This time last month I wrote about one of my favourite experiences in Cape Town, South Africa just before we sailed out of there on Friday, 17th October. So much has happened since then and it has all been exciting and new.

Sailing is fun .. most of the time.  The first couple of days out of Cape Town were beautiful as we hugged the coast and headed to the cape. Even travelling around Cape Horn, which I have heard since High School days can be quite treacherous, was quite pleasant. Beautiful days, mild winds and just a little rocky. We were heading into a storm and trying to avoid it and we were also heading across the Mozambique current and had been told that could get a little rough. Well, it did!

On the Tuesday night, none of us slept at all.  Charlotte had already moved her bed to the floor of the lounge room and we were rocking and rolling around. Dave describes this as being like a bag in the blood bank, constantly rocking backwards and forwards and side to side. By midnight we were all ready to stop and have this over and done with and at 3.20am the biggest “roll” we have ever experienced hit us. I measured 32 degrees on my phone app and several others have confirmed it. Needless to say there were many people walking around the ship for days tired and ready to get to some dry land.

By Thursday we had made it to the East Coast of Madagascar and were smooth sailing up to Tamatave (Toamasina). We arrived on the Saturday morning, in time for the President to launch “The Year of the Volunteer” and have Mercy Ships as the main focus of that. The port was full of people setting up for a massive day of celebration. I was up and photographing our arrival from 7.30am and by 9.30am I was on the dock photographing all the festivities and preparations.

The President and Prime Minister arrived before lunch, made speeches and welcomed us to Madagascar before having a tour of the ship and seeing the hospital. We then traveled by bus into town to a Year of the Volunteer celebration that was being held at the Hotel de Ville. More crowds, more speeches, more music and dancing and more festivities!

It was a huge day and I literally fell into bed that night exhausted!

While the hospital was cleaned and set up over the next week I was madly editing 1000 photos and putting our cabin back in place and getting ready for patient screening that was to happen the following week.

Screening takes place at a local hospital and potential patients turn up and are looked at by a nursing team and either given a patient card or told that we cannot help them. It is a very bittersweet experience. On the first day, nobody really knew what to expect. Would people turn up? Would they have heard about us? Would there be too many people? We drove to the screening centre early and as soon as I saw the massive line of people I burst into tears! It really was an amazing sight. To think of the needs of the people and the hope that we, as a hospital ship, can offer them was just a little overwhelming. I spent an incredible couple of days there, photographing people in the hope of finding some patients that we can follow and share their stories with world! It has been exciting to see the hospital open, to see those patients start to come in and be admitted and have their surgeries. It has been amazing to see joy restored to the faces.  In these first weeks, I have spent all of my time with the orthopedic children. Some that were so serious, sad or shy when we first met them who are now transforming physically and emotionally before us as the days pass.

It has been an amazing journey! It has been wonderful to watch and even more exciting to be a part of … and this is only the beginning 🙂

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41 Responses to Blog: What a month!

  1. Bridget says:

    What a beautiful world we live in…all we can experience takes my breath away.

  2. Justine, the close ups of the kids faces are so endearing….so “precious in His sight”. Thank you for allowing us to share in your serving the Lord by posting here. Thanks for being available to be there! Praying for you and your family!

  3. Carolyn says:

    Before I read your comment above, I was wondering if it was difficult to do your blogs now that you have so much to say and share. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort. It makes the prayer needs come alive to see the pictures. Your heart for the children jumps off the page!

    • Justine says:

      The children are a delight and it has been amazing to see so many transformations in the kids alone … and not just physically! A lot of them at first are shy, reserved and I imagine rather protective of themselves having to deal with not looking like other kids or not being able to participate like other kids. Here, the nurses, doctors and every other staff member they come into contact with just loves on them and they absolutely blossom .. it is beautiful to watch! So worth sharing 🙂

  4. Kerrianne says:

    What an amazing experience for you and your family Juzzi. I think about you at times when I am doing something ‘normal’ and wonder how different your life is for you all at the moment. But as different as it is, I know you are where you are meant to be 🙂

  5. Lisa Purrington says:

    This brought tears to my eyes – I grew up in Madagascar and to have Mercy Ships visit is a real blessing. Seeing the pictures and faces of people brings back many memories – I just returned from a volunteer trip to the Northeast coast of the island and it was so wonderful to be back home for a bit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Justine says:

      Wow! That’s amazing Lisa! Where did you live when you were here? Where on the coast were you when you were here recently? and who was the volunteer trip with? Sorry, so many questions!! Very cool, it is a beautiful country and the people are lovely 🙂

      • Lisa Purrington says:

        I lived both in the southwest and southeast coasts – born and raised. And absolutely feel like it is home. My recent trip was with Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Trips in support of Whole Planet Foundation. Whole Planet Foundation funds microfinance loans all over the world and we have the opportunity to work in the same communities. Hope you trip is wonderful!

  6. Jan says:

    Juzzi, the work you are your family are doing is amazing! It is my honor to support you and Mercy Ships. I love that you are getting to be an ‘official’ photographer and oh, how lucky Mercy Ships are to have YOU doing that job! So happy y’all arrived safely and can stay put for a bit. Hugs to all! xx

    • Justine says:

      Thanks Jan for your support and just being YOU! I consider it such a privilege to be doing a job that I love that has certainly become so much more meaningful! To be doing it here in Madagascar is an added blessing 🙂

  7. Justine says:

    It sure is amazing Linda! Thank you 🙂

  8. Justine says:

    Thank you all! It is so much easier for me to simply take photos and while it’s often hard to sit down and write these blogs and gather together the images I want to share it is always a blessing and your kind words are so encouraging … I love what I do!!

  9. Genevieve Lyon says:

    Wonderful photos and great work by Mercy Ships!

  10. Sandy says:

    Thank you so much for taking all of us along this journey with you. Your stories and photos are amazing! What Mercy Ships and your family are doing is so wonderful!

  11. adakallen adakallen says:

    Words and not say what my heart thinks! You are amazing…photography…mission…servant’s heart! Constant prayers for you, your family, your team, your mission (God’s mission for you)!

  12. Asmaan says:

    Your photos are amazing Justine and tell the story so crisp and clear!

  13. Linda DeLaughter says:

    When you announced last year that you and your family would be joining the Mercy Ship, we had no idea of the impact that you would have on the lives of these people. God Bless You, dear Juzzie, and your sweet family for touching the hearts and lives of others! (And thank you for the truly remarkable photographs!)

  14. Kathy Chrystal says:

    Your picture journal is an amazing story. Thanks for sharing with us. Also thank you and your team for the wonderful work you did for the people of Madagascar. Blessings to all.

  15. Ruth Bell says:

    New experiences every day!

  16. sistersunshine says:

    KLEENEX… my prayers are with you Justine… God is truly blessing your journey. *U* K

  17. Your photos are amazing! What a fantastic adventure you are on and memories that will stay with you forever!

  18. Beverly Goodrich says:

    Wonderful work. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Deanna Emmert says:

    Wow….just wow!!

  20. Valma Callahan says:

    Your photographs and words are melting my heart too. Thank you, Justine. I hope you can keep them coming!

  21. What an amazing experience you are and will be having! Thanks for sharing this with us.

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