July 2004

Porthole View - July 2004 edition 

Go Back Download PDF

Europe and Africa

Kreig’s five-week trip began in Newcastle, England, where the Africa Mercy, our newest ship, is in a dry dock being transformed by over one hundred shipyard workers. Working with the IT Manager, Kreig reviewed the plans for the IT systems and the ramp up to full operations in mid-2005. Starting up an entire ship’s operation from scratch is a monumentally complex task that is challenging our planning capabilities as never before. In spite of the difficulty, our vision of this modern hospital ship, created to serve the poor and needy, inspires us to complete the task.

From England, Kreig flew to Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa to host a team from South Valley Christian Church in San Jose, CA for two weeks. The team came to complement the efforts of the ship’s crew in a renovation project at the King George VI Home for the Elderly, a charity run by Sierra Leonians which houses 55 bereft, handicapped residents with nowhere to turn. We built wheelchair ramps, installed electrical wiring, painted living accommodations and overhauled the simple plumbing that carries water to each of the four dormitories. Best of all, we got to know some of the residents.


Solomon, in his mid-thirties, was not very old to be a resident at the King George VI Home for the Elderly. He was there as a result of Sierra Leone’s recent rebel war in which nearly everyone has suffered horrendous injury either personally or among their family. Some have had hands or feet brutally amputated with machetes. Others have been burned or raped. Others contracted polio due to unavailable vaccines. Solomon had been shot by the rebels four times with three of the high power bullets passing completely through his torso. The forth bullet lodged near his spine in the small of his back. Amazingly, with no medical care, he survived but was left without the use of his legs. Unable to earn a living or provide for his family, who knows what would have happened to Solomon, if he had not been taken in by the King George Home.

As he greeted our group from his dilapidated wheel chair, Solomon’s cheerful attitude and lack of bitterness immediately impressed Kreig. When the team leader assigned tasks for the day, remarkably, Solomon offered to help the painters with one of the dormitories! Kreig came to learn that Solomon always helped with whatever project was being done. Over the two weeks, the team’s attachment to him grew.

During the good-bye presentation, one of the team members became tearful and struggled to regain her composure. We were touched as Solomon wheeled himself to the platform where he held her hand. We learned a valuable lesson of compassion and were reminded of how much we gained from our experience.

New Steps

After the team left, Kreig worked with New Steps, a Mercy Ships program focusing on community development and disabled persons, operating from a permanent base in Sierra Leone. Example programs include: fitting of prosthetics for amputees and polio victims, developing and teaching income strategies for disadvantaged people, and providing agricultural training. While construction of a rehabilitation center was being finished, Kreig worked with the New Steps IT Manager to plan the center’s telephone system, computer network, and satellite system. Equipment is being procured and we hope installation can begin by year-end.

New Steps agricultural efforts are impressive. Kreig learned that 80% of Sierra Leone’s mangos, seen growing everywhere, never make it to market. Since they all ripen at the same time, only 20% can be consumed before the rest rot. The NS team is teaching mango juicing and solar drying techniques to preserve the massive harvest for consumption at a later time.

Mark Jon West, the NS Agriculturalist, surprised Kreig when he said, “I know how Sierra Leone could quadruple its vegetable output immediately; but it’s not an agricultural problem, it’s a problem of the heart…” Kreig’s confused look prompted Mark to explain, “When I first saw eggplant in the market, I wondered why they pick the fruit so small - when, if left for another 2 to 3 weeks, it would yield 4 times as much. Then I learned from my own garden, that in Sierra Leone, you must pick your fruit before it is big enough for a thief to pick! So it’s really an issue of the heart. If there were no thieves stealing from gardens, there could be 4 times as much food!”

Security and Safety

Kreig’s final task was working with the Anastasis’ IT team to deploy a new security and safety system mandated by international maritime law in an effort to raise port security levels. The system uses identification cards to grant or deny access to the ship and to keep track of whoever is onboard at any given time. It was developed by Kreig’s IT team in Texas and is now in place on two of the three ships with the third rollout scheduled for early 2005.

Update on Samuel

Samuel first captured our hearts in 1998 during the Anastasis’ visit to Guinea. Samuel, age 10, had become a refugee and was separated from his family in Sierra Leone. Rebels attacked his school and sent him running through the streets until he escaped by boat to the port of Conakry, Guinea.

Through a chain of events, Karen became instrumental in aiding his refugee status, schooling and other needs.

During our 4 months in Guinea we had many opportunities to interact with Samuel. One day we watched the movie Home Alone in our cabin. After the film we asked him what his favorite part was, fully expecting him to mention one of the scenes where tricks were used to scare off “the bad guys”. We were surprised when he said, “My favorite part is when the mommy comes home”. It was all we could do to choke back the tears as we realized how deeply he longed for that event in his life. Those words planted a seed in our hearts… longing to see Samuel reunited with his family. Samuel returned to Sierra Leone in 1999 and managed to pay school fees by polishing soldiers’ boots, but has yet to learn any news of his family.

Karen’s prayers for a reunion were fulfilled when Kreig called saying, “I have someone that wants to talk to you.” As Samuel’s voice came across the satellite phone line, it melted her heart all over again. What a joy it was to be reunited after all these years! We have now formed a group of friends that have committed to help him finish his schooling. We still pray that someday Samuel will have the joy of being reunited with his Mom again… but for now we take great joy in “adopting him” as one of our own.

Go Back Download PDF