After 2-1/2 weeks in Abomey it was time to say goodbye, pack the van and make the trek to the Africa Mercy (AFM). The ship had been in Benin in 2009 and now was “next door” in Togo. After a four hour drive to the border, we made our way through the border crossing and waited for the vehicles from the AFM to pick us up. After a short wait Keith and two other drivers arrived in the Land Rovers, packed us up again and we were off to the port city of Lomé.
It was a beautiful drive along the ocean and the change in agricultural practice was noticeable as well. There were well kept fields with irrigation all along the route that we took. That productivity was evident when we had our first meal on the ship and vegetables were part of the menu.
After about an hour we pulled into the port and found the Africa Mercy moored with an engineered security system consisting of empty seagoing containers lined end-to-end to make a wall. Getting our luggage, we walked up the gangplank and with the swing of a glass door went from majority world conditions to western comfort. It was quite a shock to feel the air-conditioning and to see the reception area that was as nice as a hotel’s in Seattle or L.A. but a pleasant shock none-the-less.
After going through security, boarding and getting settled into our room, we were given a tour of the AFM. 499 feet in length and housing some 400 crew from 35 nations, it is an impressive thing. Standing in the reception area with the its technology and hearing various accents I felt like I was on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. It took a while for the Lord to remind me that it is a tool but, as Sue said, “It’s a really cool tool!” And it really is.
We had the privilege of being on-board for ten days and getting to meet with several wonderful people who shared some amazing stories with us. One gentleman told us how he had wanted to be a doctor when he was young, but life circumstances interrupted that. However, at the age of 62 he decided to go back to school and become a nurse. After graduating he and his wife signed up to serve with Mercy Ships and they have been involved for eight years. Another woman told how she had a broken back and was paralyzed. One day, in her physical therapy session, God simply healed her and she was able to walk, enabling her to serve as a teacher for the AFM academy.
That really is the story. The ship is amazing, but what makes it so is the Lord and the people he has brought to staff the ship and serve the forgotten poor of West Africa. And we get to be a part of that…