The BEST Christmas present EVER!!

As most of your know Christmas is by far my favorite season of the year.  The family time, the giving, the receiving (yea that means presents), the songs, the lights, the tree, the games, the movies, the snowboarding, the cookies, the cinnamon rolls, the candy canes, etc.  (etc actually just means more food items.. hehe).  But as the Christmas season approached most of these things were not on the ship, or if they were it just wasn’t the same.  Maybe I was being a bit Scrooge-ish but all of these things made me sit and think, “What does Christmas mean to me?”

Christmas is when we all get to come together to celebrate the birth of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  But do I really think that way or is it more about the list I stated above.

Ugh.  Once again God showed me that MAYBE my thinking was a bit off.  So I decided to take some time to really look into the reason for the season.  I started looking through the Old Testament at the many, MANY references that prophesize the coming of our Messiah.  Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Psalms; the list goes on and I was amazed at all the texts that point to Jesus.  Virgin birth, government on his shoulders, from Bethlehem, the kings will worship, nations will serve him, ruler over Israel.  I know, I know, you have probably heard these things 100x’s BUT it was so reassuring to look at these passages and to see how God had this all planned out from the beginning of time.

I started reading over the gospels at the telling of Jesus’ birth.  God’s son, born to a virgin, in a random stable, and laid in a manger.  Talk about humble beginnings.  Why would God do that? Why wouldn’t he send his Son to this earth in a more powerful and amazing way? Or did He?

Think about it. Think about how amazing and powerful it is that God sent his only Son, the creator of the earth, to live here on earth as an average guy.  Now lets say he had come down as an earthly king, how could we possibly relate to Him? The story continues, not only did he come down to this sinful world He also lived in it.  He actually dealt with all the temptations this world has to offer yet didn’t sin.   So Jesus came and lived as an example to follow and left us an instruction manual to read (Bible) to show us how to live.  Then he goes out spreading the good news only to find that many despise him and want to kill him, sometimes even family and friends.  How bout that? Jesus comes down from heaven to save his precious children (the one’s he formed in the womb) and instead they threaten to kill him.  Ouch!  Yet not only did Jesus come into this world to be an example for us to follow he came to save us from sin by dying on the cross.  Jesus knew he would be able to deal with whatever our sinful world threw at Him because He would conquer sin once and for all and then we seated at the right hand of his father.  All Jesus asks of us is to believe. We don’t have to reach a certain mark, we don’t have to do so many good deeds, all we have to do is believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for us. 

For the past few weeks I had been praying that God would comfort me and give me peace during this Christmas season since I wouldn’t be with my family and friends.   And He did. 

What does Christmas mean to me?  It means that I am loved because my Father sacrificed his only Son to bring me love, grace, mercy, truth, and salvation.

 Talk about an awesome Christmas present!!


I’m walking on solid ground!

 After 11 days of sailing from Africa to Spain,we officially made it to Tenerife. 

The sail was absolutely breathtaking.  I got up every morning at 530am to do some praying and then I would go and watch the beautiful sunrises.   My work day would then start around 8am where we would have hospital devotions on the bow.  This was extra special since normally the nurses and hospital staff don’t get to have morning devotions due to us having to take care of patients BUT now since the hospital is closed we were able to get together every morning and have a time fellowshipping together.


One morning as we all collected on the bow, a couple of the nurses screamed out as we walked up the stairs “DOLPHINS!”  Now there have been a few dolphin sightings on the sail, which have been amazing as we stare at them swimming in the distance.  As I walked towards the other nurses I looked out to see where they were looking and instead they pointed down.  My heart leaped as I saw about 20 dolphins swimming WITH the ship.  You could practically touch them, well if you were 6 levels down and had really long arms.  They were swimming and jumping right along with the ship.  It was so cool!!

The first 8 days of the sail were especially great.  The ship had a slight rock and as we sailed along the Atlantic Ocean it felt like we were sailing across Lake Sunapee.  The whole atmosphere of the ship and the anxieties and frustrations that weighed us down in Benin were quickly lifted.  We were smack dab in the middle of God’s creation and loving every minute of it. 

