Keith R. Brinkman serving with Mercy Ships. This is another way for me to communicate with you all what is happening. I hope you enjoy seeing the photos and entries.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Brunch

Christmas Day Brunch
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
We gathered together this morning for our Christmas Day brunch. Ken is showing me one of his favorite fruits - strawberries - which is also my favorite. I joined their family for the morning brunch. We enjoyed many types of fruits that are just not available in Africa, but are available here in Tenerife. Merry Christmas Feliz Navidad

Shoes outside our doors

Being an multi-national crew on the ship, for Christmas for many years we celebrate the dutch tradition of placing a shoe outside your door - for us our cabin door and friends place in the shoe late on Christmas eve a small gift. Amazing to see the long hallways on deck 4 where I live.

Christmas Eve Dinner

For our Christmas Eve dinner on board the Africa Mercy, I joined with the Royston family - Tony (who is our biomedical technician for the hospital), Patricia (school teacher), their son Elliott (also known by a Ghanaian name of Kwesi) and our senior chaplain PJ Hopkins. The galley team did a great job and prepared both ham and turkey and the fixings and various deserts like pecan pie.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent 4 with Biney Family

This past Sunday was the fourth Sunday of Advent and the Biney Family who I have known for years from the Caribbean Mercy initially - they lite the four candles and read the scriptures from the Old Testament and New Testament. The theme of this service was 'Peace'.

OR Door for Christmas

Please see the photo for what the Operating Room crew did for their decoration of their administration office door. The sign above says "The Operating Room is putting Santa Claus to sleep & celebrating the true meaning of Christmas!" They were the winner of the office door decorating contest.

Door with photos of the crew

During our door decoration contest, one cabin on deck 3 decorated with small photos of each and every crew member that was on board during the sail. They won one of the categories in the contest.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Canary Island Map - Off Africa

We have safely arrived in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands after 12 days of journey from Benin. This will be a technical work phase for the ship. Many crew will be on holiday. I will continue my work on all the final reports and individual final project reports from Benin '09.

Rainbow - to welcome us to Tenerife

A beautiful rainbow welcomed us to Santa Cruz de Tenerife after eleven days at sea traveling from Benin where we completed ten months of field service.

Academy Christmas Play

The children and teens from the on board Academy presented their play entitled 'The Bethlehem Express' - this photo is from the scene at Bethlehem. Even though the ship was moving side to side a lot, they were still able to do the entire play. Great job!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rocky Waves - Galley

Rocky Waves - Galley
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Wednesday evening, all day Thursday, last night and all today we are having large swells and thus the ship is moving greatly from side to side - in addition to a strong wind from the west. Most of the adults have gotten little sleep. In this photo you see the affect in our galley. The staff there continue to provide meals for the 300 people on board the ship (of those still eating). We are due in Santa Cruz on Saturday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Door Decoration Contest

Door Decorations
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Tracy - our Ship Security Officer - had the pirate snowman on her door - on the right and I had on the Programs door the security man snowman and tonight we won the award 'The Most Humorous Decorated Office Door' - all thanks to Cathy W who is the one who created these decorations.

More Dolphins On The Bow

As many of stood on the bow last night at 5pm, we saw the dolphins coming and swimming with us and jumping - it was great. Murray was to my right and he caught some of them with his camera.

More Dolphins On The Bow

At dinner time yesterday, I was up on the bow of the ship enjoying a beautiful day with friends. Then the dolphins started coming and swam along with us. Murray was next to me and capture this photo and the next.

Dolphins 16Dec09

Ali also captured this great photo of the dolphins swimming and jumping along with the ship as we are sailing off the African coast.

Dolphins 16Dec09

Dolphins 16Dec09Ali
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Ali caught this beautiful dolphin swimming along with the ship off the bow. I love how she has the three photos side by side.

