Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mada, here I come!

Here is what I will try to make the short version of my nearly 40 hour journey to Antananarivo, Madagascar…

The first step on this journey was packing. There are two things you need to know about my packing style: #1- I am a horrible over packer and #2- I like to pack last minute. Neither of these will do when packing for 10 months on a ship in Africa! Because of this I was very nervous about fitting all I needed (or wanted) into two duffel bags and a carry on. I had lists for weeks and started the basic packing a few days before, but I still ended up rushing around at the last minute to get it all together. Thankfully, all my luggage made it here and so far I haven’t found anything I forgot! (Although I did find that somehow I managed to pack WAY more than anyone else….oops!)

Step two was getting to the airport. I did manage to get a flight out of Palm Beach so it was easy to get there. Unfortunately, checking in was not so easy. I had a little scare involving Delta thinking they may not allow me on my flight since I did not have a Madagascar visa (which no one needs to get in the country, by the way). I showed the agent all my paperwork from Mercy Ships, she called the corporate office and I called my Mercy Ships contact. Finally after about 30 minutes of stressful waiting, I got the answer that they would let me go but there was a chance that I could get to my last connection in Paris and not be able to get on the flight…oh, that’s great! As if I didn’t have enough to worry about that day already. On top of that, when I finally get through the goodbyes with mom and security check in, my plane gets delayed over an hour due to lightning. It was a pretty hectic few hours, but another huge lesson in trusting God to work out the details.

I did eventually get on the plane and make it to my next stop, Detroit, where I had about 30 minutes to get from one end of the terminal to the other. So much for my nice calm 2 hour layover, I made it to the gate just as they were boarding. This flight was overnight about 7 hours and was pretty uneventful except for the lack of sleep. The plane was filled to capacity and I was the aisle seat of a 4 person row. I’ve had better flights, I’ve had worse and I will leave it at that, hahaha. Needless to say, when I arrived in Paris I was ready for a nap! With a 4 hour layover this time, I was planning to lie down on a bench to sleep for a little while and still have enough time to wake up and have some breakfast. Turns out there are very few benches without armrests in the Paris airport, and our flight was so big that the gate didn’t even have enough seats for everyone! Not the restful layover I was hoping for either. But I was able to use the time to meet a few other Mercy Shippers waiting there and have some espresso to wake up so it turned out alright. Oh, and remember that visa problem that had me so freaked out? No one ever mentioned it again.

So off to Antananarivo we went. I lucked out on this flight and had a 4 seater row with only two people. With lots of room to stretch out, I actually slept a couple hours between free movies and several meals (gotta love international travel!). When we got to the Tana (locals short name for Antananarivo) airport, I was worried about trying to get through customs in French with just a few printed forms to show I was with Mercy Ships. Just as we walked in, we spotted several Mercy Ships staff waiting to save us. They took us through a VIP customs line and we were through in just a few minutes! Thank you Jesus! Getting our luggage was a different story. I wish I would have taken a picture but I was too overwhelmed to even think about it (plus it was like 11pm and I’d slept about 3 hours in the past two days). It’s hard to even describe but it was basically hundreds of people who all speak different languages gathered around one small luggage carousel all fighting to see and grab giant suitcases. I mostly just stood back and waited for things to clear a bit before fighting through the chaos! After an hour or so I spotted my bright green and made a run for it and my second bag was right nearby. All in all, in took our group of 20-something about 2 hours to gather everything and get going.

View of the airport on the way to our van

If you’re still reading, I applaud you! We’re almost done…

After a few words from our Mercy Ships guides about the plan (or lack of plan) for the next few days, 9 of us crammed into a van with all of our luggage piled on top and were taken about 30 minutes away to Chez Jeanne guest house. It’s a lovely place but we were too exhausted to care a whole lot. After almost 2 days of traveling, I was feeling pretty gross and ready for a hot shower and comfy bed. Come to find out, we had no running water! I was mostly too tired to care so I quickly washed off with the buckets of cold water provided and crashed in bed, happy to finally be lying down.

Bienvenido Chez Jeanne (taken the next day when the sun was up)

And that is the epic saga of how I got to Madagascar. I’m a few days behind in updates but I’ll try to catch up soon (and be much less long winded). Now, let’s see if I can post with the limited internet we currently have at the guest house.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Love Is...

As I sit here tonight on my last night at home before flying to Madagascar tomorrow (by way of Detroit and Paris), so many thoughts are on my mind.
Due to multiple circumstances out of anyone's control, the Africa Mercy has been delayed more than two weeks from it's scheduled trip from the port in South Africa to the port in Madagascar where it will be docked for the next ten months. Hundreds of crew members, including myself, were given about a week's notice about this change, shocking everyone! This last minute change caused a whirlwind of emotions ranging from anger and confusion to excitement and happiness. But most of all through this time, I have felt more at peace than ever that this is where I am supposed to be. Many would have used this time to get discouraged or look at all the negatives; however, all I have seen from each interaction with the staff and crew of Mercy Ships is faith and hope that God will work this all out exactly as He has planned. They have approached each step and decision with prayer first - proving time and time again that this ministry is wholeheartedly seeking to follow God's leading in every detail.
All that leads me to say, I approach tomorrow with a mix of excitement and nervousness! I'm 100% ready to finally begin this journey for which I've been preparing for months, but I'm always slightly hesitant of the people, new places, international many things that could go wrong. But if I've learned anything in the past few weeks it is to take the first step of faith and trust God to handle the rest.

I didn't make it very far into my series about Mercy Ships, but I did have one more video I wanted to leave you with and I hope it will make you fall in love with this ministry and the African people as much as it did for me!

So if you think of me in the next 48-72 hours, please pray for safe travels and God's hand of protection over all those traveling from all around the world to serve on the Africa Mercy. Also pray that things would go smoothly with the transition to the ship and the preparations to open the hospital in a few weeks.

Thank you all for following along with this adventure and check back soon for the first views of Madagascar!