(The girls and I doing a 'Pirate Watch' dressed as pirates... arrr!)

But, all good things must come to an end.  Hence days numbers 9 and 10. It started the night of the 8th as the ship felt a little rockier but didn’t think much of it until about 3am when my roommate and I were suddenly awoken by a jar of Ragu flying across the room.  We switched on the light to see what all the commotion was about only to find most of our loose belongings strung around the cabin.   After tucking away most of the casualties we tried to go back to bed.  Even though this was a good idea in theory the rocking of the ship nearly rocked us right out of bed and by 6am we were both forced up out of bed.  As we walked up to breakfast you saw the dark bags and pale faces of all the crewmembers that got just as much sleep as we did.  That morning the stories slowly made it round about the many things that were broken or damaged from the rocky night and day.  A $50,000 eye machine was broken, the Galley had a food fight with itself, filing cabinets dumped out all their contents, and bed ladders attacked innocent crewmembers.  We all did our best to work that day only to find that the following night was just as bad as the last. 

So by the 10th night you could say that we were all more than ready to walk on solid ground.  By 9am on the 19th of December we were safely trumpeted into the port in Tenerife and by 10am me and my 2 friends were running the streets of Tenerife… Hooray!!!(This man plays his trumpet every time Mercy Ships comes in or leaves the port in Tenerife)


Becca T is finally at sea!

"The engines are overheating", "The radar isn't working", "There is no way we are going to leave by Tuesday."  These are some of the many things that I was hearing as I walked through the ship.  Our plan has always been to leave on December 8th but for some reason ALL these things were going wrong.  The deck and engine department were working overtime to try and get everything ready to leave but some things that were out of their control.  
Hmm funny, this seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout this trip, well actually throughout life.  God is quite funny I must say.  Anyway we all banded together and prayed for the ship and all the technicalities that needed to be worked out and guess what?!

Tuesday morning at 1030 the first mooring line were lifted and by 1130 we had officially left east dock zone 4 Cotonou, Benin.
It is weird to think after being here for almost 4 months that this ship actually sails.  In August when I arrived on the ship  I definitely felt a slight shift from side to side but after awhile I didnt feel it anymore.  You go to work, go to the dining room, go to the gym, go to your room, etc., you kind of forget that it's a ship.  SO as we pulled away from the port my stomach turned a bit as if to say "are you sure we should be doing this? does this thing reallllly work?"
   (Just in case you are wondering, it worked, the ship does actually sail! Yay!) 
 As we pulled out of the port waving goodbye to all our brothers and sisters, I prayed that God would bless them and use them  in amazing ways.  I pray that God will continue to break strongholds here in Benin.
    I pray that God will bless this sail and keep up safe from harm and keep the engines working and keep all the crew bellies calm. So far so good!


My Benin friends..

Last Friday was a very sad day.  We had to say goodbye to the translators and day workers that have been serving with Mercy Ships for the past 10 months of this Benin outreach. Even though I have only been here for 3 months, the friendships that I have made are truly God given. Working with the translators on the ward as been such a blessing and playing soccer with the soccer team has been SOOO much fun. The many conversations that we've shared that have been both lighthearted and  deep; fun activities included going to a beach to teach William and Diodenne how to swim (point of advice: always bring a boogie board just in case), taking Mary to a day at the pool and realizing that she is a fish, walking around town with many of these friends, visiting other villages, invitations to visit families, and becoming a part of each others lives. These friendships were truly God given.

As we were saying goodbye, I realized that this was going to be the first of many goodbyes I would be making as I serve with Mercy Ships moving from country to country. But then as I looked around the packed room I realized how many relationships have been built not just in my life me but for the 1000+ crew members that have come and gone through Mercy Ships.
Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives us endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and one mind you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My family has grown and I know one day we will all be worshipping together again.  
God I pray that you will pour blessings upon all of my Benin friends and upon my entire football team.  I pray that you will guide them and use them in ways they never thought possible.  Also as this outreach comes to a close I pray that you will continue to shine your light through all the patients and families that have been touched by us being here in Benin.  Thank you Jesus for all you have done for each and everyone of us! 
Amen or in Fon- Ame