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DISCLAMER: all of these happenings are my own personal experienses, some of the stories have to do with Christianity, and i'm not forcing my opinions on anyone. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
My school retreat in Africa
DISCLAIMER: i am a Christian and all of the God related ideas are my own and i'm not trying to force my opinions on any one.

As I woke up on Thursday the 8th of April, I searched through my closet trying to find comfortable clothing. This was the day we were going to leave for Agu, the Togo YWAM base for our school retreat. The night before I had packed a backpack full of clothing, bedding, sunscreen, mosquito spray, a garbage bag for dirty clothing, a grocery bag for garbage, my asthma medication, and other toiletries. In another bag I put books, my Bible, a journal, snacks, a blanket, a sweatshirt, and any overflow from my backpack. At 8:00 we all gathered in the cafe area with all of our bags. After our parents prayed over us, we all headed out to the dock to pack 3 Land Rovers and a Nissan with all of out food, water, and bags. Once everything and everyone was loaded into the cars, we were off. After 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a car, we finally reached the base. After we unloaded the cars, we headed to our rooms. I was rooming with the other ninth graders.We got our rooms all set up, the mosquito nets hung, put all of our snack items high off the floor, and got changed into something cooler. We all gathered by the mango tree for a brief meeting before lunch.
When lunch was finished the 8th and 9th grade girls did the dishes. It consisted of dumping the leftovers, rinsing, washing, rinsing again, and drying 20+ dishes, in cold water (the base had no hot water heater). Then we all gathered at the main house and were split into teams. My team was Emma, Joey, Chenell, and Bendik. We choose a team colour, and we where given a flag to make a team name. Our team colour was green so we made our team name The Incredible Hulks. The other team names were Team Rice, The Blue Waljis, and Team Destroy. We then played Ships and Sailors. Miss Orman would call something and we would have to do that. After we played Ships and Sailors two teams went with Miss Orman and the other two stayed with Mr. Calvert. My team and the Blue Walgis stayed with Mr. Calvert to play Human Tug of War and my team sadly lost. After that we headed up to Miss Orman, and we played turn over a leaf, with a big piece of brown paper, my team did the first one fast, but we got slower and slower. After that we all went back down to the main house to have some free time before dinner at 6. While a group played the Frisbee version of Monkey (or piggy if your from the UK or anywhere in Europe) in the middle, I watched and laughed my head off. About 10 to 6 I went to take a shower, and boy did that feel good!
By the dinner time we needed our flashlights, to see where we were walking, and to see what we were eating, because the generators were not working. After dinner we gathered again for a devotional time, we sang, and listened to Marty talk and then we left. During this time, I had a wow moment with God. I realized that out of all the galaxies, all of the people past, present, and future, God knows all the names, and everything we ever said and will say, and the most amazing thing, HE NEVER FORGETS!! Since we had until 10:30 before we had to be in our rooms, my friends and I played mango catch. Let's just say that we ended up "killing" two mango's... After that we went in and my room mates and I talked until we had to go to sleep. At about 12:30 in the morning, I woke up, my face burning like crazy At first I thought it was just from being out in the sun all day, but that wasn't it. I wasn't the only one to be up at this time, every one except 6 people also woke up with burning faces. In the morning my friends and I were talking about it, and we discovered that it was the mosquito nets The directions said to wash and let air dry, but we thought that was if they got dirty, but it was wash before use, so, everyone who had burning faces washed their nets and they hung them out to dry.
After breakfast and personal time, we all hiked up to an outdoor church that was randomly in the woods, where we had our morning worship. After we finished we went back and got changed into our swimsuits, to go swimming in a waterfall. The first waterfall we hiked to wasn't safe to swim in, so we sat on some rocks and ate lunch. After lunch we all piled back into the Land Rovers and drove to an area to park, then we hiked for about half an hour, came to a beautiful clearing that was looking out into the waterfall, and as the guys went to the water, I held back and waited for my friends. Once they came we stripped down to our swimsuits and jumped in. The water was a lot more shallow than I thought it would be...

