Sunday, 9 December 2018

A Little Odyssey: All aboard the Africa Mercy and all is well

A Little Odyssey:   All aboard The Africa Mercy and all is well.
"All aboard the Africa Mercy"
We climbed the gangway Friday 9th November for the first time, quite a moment for us all as this has been four and a half years in the planning. A tad emotional after spending two weeks living in the middle of Conakry, Guinea as part of the Mercy Ships On Boarding programme intended to give us the experience of living alongside the culture in which the AFM (Africa Mercy) is operating in.  During  this time Lynne helped out in a youth centre offering English language lessons to Guineans whilst Matthew and Stuart built some kitchen units in one of the accommodation units the workers are housed in.

One of the English language classes where
Lynne was based ...

Matthew and Stuart built this...
Our 'On Boarding' group
Sunset on our first evening aboard.
... one of the walls  cabin on board the AFM.....
We have a couples cabin whilst Matthew is sharing
with 5 others.. not quite so roomy!

Matthew walking past the carpentry shop
(the grey steps were made to help patients
in and out of the vehicles)

As for our work, Matthew has the hardest job as he is outside on the deck in the heat of the day, he has been brilliant and we are so proud of him as he just gets on with chipping rust, painting and storing ship.  Lynne is learning the role of ward administrator.  My carpenters role is great, I have built special tool boxes, fixed locks and made coat racks and storage shelving for the academy.  Our commute to work is a matter of minutes.  Each flight of stairs are only 16 steps, however, with nine decks we have no idea how many 'stair steps' we take each day (particularly Stuart and Matthew) - and our legs sometimes really feel it!

We have been out and about in Conakry a little and have grown quickly accustomed to the poverty and chaotic traffic.  We will venture further afield in the coming months and hopefully have access to one of the ship's vehicles.  

A December update as we didn't publish when we thought we would.  Matthew had just published a brilliant blog and we wanted people to see that first.

We are now into December and the AFM certainly has a full calendar of events leading up to Christmas embracing the many cultures and traditions of the crew volunteering here - actually it started  late November!

African Gala evening
Sinterklaas on the gangway
British crew had a surprise gift of chocolate Advent calendars, courtesy of Mercy Ships UK office (thank you!!) and on 30th November this year the AFM had their first ever classical evening. Lynne accompanied a duet for 'Panis Angelicus', there was Spanish folk guitar, an opera singer and piano solos.  Good fun and an opportunity to dress up.  (We're honestly not on a cruise!)  On 1st December, we helped decorate the ship for Christmas and in the evening there was a brilliant 'African Gala', hosted by African crew who were fundraising for their 'OnBoarding' fees which they will be doing on the ship (the same as we did in Texas).  On Wednesday 5th December we celebrated the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas - the calendar says 'Sinterlaas' so not really sure how it's spelt - however he came to the ship (on a boat we think!) and gave presents to the children.  We went out for ice cream afterward! 
Ice cream at Le Special
Ice cream in the evening seems to be a favourite pastime for many Mercy Shippers. Thursday evenings are community evenings with some worship and a message.  This week's was very special as the children from our Academy led this and also it was a 'Global Gathering' where we have a live link with the ISC in Texas and national offices and remote workers can also listen in too!  The MCs in both Africa and Texas were superb!  Friday 7th December was a British crew Christmas which involved mainly eating British Christmas snacks - and Christmas pudding - sent from the UK and chatting with other British crew members of which there are quite a few!  

Yesterday, Saturday 8th we ventured out with a few others in a minibus to Dubreka waterfalls (we wanted to get there before they dry up in January as the rainy season is now over). 

Dubreka Falls
Dubreka falls

 They were well worth going to and a swim in the pools was just lovely.  It made up for the 3 1/2 journey back in chocka- block roads, fumes, lane closures & generally chaotic roads. Our driver took good care of us - and certainly knew some side road (?track!) diversions!  

When we got back we went to the Deck and Engineering BBQ and karaoke and another amazing sunset on the upper deck. (Deck 8)

Matthew 'karaoking'
Sunset over Kassa island
Winter Wonderland in midships

Had a quick shower (two minutes only here on board!) before going to Winter Wonderland - another AFM tradition - where some hugely talented crew make all sorts of things to sell to other crew as fundraising for their crew fees.  (Some crew work so hard raising money to be here.) Today, Sunday, is a rest day for us before the start of another working week!

Work continues as normal - all day, every day as we are a hospital ship! Our commute to work is a matter of minutes.  Each flight of stairs are only 16 steps, however, with nine decks we have no idea how many 'stair steps' we take each day (particularly Stuart and Matthew) - and our legs sometimes really feel it!