KRB Update 2148 Adopt-A-Patient

December 16, 2009
Not many of us live in a hospital, though for us on the Africa Mercy we do. I live on Deck 4 and the hospital is on Deck 3 – one set of stairs away. One of the great opportunities we have on board is to befriend some of the thousands of patients who are in the hospital. Our Adopt-A-Patient Coordinator places slips with the Name, Age, Date of Arrival, Date of Surgery and Estimated Time to be in Recovery for arriving patients on IV tube poles in Town Square. Men can choose men and children and women can choose women and children. Some of the fifty children living on board spend time with one of their parents with a child in the hospital. This opportunity is available to everyone living and serving on board.

Sometimes I meet patients at screening at one of the venues where the hospital crew do the evaluation for potential patients. If they receive an appointment card, I will share with them that I will visit them once they are on board in the hospital.

In Benin, I have the challenge of the main language being French and I can only speak short phrases in French and only three words in the local language of Fon. The hospital had local Benin day volunteers who served as translators for the nurses and health care professionals. They were available to assist with translation if not doing other duties. Recently I had four patients for many weeks I have been visiting who can speak some limited English and one of them knew more than the others and helped to translate.

Sometimes we spend time in the hospital ward talking, playing games, visiting, praying and just checking on how they are doing. Other times, we walked up to Deck 7 where we sat on the outside deck for some fresh air (there are no windows/portholes in the hospital), feel the warmth of the sun and watch the ships and boats coming in and out. There are also some ride-on-toys that the children play on going back and forth. Please see the photos taken while outside (we are not permitted to take photos in the hospital ward).

Up on Deck 7 one afternoon with patients from Ward B of the HospitalSome of my closest relationships in country have been with our patients who I have stayed in contact with even after they have been released from the ship and have returned home. Just prior to leaving the nation of Benin, I called those patients who I have their telephone numbers to talk with them briefly and to say ‘goodbye’ for now. If the Lord permits, I will return next year from Togo to Benin for a visit and I will make contact with them again and check on how they are doing physically and spiritually. This is my final report related to the Benin ’09 Field Service. Thank you for sharing in this field service through your prayers, encouragement and financial support.
Serving Together, Keith
Email: - using this email account for personal correspondence Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Man Overboard Drill 15Dec09

As part of our ongoing training and safety, tonight we had a Man Overboard Drill. I was with friends on Deck 8 watching the sunset. It was a simulation for the various teams to review what they would do. My neighbor and friend David is in this photo looking into the water to see if he can see anyone - though it was only a drill.

Sunset 15Dec09 near Senegal

Another beautiful sunset as we are sailing north off the West African coast. The officer on duty thought there was a chance to see the Green Flash tonight, but it did not happen. We are off the coast of Senegal.

3rd Advent Sunday

As part of our Christmas celebrations, we have had our Advent Sunday services in the evening in the International Lounge. This past Sunday was 3rd Advent service and Udo Kronester shared on the theme of 'JOY'.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Piano Recital

The Christmas Piano Recital today had performances by six of the children on board. In this photo is Ken Kronester doing Jingle Bells. As we are sailing, the piano has to be strapped down so that it does go moving if we get into rough weather. You have probably have never been a recital like this one. They all did a great job!!

Winter Wonderland

As part of the entertainment last night at the Winter Wonderland on the Africa Mercy, four of the younger girls did a dance to a Christmas song. They were directed by some of the teenage girls. Most of the available crew came out for the annual Christmas event.

Winter Wonderland

Last night in Town Square, we had our Winter Wonderland. All crew were invited. People set up booths with craft items and/or food to sell. In the photo is Ken Kronester at his booth with his delicious Christmas cookies that he just baked that morning - he was even telling me the recipe for the icing.

Christmas Event St Lucia

As part of our Christmas celebration, the Scandinavians presented Santa Lucia - a tradition in their nations. It was put on by the crew from those nations. This happened in our Town Square area of the ship.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Water Spout / Tornado

Water Spout 09Dec09
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
As we were sailing on Wednesday at dinner time, the deck officer on duty made several announcements - one was for this water spout/tornado, followed announcements for nearby dolphins and sperm whales who were at a great distance. We left Benin after ten months of field service.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Departure from Benin

