, sitting in the back of a Land rover with friends from New Zealand, Brazil, England, the Dominican Republic, Texas, Maine, and Alaska, singing songs from the Lion King, with a wonderfully tired physical frame, is a pretty amazing moment. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

mount Teide

A group of Mercy Shippers on Spains highest mountian, the third largeest volcano on the earth. We climbed through snow, ice, and rigid inclines to reach the summit, 12,198 ft above sea level. We needed a permit to climb the summit. An intersting way to spend your Saturday. I ate quite a few granola bars.


Every once in a while I slip and forget that American electronics don't work in English powered outlets.

Carlos, every one's favorite Brazilian bio medical technician and my former neighbor, is back on the ship. He has there fore reclaimed his router and taken it to the fourth deck to his new room. Therefore, cabin 3426 no longer reaps the wireless Internet benefits of having Carlos and his router next door.

Thankfully, while I was home, I foresaw this possibility and bought a router while at home. Tonight, as my bunk mate Michelle handed me a cable I could use for the Internet, I got excited that I had a well foreseen plan to avoid this situation.

Quickly, I found my router and assembled the needed pieces to make it work. Just as I was about to connect to the now available network, two sparks flew out of the electrical socket.

And then I remembered that my American plug in devices weren't made to run on 120-240 power, and my router doesn't work now.

Michelle and I just laughed. My family would say I had been "skutched". I guess that's one of the downfalls of having the excitement level and attention span of the average four year old. Acting without really thinking it through.

At least we are in Tenerife and Michelle said she'd go in on a new one. We do appreciate our wireless Internet.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Yesterday two cruise ships pulled in port next to the Africa Mercy. One was a giant, the other a mammouth. They were incredibly huge and incredibly beautiful. I imagine that millions of millions of dollars are involved in their creation and upkeep.

The sides were both a fresh crisp white, which made our ship look a bit grungy. There were beautiful windows and glass as well as what appeared to an be endless assortment of rooms and dining halls.

After docking, hundreds of tourist would emerge, clothed in sundresses and tank tops, to explore the town of Santa Cruz, returning to the ships with arm fulls of bought goods.

And there sits our happy little ship, which looked like a palace in Liberia next to the abandoned pirate ship and have sunk navy vessel in Monrovia's port. Now it looks a bit more like a pauper.

But we have something none of the other ships have; a purpose. Our ships brings physical and spiritual healing to thousands of the world's poorest people. Our travels are not to temporary distract a wondering mind or to act as a mediator of self indulgence; we are here to serve others.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with going on vacation. Who doesn't want to sit on a beautiful beach every so often? But I must say, I think I'd rather sleep on a dirt floor with a purpose than stay in a posh room just because I want too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

pop culture

Yesterday I had off. Santa Cruz is a cool little tourist town that has an artistic hippie feel. The streets are lined with beautiful, colorful graffiti and signs. "Pop Culture" was the theme of the day. I spent the afternoon with my new camera, tripod, and personal insanity. It was fun.

Monday, January 21, 2008


The streets of Spain were constantly lined with old men. I am told that Spain is a popular place for Europeans to retire/vacation because of it's mild winters.

Here sits a ground platoon, wearing a uniform of caps and collared shirts; happily holding a weaponry of canes and breath mints, as they carefully guard their later years against the wiles of stress and pressure, creating amongst themselves immunity from the perils of 21 st century life.

Aren't they just cute?


Last night I had a phone interview at 8:30 pm from the Canary Islands. I thought I had thoroughly prepared myself for any potential questions, but the first inquiry caught me completely off guard.

When Sean asked me, "What was your childhood like," my elongated pause proved my need to quickly think of an answer.

Sean mom had asked via email if he could interview me. We had to delay the interview by a half an hour because Sean had a church league basketball game he needed to attend. I'm sad to say his team lost, but hopefully he'll make up for it by getting a good grade on his project.

Sean is a third grader at CCA who needed to interview a missionary for a school project. I was his interviewee choice.

When I was in third grade I remember walking into my classroom one day and seeing my third grade teacher, Miss Keyser, sitting in the front of the classroom with a stranger. They were both wearing colorful fabric on their heads and pretending to wash clothes in a large basin they had placed in the center of the room. The stranger was a missionary friend of my teacher's. I don't remember her face. I don't remember her name. I don't know what country she had served in, but I remember that she came. I remember thinking that I might be a missionary one day.

And here I am, fifteen years later, telling a third grader about life on a hospital ship in West Africa. When Sean is 24, he probably won't remember my name or the country I've served in, but maybe he'll remember that I came. And maybe he'll tell some third grader someday about his missionary work.

You never know who you might be inspiring.

It was great to talk to Sean, to see myself in some ways come full circle. To see how God is faithful to plant dreams in our hearts and carefully make them blossom.

It's really quite cool, huh? I think it so.

Friday, January 18, 2008

a bride to be

I am discovering that I really like to travel. Coming to Liberia was my first trip across the Atlantic Ocean and I hope that the future is filled with such journey's. Seeing Spain and being in the Canaries is very nice, but I must say I am growing appreciative of traveling in countries completely outside of the western world. As much as I can see the differences in western countries simply by observing the people in our ship community, there is still many underlying similarities that are not as starkly contrasting to my own as say, a country like Liberia.