The children's orthopaedic ward is pretty much constantly full and will continue to be during the six weeks of orthopaedic surgery which continues until Christmas.  Lynne sees, and hears, every day, the painstaking and hard work involved in learning to walk following surgery.  Teams of nurses, doctors, rehab specialists are all on hand.  Maxillofacial surgery also continues as well as some other general surgeries.  The work here is truly inspiring and humbling.  A screening team have recently been upcountry in the last couple of weeks (a good day or so travelling just to get there!) and already patients are starting to arrive in preparation for surgery.

The following are a couple of patient stories which our communications department have cleared for crew to share in blogs, newsletters, etc

Thanks to all who are supporting the work of Mercy Ships with financial help for Matthew and we are pleased to say all finances are in place for our first year of service. 

Just a a reminder that if you want to follow this blog and have it appear in you email inbox please put your email address in the box at the foot of this page.

Prayer points for us...
- for physical strength for Matthew and Stuart working in the African sun and for endurance and compassion for us all as we work alongside Mercy Ships medical crew to deliver healing and hope to the forgotten poor.
- as we celebrate Christmas here in Guinea and for our family and friends back home that we will all know the true meaning of Christmas.

'For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and the government is upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.' Isaiah 9:6

Monday, 5 November 2018

Sending Mail

A few people have asked how to send things to us so thought we would publish a separate blog post.  

There are two ways to send things to us on the Africa Mercy depending on the size of the item.  If you have any questions, please message us.

Cards/letters only

Crew mail is sent out weekly from the Holland warehouse. Items weighing 43g or less are free for us to receive but please note that we will be charged c50p per 28.4g for anything above that.

A size limit of 55 cm exists for such items and delivery to ship will take about 3-5 days once it departs Holland.

Please address items as follows:

Stuart Little – Deck or Lynne Little – Ward or Matthew Little - Deck
Mercy Ships - AFM - Crew Mail
Ridderkerkstraat 20
3076 JW Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Larger items

Containers depart monthly from Holland and there is no additional cost for us to receive items sent via container. 

Please address items to be sent via container as follows:

Stuart Little – Deck or Lynne Little – Ward or Matthew Little - Deck
Mercy Ships – AFM – CONTAINER
Ridderkerkstraat 20
3076 JW Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Training in Texas

We have been here 5 weeks and its been a whirlwind, (nearly literally,  but more of that later).  We have met our fellow On Boarders and are living closely with them before we leave for Africa on Sunday 28th October.  We are resident at the Mercy ships International Support Centre (ISC) in East Texas.  We have a room in the guest house and Matthew is sharing with Ian who is in his early 20s in another accommodation block on the other side of the campus.  There are two other ladies on our course and a young family from the UK: Barney and Liz with their two boys - Noah who turned 5 last week and Judah (18 months).  So we will be joining 8 others on the ship with Noah....(oh err... its nearly biblical)

The Guest House at the ISC
The ISC has full time staff here looking after the Mercy Ship by recruiting ship volunteers & staff, seeking sponsorship and financial support, procuring stores and engineering & IT support and training.  There are a number of Brits on the staff here who have served aboard the ship in the past and become embedded in the Mercy ship mission. 

Because we have signed up to do more than 10 months aboard the Africa Mercy we are required to do the On Boarding training.  This is because Mercy ships want to ensure they have a core crew who understand the mission to bring hope and healing to the worlds poor following the 2000 year old model of Jesus. 

Our training here consists of three components...

The first week was Basic Training this includes aspects of ships safety such as fire fighting, first aid, life saving at sea and security including pirate awareness.  Matthew and Stuart needed to complete this and all have internationally recognised maritime certificate.  Impressed that Mercy Ships takes the training so seriously.

Yes, its hot in there because its on fire
Matthew works out which way is up.
I actually think we look quite cool

Its what you do team building
in a class room

Then there was a week of classroom based Foundations of Mercy Ships and we were joined buy others mainly from the USA who have expressed an interest in serving in the future.  This week provided the history and mission of mercy ships and the vision looking forward when  

Then three weeks of On Boarding where we have been joined by others new to Mercy Ships who will be working full time here at the ISC. These weeks are a once in a life time opportunity to study the Word and investigate how nation building took place in Old Testament times and what this may look like today.  We are encouraged to take an in depth look at our faith and what it means to follow Jesus and so live the life planned for us before we were so wonderfully knit together in our mothers womb.