Photos of our departure from Cotonou, Benin, West Africa

Monday, December 07, 2009

Goat on a Motorcycle

Goat on Zimi
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Some of the interesting things I have seen in Benin is the variety of different 'things' that people carry on motorcycles. Including animals, building supplies, refrigerators and baskets and baskets full of produce for the market. This photo was taken on the main road by a friend as I was driving. It was close to a muslim holiday and so there were goats everywhere. One of my favorites is the goat on a man's back - like a backpack, while he drove his motorcycle.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mental Health Photos

KRB Update 2147 Mental Health Training

KRB Update #2147 December 6, 2009 Mental Health Training
When one thinks of Mercy Ships, they do not always think of us having a mental health training program. During an assessment trip I made to Monrovia, Liberia in ’06 with Dr. Glenn Strauss, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare requested if there was any way we could assist with mental health training following the 14 years of civil war in Liberia.

After two years in Liberia with this program, we are now in Benin and have continued the training program but with adjustments for this culture and background. While Benin is not a post-conflict country, it still suffers from poverty and disease, and has an extremely high death rate which also leads to trauma. Few resources are allocated for mental health and illness, and there is a lack of understanding of mental health and illness among health care workers, church leaders, and other care givers.

The title of this project is ‘Restoring Hope – Addressing Mental Illness and Trauma’ and offers Whole Person care-Spirit,Body, Soul & Social. Dr. Lyn who serves at the office in Texas comes as our consultant. Here on board, Naomi leads the project and Gemma is a mental health nurse from England.
In my role as Programs Administrator for the Africa Mercy, I desire to be able to assist our various projects both on board and off the ship. I asked if they needed any assistance with the Mental Health Workshop for Parakou (a city 8 hours north of Cotonou) and the initial response was ‘no’, but then they came back and said they would request my assistance. For this workshop, we focused on church leaders, health care workers, social workers, teachers and Prison Fellowship/prison workers. I served in a support role – driving, handling the finances, assisting with registration of participants, helping with logistics, and setting up the areas for the afternoon smaller groups. During the main session on how to minister to children, I created a dog using Play-doh and shared a story about how my dog was sent away because he bite my neighbor. In the drama, I shared how losing my dog made me sad and how I missed him. We were demonstrating a way for children to share their feelings. Though, it was funny as during the drama, Naomi accidently hit my ‘dog’ and I fell to my knees and continued my story (see photo).
For the ’09 Field Service in Benin, the Mental Health team has worked with: 101 Health care workers; 119 Church and community leaders; 50 Children at a special camp; 220 participants at the Parakou Workshop and 50 Prison Fellowship/prison workers. Some of the feedback we received after the three day workshop was:
In the past, we only treated the body; now we ask about soul & spirit since they are interrelated; I started loving people with mental illnesses; When I balance my own mental health, I can better care for others;;I will reduce the number of patients I refer to a specialist/I understand that I can treat a person with a common mental illness; I started doing exercises on stress, and I assess the patients; I have a better understanding of myself and others; Better understanding of counseling in church, family & community; Perspectives changed; Improvement in my marriage; I can forgive; More self-assurance in listening and counseling
We will continue to offer this training for the ’10 Field Service in the nation of Togo.
Serving Together, Keith
Email: - using this email account for personal correspondence Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Daslin's Children Home Party

A friend and former crew member now lives here in Cotonou, Benin after marrying a local pastor. She has a children's home in Abomey. We were invited for the official dedicaton back in February. She shared how it is a children's home, not an orphanage - the children have Mamas, Papas, brothers and sisters. Some friends organized a Christmas / Farewell party on Saturday and so we celebrated with the kids. They particularly liked the bubbles and taking photos with my camera. I was so encouraged as after a time of singing, some of the children 10-13 years old - stood up and quoted scripture in French and in English.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day Volunteers Thank You Reception

To honor our dayvolunteers (locals who have worked with us), we had a DayVolunteer Thank You Reception. The event started with a great African lunch and then the reception in the International Lounge - I served again as the MC for the event. We started with praise and worship african style as we worship our great God. We had two speeches by the Managing Director and the Captain - which was followed by three of the dayvolunteers sharing. Ice cream was the final touch as closed out the event.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OSAREH Official Dedication