After everyone got dried off we started the hike back to the Land Rovers. Again we all piled into the land rovers and headed back to the base. When we got back we all headed up to the dining hall, and we met some nuns from the Missionaries of Charity the organization Mother Theressa started. When the nuns left we were able to go and take showers. After we took showers we headed up to the dining hall again, and we ate dinner, this time without flashlights. After dinner we had a little free time until we had to go to worship. On this particular night after worship, we had a camp fire because it was our last night at Agu. We roasted marshmallows, and put them on a cookie that had chocolate presses on them. Being American, I think that the best s'mores are marshmallow, gram cracker, and Hershey's chocolate. We stayed out until curfew, then went to bed.
In the morning we woke up to the sound of rain drumming on the roof. After getting dressed we went out to the clearing in front of the main house, and jumped in puddles, and played in the rain. After everyone got up, we met on the porch of the main house and set off to the stairs outside of the camp to make our prayer stations. The other 9th grade girls and I made the tomb, and put 3 crosses on top.As Marty told us to go up one at a time, we stood by each place and prayed about what the station is about. Soon every one was at the church at the top of the stairs, and we sang a few songs.

When we finished with worship we went back down, we all gathered in the dining hall again, and we made a poster in our small groups about what we learned.

All of the posters were amazing. After we finished getting all packed up, we did some final things, like cleaning the bathrooms, the showers, and sweeping out our rooms. After the guys finished packing up the Land Rovers and Nissan again, we all climbed in to start the long ride home. I was in a Land Rover with Marty, Miss Nikki, Allison, Miss Orman, and Mrs. Robinson, along with the 6th grade girls. As we sang some songs, Marty sang opera, and Bethany mouthed some of the words, while I read.

Getting back to the ship was a relief, but I wished that we could have stayed longer at the YWAM base.

Sometimes Yes, others No
Here is a story by one of my friends and what life changing events happen on the Africa Mercy.

Volunteers have been giving up their time to come and serve the poor and needy with Mercy Ships for the past 30 years, coming and going as God calls them. One volunteer is still here today, Gary Parker; in the hospital he is known as Dr. Gary.

Dr. Gary previously served onboard the M/V Anastasis; little did he know that the day he walked up the gangway in San Diego in the year 1987 marked the beginning of a very long stay. It was there he met his wife Susan and raised his family in a small cabin located on the upper deck. He had discovered his heart’s passion and his calling in life, serving the sick and hurting people of West Africa. His skills were desperately needed, and many days he would never even see his children as he worked from early morning until dark. Yet he enjoyed his job greatly, using his hands to save faces and lives.
Currently Dr. Gary lives and works onboard the newest addition to the Mercy Ships fleet and at present, the only Mercy ship, the M/V Africa Mercy. He lives onboard with his wife and two children. Dr. Gary is a maxillofacial surgeon and the chief medical officer onboard the floating hospital located on the lower deck of the ship.

Throughout his many years of operating, Dr. Gary has witnessed his share of miracles. There are times in the Operating Room and wards when things go urgently wrong, and Dr. Gary cannot depend on his skills alone to fix things. But through it all God has always been there for him, and has preformed miraculous healings and signs that Dr. Gary still treasures in his heart today.
One of these life-changing moments took place on the Anastasis, which was docked in the Ivory Coast in the year 1992.

Three year old Bienvenue came to the ship with his mother, who was desperate for help for her little boy. Bienvenue had a tumour hanging off his neck the size of a big mango; it had appeared suddenly and grown at a quite rapid pace. Dr. Gary had his doubts about the little boy, but he went ahead and took a small piece from the tumour—a biopsy—sending it away to experts. They would be able to tell him exactly what type of tumour he was dealing with. When Dr. Gary performed the surgery to remove a piece of the tumour, he prayed over Bienvenue, as he did for all of his patients, asking for healing and strength. However, he clearly remembers that inside he was feeling like this Bienvenue’s case was hopeless.