Maybe it's just a sick fetish with adventure. Maybe it's the sense of purpose and the potential to do good. Maybe it's the intensity that I am seemingly drawn to.

The more I learn about non- Western cultures, the more thankful I am to be a woman in a Western culture. I have so much to be grateful for; so many simple privileges that millions of women around the world will never experience.

In Morocco, the restaurants and cafes were eerily filled with only men. The women were not allowed to eat in them. It was uncomfortable to walk past the pairs of isolating eyes as the men quietly sipped their coffee and ate their meals in each other's company in the cafes. I also learned about marriage in Morocco. Our guide told us that the men have as many as four wives. The first wife is an arranged marriage. The bride and the groom don't know each other before the wedding. On the day of the wedding, the bride is placed in a cloth covered box and paraded around the city before being taken to her new husband. When she emerges from the box the groom will smile if he is pleased and embrace her or he will turn around in disgust. He then can chose his next three wives. (The group I traveled with was made of four girls and one boy, our friend Vern. We were wondering which number wife we each were....he seemed to enjoy the appearance of his own personal harem :)

At night, we were sitting in our hotel lobby and hear a loud mass of people right outside the window. We went outside and found a wedding procession. As the mass of people walked by, carrying the bride in the box, I couldn't imagine what she was feeling at that moment. I couldn't imagine being in the box.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


It's kind of weird to be on the ship and not be in Liberia. When I'm on the ship I'm so use to not being able to get off by myself that I sort of forget I can be independent here. Today I started working in the dining room, where I will be working until the ward re-opens. It's a pretty nice job, it's fun because you get to see everyone as they retrieve their food.

My bunk mate Michelle just arrived back from the states after 36 hours of travel. It's nice to see her again. She also had a wonderful visit at home. I did my best to clean and organize my tiny cubicle of space for her impending arrival.

Over two hundred people are scheduled to arrive during the first two weeks in Liberia. I'll practically be an old pro.

We were talking about our goals and ideas for the next few months. Coming to the ship with a pretty sound idea of what Mercy Ships and Liberia are like should make for a very different experience then the last outreach. I'm excited about. I just need to get back in the groove of ship life.

My rhythm is somewhat lacking at the moment.

a few photos

back on the ship

Well, I’m officially back on the Africa Mercy. My missing bag has been returned, my bunkmates coming back from vacation tomorrow, and we will be sailing back to Liberia in about two weeks. After a much needed break, it’s time to get back to work.

I was home for three weeks, in which I got my fair share of driving, drinking coffee, wearing cute shoes, seeing old friends, sitting in Joe Focht Bible Studies, and laughing terribly hard. I ate Christmas dinner with almost 40 members of my family and was again amazed at how wonderful they are. The three weeks home were busy but reviving. I extend my thanks to everyone for their encouragement, humor, fellowship, and friendship. And if I didn’t get to see you…we’ll have to do coffee when I come home.

After flying back to the Canary Islands from the states I spent about 36 hours on the ship before departing again for a week long vacation in Spain and Morocco. Our group of five Mercy Shippers left at 5 am with our backpacks and a very fluid agenda. We spent time in the Spanish cities of Madrid, Seville, Terife, and Balboa, as well as spending a night in Tangier, Morocco. We rode planes, trains, metros, shady Moroccan Mercedes taxi‘s, buses, and ferries; and spent our nights in hostels. (there are photos linked on my blog I even spent an early morning in a Spanish ER with my poor friend Red who was passing a transatlantic kidney stone. Ouch.

So, I will be returning to the United States in June and will wait and see what happens next. I have a few ideas….

While I was in Spain I was able to spend a day at the Guggenheim Museum. There was an exhibit that made of huge pieces of curved rusty metal in an extremely large space. Visitors are able to walk through metal structures which formed various ellipses and circular shapes. They are designed in such a way that the visitors perception is constantly challenged and sometimes distorted. Inside the structures you cannot determine the shapes they form, however, from the balcony of the museum’s second floor you can easily tell that the seemingly shapeless metal masses are actually arranged in fluent, specific patterns.

It was a wonderful illustration of our lives. Sometimes life feels a little shapeless, a bit non-specific. Sometimes our perspective fools and distorts our vision. But our eternal God sees the specific plans and the specific way He is forming our lives; and He wants to give us “exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.” He sees what we are becoming; what He is making us to be.

It really makes life so exciting.

Monday, January 14, 2008

In Spain

I am currently in Malaga, Spain. During the past few days my friends and I have basicaly taken every imaginable mode of trasportation and have landed throughout Spain and Morocco.
I have sailed the Mediterranean Sea, stayed in the hotel Matt Damon was in during the final Bourne movie, and eaten more than my fair share of bread and Spanish omlettes.

I deeply enjoying seeing new places and tasting new cultures. And it has been quite the adventure. And I do love a good adventure.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

a petock family gathering

a few photos of the Petock's on New Years Day...