We hope you are keeping well during this difficult time.
We are well, and back in the UK now, having spent most of the Covid period in isolation on the ship, firstly in Senegal for a few weeks, and latterly in a port in Tenerife for nearly three months.
Rather than returning just for a summer break, we are re-settling in the UK, as I (Stuart) will be starting a new role with Mercy Ships as “Global Service Desk Manager”, for which I’ll be working from home. My new role is salaried, so consequently we will no longer require financial support from August onward.
We are so, so, grateful to everyone who has supported us as we’ve volunteered on the ship these last four years, whether that was financially, praying for us, keeping in touch with us or welcoming us when we were home each summer. Thank you so much for partnering with us in this work, enabling us, and for the blessing you are to us.
We are really thankful that although our volunteer time on the ship has finished (at least for now), we have the opportunity to continue working with Mercy Ships. I was offered this new role a number of months ago, before Covid, and so it was already our plan to return home at the end of the Senegal field service. The plan has taken quite a few twists and turns over recent months, (as have everyone’s), but we’re very grateful that even in the current economic climate the new job is going ahead. I will be supporting the IT Service Desk function across the organisation (the Texas Head Office, the ‘Africa Mercy’ ship where we lived, and the ‘Global Mercy’ which is a new ship nearing completion in a shipyard in China). I’m really looking forward to the new role, and I’m glad I’m able to continue working with the team on the Africa Mercy, all-be-it remotely from the attic room in our house, and I may still get to visit the ships from time to time.
Our story over the last few months is that the Senegal field service, which was intended to go on until June, had to end in mid-March due to Covid making it untenable to continue (e.g. when the Dakar airport shut we could no longer get crew members in and out of the country in an orderly fashion). Mercy Ships stopped admitting patients, finished the treatment of the existing patients so they could be discharged safely, packed up in record time, and sailed to a port in Tenerife at the end of March, where we then sat, isolating, until Spain opened up a bit and Ship Yard work could start.
Although we were in isolation on the ship for what seemed like a long time, (we got our 100 day certificates!), we felt blessed to be there. We were able to help the ship leave Senegal in as orderly a fashion as was possible in the circumstances. The ship remained Covid free, and so the boys were able to finish the school year, I continued working as normal, and we were still able to meet socially with other crew members without any additional restrictions. In fact getting to grips with social distancing has a been a bit of a challenge these last couple of weeks, as we’ve only just had to start doing it.
We returned home from the ship a few weeks ago, we did the 14-day UK quarantine, and then spent the last two weeks getting set up in a rental house in Aylsham, Norfolk, which is where we’ve decided to live.
I start my new job in a week’s time. The boys have been accepted into school in Aylsham, and will start Year 2 and Reception in September. After the boys are settled in school, Frances will look for a nursing job, likely in Norwich.
We have only been here a few weeks, but we are loving Aylsham and Norfolk so far. It’s really beautiful here, and people have been very welcoming and friendly. However if you are someone who prays, we would appreciate your prayers over the coming months, for each of us as we transition into life here.
We understand it is a difficult and uncertain time, (thanks again for supporting us financially, particularly in recent months), however if you are interested and able to continue supporting the work Mercy Ships does financially, one way you could do that is to transfer your financial support to another crew member rather than end it. We can commend the Africa Mercy IT Team to you, as I know they all need further support. They are in alphabetical order below, along with a brief summary and their Mercy Ships crew donation page.
Elfried Adjin, from Benin, IT Endpoint Administrator, serving since 2016
Apson Akin, from Benin, Service Desk Analyst, serving since 2016
Maurice Echu, from Cameroon, Service Desk Administrator, serving since 2017
Jen Epp, from USA, IT Endpoint Administrator, serving since 2015 https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=mercyshipsus&id=161&cfifid=216
DK Karatayev, from Kazakhstan, Service Desk Analyst, serving since 2019
Please do keep in touch, and we’d love to see you if you ever fancy a visit to Norfolk.
Stuart, Frances, James and Joseph.