When the results of the biopsy came back, they held bad news…very bad news. The tumour growing on Bienvenue’s neck was highly cancerous, and fatal. His heart sank; there was nothing he could do for the little three-year-old, who was so innocent and helpless. He would have to break the news to Bienvenue’s mother, who had so much hope in the doctors and nurses onboard. He would have to tell her that her son was going to die, and all they could do was go back to their village and wait. It was the type of news every doctor dreads giving. Dr. Gary had sent Bienvenue and his mother home while he waited for the biopsy results to come back. Now two weeks later, they had returned to hear the results.

Dr. Gary walked slowly down to the ward, his head spinning, going over how he would tell her, and what he would say to comfort the heart-broken mother. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t pay any attention at all to the little boy who was sitting in the middle of the floor playing with a balloon, or the mother who was waving frantically at him and pointing to her happy, giggling son. Finally Dr. Gary looked up at the woman. She was beaming and pointing to her son. He looked down; the boy on the floor was Bienvenue. But it was not the Bienvenue he was used to seeing, because where his tumour had been, there was nothing but sagging skin. Dr. Gary was in total shock; he could not believe what he was seeing. He ran over and pulled another doctor over to where Bienvenue sat playing. He watched as the doctor’s eyes widened and then popped nearly out of her head. No one understood what was going on. As far as she knew, the tumour had been there last she checked, when they sent them home tow weeks ago. How could a huge cancerous tumour just disappear? Dr. Gary sent them back to their village, still not convinced that the tumour was completely gone. He told them to come back in two weeks to see if the tumour had come back.

Two weeks later, they returned. Bienvenue was happy as ever, and his empty sack of skin that had once held the deadly tumour was getting tighter. Dr. Gary shook his head in wonder. This truly was a miracle. God had spared this little boy’s life. Dr. Gary told them to come back in another two weeks, which they did and Dr. Gary found that the sagging skin was even tighter. Finally he told them to come back one more time for a final check-up. When the mother and son came, the sagging skin was no longer there; it had completely healed. It was as if the tumour had never even been there.

With a joyful heart Dr. Gary said his goodbyes to the young mother and Bienvenue. God had answered his prayer for healing, and as far as he knows, Bienvenue grew up to be a healthy young lad; the cancerous tumour never bothered him again.

A radio broadcasting company found out about Bienvenue’s amazing miraculous story. They called Dr. Gary up, asking him if he would be willing to share Bienvenue’s story on the radio, which would be broadcast across America. After thinking about it, Dr. Gary replied saying he would, as long as they allowed him to tell the story of Fatimata as well.

Fatimata had come the same week as Bienvenue. She had a tumour bulging out behind her eye. She was three as well, and innocent as could be. Dr. Gary had prayed over her, with that same sinking feeling he had when praying over Bienvenue. He took a biopsy and sent it away. When it came back, the results showed that Fatimata’s tumour was highly cancerous as well. There was nothing he could do. The nurses gave Fatimata’s parents medicine to help with her pain. The nurses taught them how to care for their daughter, and then Dr. Gary and the other doctors had no choice but to send them away. The little family headed back to their village to care for Fatimata until she died.

The radio company turned Dr. Gary’s request down. They only wanted to hear the story where God healed Bienvenue. They had no desire to hear the sad story of Fatimata, and how God had not answered Dr. Gary’s prayer for healing.
However, in Dr. Gary’s view, God had saved one little three year old boy physically, giving him more time here on earth. In Fatimata’s case, it was time for her to come home to Him.

Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it is no, and other times He will tell you, not now, wait. (Gary Parker)

But in either case, God is doing what He knows is best. This is what Dr. Gary wanted to share on the radio. God will always answer, whether it is how you intend Him to answer or not. He never left Fatimata; it was just time for her to come home to Him.

I hope that this story of 2 different people touched you. Please let me know what you think of it.

Strwberry Mew Ichigo
Community Member
Strwberry Mew Ichigo
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