One of our construction projects this year was to complete one building and to construct three smaller buildings - which all will serve as a pedatric orthopaedic clinic for children in the southern half of Benin. The organization is called OSAREH. We have known the primary surgeon for several years. The photo is from the day of dedication.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Patients in front of the Africa Mercy

Many of our patients are now leaving the ship as soon our Hospital will be closed as the surgeries have finished. For those on board, we are praying for them to complete their recovery process. Arrangements are being made locally for some on going care for those needing dressing changes, etc. In the photo, there are some of my patient friends who wanted to have a photo taken together in front of the ship in normal clothes and not in their hospital gowns. I will write more in a future KRB Update on some of my patients.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Prison Civile Cotonou

During this field service, our dental team has gone mobile - to a psychiatric center that our mercy ministries team visits every Saturday - to a refuge camp near to the Togo border and for the last two days to the main Civile Prison here in Cotonou. They were primarily doing extractions and some hygiene lessons - I have not received the count yet on how many people, but my friend Joycee who is the receptionist shared it was greater than 300 people cared for.

Ward Service Benin Nov '09

One of the events I enjoy inviting the patients that I am visiting in the Hospital Wards to - is our Sunday Morning Ward Service. It is an optional for the patients to attend. It is conducted by our Hospital Counselors (local nationals serving with us) and as you see in the photo we have worship and then someone sharing a short message and usually a testimony. It is limited to only one hour.

Rotary Event onboard the Ship

Rotary Event
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Earlier this week, we had the privilege to host a Rotary Event on board the ship. Rotary International was conducting their West Africa Project Fair and we extend an invitation for them to visit us as their project fair was right here in Cotonou. Rotary has partnered with us on various projects, sponsorships of the International Lounge and other locations on the ship - in addition the Rotary club members have aided us with contacts and other resources in the port cities we visit here in West Africa. It was a good visit - in the photo the main Rotary representative from Benin was sharing and being translated into English.

Youngest Cataract Patient Benin 09

The youngest cataract patient in Mercy Ships history, Jose' HEHOUNTHE receives a final checkup from eye surgeon Dr. Glenn Strauss before leaving the Africa Mercy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

KRB Update 2146 Assessment

KRB Update #2146 November 12, 2009 Assessment
In the Mercy Ships world, there are various stages of assessment. Some assessment is done on a general level of the entire nation as a possible future country that the Africa Mercy would visit.

After the leaders have looked at the possible nations in our region (currently Western Africa), a pre-assessment team is sent out or a full assessment team – depending on timing of a visit and whether we have been in the nation before or not. I have served in the past on pre-assessment and assessment teams – this is one aspect on my job description, though there are those who do this as their full-time responsibility. Pierre and I were asked to do the pre-assessment in late June for Togo – only a three day trip with set objectives. In September, I was a part of our larger team which traveled from Cotonou to Lomé, Togo by vehicle. We arranged to stay at a Wycliffe-SIL mission guest house for our time there. Our initial meetings were with the Christian Churches of Togo association & with the Ministry of Health, which is our main government partner. We also revisited the Port of Lomé to meet again with them on the needs of the ship and all the needed logistics from crew and patients getting from the main gate to the ship, to refueling by bunkering, security, water purity issues, etc.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs received us very well and was very friendly and helpful. Relationships are important in this culture and so building those relationships is vital for the present and for the future. I know personally sometimes I can become task-orientated and I have to be reminded to be more relational and yet still get the tasks done.
Besides meetings, we were tasked in finding possible options for the off ship facility needs – 1) one location for the Dental Clinic, 2) two locations for the Field Eye Team, 3) Hospitality Center for patients pre and post-operative, and 4) Programs Support Facility – team housing. As we presented the basic details on each facility need, we visited various locations to report on them if they are a possibility or not.
In addition, we are looking for possible partnership for our capacity building/training projects and our construction projects. Prior to leaving, I had a friend translate the document from English to French so that we could present them the document and what we would need to learn from them to consider a partnership.
All you can imagine, there is much going on during assessment – you usually start out early in the morning and go into the evening – no 8am-5pm for this type of service. Though, if we can successful with our relationship building and the information that is gathered, the better success for the field service and for the Kindgom of God.
Serving Together, Keith

Email: - using this email account for personal correspondence
Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Patients on Deck 7 from Ward B

Patients on Deck 7
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
On Sunday afternoons, I usually invite the patients I am visiting to walk with me up to Deck 7 where we can sit outside. For the patients, they love to be outside - fresh air and the warmth of the sun and watching activity in the habour. There are some ride-on-toys for the kids to play with which is always fun.