So today, Friday 26th October, we have completed our training with a final presentation from each of us to highlight a few of the topics that have impacted us during the training.  It was quite moving to hear the diversity of response to going deeper into scripture especially the implications of taking part in missions in Africa today avoiding dependency and paternalism.

We have been here five weeks and experienced some American culture but it is evident this varies across USA and that Texas is quite different;  also they say if you don't like the weather in Texas wait 15 minutes. We can testify to this having seen extreme heat and humidity and storms one of which had us standing by to take to our storm shelter refuge which is identified in all the buildings.  We also spent an evening with a couple whose house was hit by a tornado whilst they were still inside.

Tomorrow we will be packing ready for departure at 9.30 am Sunday morning to Dallas Fort Worth Airport (our time) to Africa.  We have three flights, via Atlanta and Paris before arriving in Guinea early Monday evening (UK and Guinea time) where we will spend two weeks working on a community project before finally joining the Africa Mercy on the 9th November.

We have been posting more photos on Instagram and Facebook during our time in Texas and will hopefully continue to do so when we get to Guinea.  See panel on right.

Thank you for reading this.

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Saturday, 8 September 2018


Umm - this is our first blog post - ever!  We hope it is okay.

Well, in two weeks time we, and Matthew our 18 year old son, will be in Dallas about to start our training before heading to Guinea on 28th October.

It has been four and half years coming and six months since we were officially accepted and our 'to-do lists' are nearly done!  We've had a myriad of vaccinations, completed and signed many forms and policies, completed personality profiles, rationalised our bank accounts, sorted out mobiles, got our International Driving Permits, cleared and de-cluttered our house, revamped our garden to hopefully stop future flooding(!), bought luggage that will fit in our cabin (we hope!), checked our wardrobe complies with the Guinea dress code (very strict), spent £340 on Malarone (anti-malarials) for a three months supply for the three of us, booked our flights to Dallas, nearly booked a shuttle from Dallas to Mercy Ships HQ (must actually do that!), sold two cars, bought a new laptop, set up a VPN (what on earth is that?!), had a couple of short camping breaks on the Gower, a quick trip to Pembroke, had a fundraising tea and cakes afternoon, spoke at our church on a few occasions, went to the Mercy Ships End of Field Service celebration, set up a blog (what?), told people about Mercy Ships, had some get-togethers and tried to keep in touch with friends and family.  

Intertwined with all this we have had some significant family life events:   

Hannah's graduation

Hannah (our oldest) graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering after five years at Cardiff University

Matthew (our youngest who is also going to serving on Mercy Ships) passed his A Levels (hooray!) Matthew is on the left of the picture above looking very smart.  (He has set up his own blog: )

Zoe and Seth

and Zoë (the middle child, as she keeps telling us) married Seth on 25th August.  

Some fabulous family days!

Due to these events, our household has doubled in size recently with six of us now living in our house and the contents of two, or maybe three, university accommodations and wedding presents coming into the house too!

Oh, and we both finished our (paid) work - Lynne at the end of June (she had a party) and Stuart's self employment in July (couldn't have a party as he had no colleagues so he had one later with some previous work colleagues from his MOD days.)


Haven't quite mastered the art of positioning pictures! Hmm!
Three Cliffs Bay

Slade Bay

The parents selfie attempt

Sunset at Rhossili

So, what's left to do?

We have our commissioning service tomorrow at Corsham Baptist Church and a final leaving party next Saturday.  The realisation of goodbye is getting harder!  

And, of course, we have to pack.  Lynne really doesn't like packing and tends to keep packing until there is no more room!  However, we have to make sure the cases fit in the car that Zoë will drive to take us to the airport.  Had a test run this afternoon and we think six large bags, cabin luggage, Stuart's guitar and Matthew's ukulele will (just about) fit in Zoë's Honda Jazz!   Oh, and final hair cuts as we don't know when we will get the next one!

We are looking forward to this new chapter in our lives with excitement and some nervous anticipation as we really are stepping into the unknown.  How will we react to living on a ship with 400 other people from many different nationalities and living in a country so unlike England and where poverty is an everyday reality for so many and access to surgery that we would take for granted is non existent?  We go with determination and a motivation to serve the people of Guinea as we believe we are going to where God wants us at this time.  We so appreciate, and will continue to need, the love, support, encouragement and prayers of our family, church family and friends.

We will finish with the bible verse that has inspired us:  'And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' Micah 6:8

Thank you for reading.

Everything communicated here strictly reflects our personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.