Benin Games '09 on the Africa Mercy

An annual event we have on board is the ____ (name of the country) Games - which happens on board - this year we had 19 teams participating with 12 different games. I served as the scorekeeper for the Games. In this photo you see the 'Lost Boys' at the platform game - they were one of the last teams and so you see many surrounding them. We presented each team with a certificate including those to the teams with the higher three scores. It was a fun day for all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

KRB Update 2145 Programs Reporting Time

KRB Update #2145 October 16, 2009 Programs Reporting Time
With almost 400 people living and serving on board, one of the ways to share with the ship community what is happening in Programs on and off the ship is by conducting our Programs Reporting Times on Friday mornings at 07:45-08:15 in the International Lounge on the Africa Mercy. As Programs Administrator for the Africa Mercy, I am responsible to coordinate and arrange everything for these meetings and to serve as the MC and Audio/Visual guy. Even though this is an optional meeting, we normally have 80 – 100 people in the room to listen and others watch via the video camera system.

Here is a list of projects that have shared or will share before we stop next month:
Surgical Screening, Maxillo-facial Surgeries, Plastic Surgeries, Orthopaedic surgeries, VVF surgeries, ICU Nurses, Infant Feeding, Ward Nurses, Hospital Counselors, Dental Team including their counselor, Field Eye Team, Ship Eye Team, Adopt-A-Patient, Hospitality Center and Palliative and Outpatient Care
Health Care Development
Construction of Dormitory/Training Facility with Bethesda, Construction of Pediatric Orthopaedic Clinic with OSAREH, Church Leaders’ Conferences, Agriculture Training, Administrative Personnel Training, Biomedical Technician Training and Mental Health Training
Mercy Ministry
Missionaries of Charity, Maison de l’Exellence, Maison de l’Esperance, Jardin d’Eden Children’s Home, Jesus Film in French and local languages, C.E.O. Boy’s Home, School of the Deaf, Jacquot Psychiatric Clinic, and Fondation Regard d’Amour.

For some projects, I offer the speaker 12-13 minutes and thus we would have two speakers. For other projects including those which may have multiple speakers, I offer them the entire 25 minutes to share. For some, this will be the first time to speak in front of a crowd and for others it may be the first time to give a speech in English. I start with a welcome to the crew and then share the opportunities in Programs that we are inviting them to sign up and join us – these may be going to an orphanage, helping to paint and clean at a construction site, and adopt-a-patient in the hospital. I will also share with the crew on the opportunities to attend a local church where transportation is provided and where English translation is available. Many of our speakers share and use Power Point to help visualize and then I posted them on Navigator (Mercy Ships intranet system) for others elsewhere in the Mercy Ships world to view (hopefully for next year, I will be able to post the audio of the reporting time).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Programs Reporting Time

Part of my responsibilities including coordinating and hosting Friday morning's Programs Reporting Time - the opportunity for representatives from our Programs areas - the Hospital and HealthCare Development. In this photo, I am sharing with the crew the opportunities that are available for them to sign up and join us at various locations.

MC Community Meeting

MC Community Meeting
Originally uploaded by keith.brinkman
Last night, I had the privilege to be the MC for our Community Meeting. This is a weekly meeting on Thursday evening for the entire community. We usually start with a welcome, reading from the Bible (I read from Psalm 103), announcements, offering, praise and worship and then the message. Our speaker this week was Pastor Ernest from a local church and married to a former director of the Anastasis. It is followed by fellowship in Town Square.

Togo 10 Advance Team Commissioning

On Thursday evening, we commissioned two of our team members for Advance work in Lome, Togo. Clementine Tengue and Brenda van Straten will leave on Monday overland to Togo. One more team member is yet to be confirmed. I will continue to serve as their liaison here on board the ship.