I (Ally ) greet you from Senegal, while Amy & Louis greet you from Portsmouth, UK.
We have had a busy few weeks preparing to leave the ship. It definitely feels different this time, compared to when we left in Benin in 2017. However, we are happy that we've made the right decision. The harder decisions have been around what to take back with us to the UK, and what to leave behind on the ship!
We have also had some visits from some of our close friends who have come to run courses or do their annual trip to the ship to work in different areas. They obviously really only came to see us and found a reason to do so (jokes) but it has been a really nice way to finish our time on board.
Amy & Louis left the ship last week, as Amy reached the 24-week pregnancy limit for being on board. I have stayed behind to finish up my work and make sure that some new Crew are settled into their jobs. I felt bad sending pregnant Amy off with five pieces of luggage and a 2-year old, but then I have to clean the whole cabin before I leave, so I'd say we're even!
It's tradition for the Crew to go to the dock to say goodbye when people are leaving. This picture was taken by our friend Nick of the group that came to the dock to say farewell to Louis and Amy. Amy is at the bottom right hugging friends, but Louis opted for his 'safe space' on Daddy's shoulders. It was an emotional goodbye, as is every goodbye here, and they were truly honoured by those we know well.
Nick took this photo and said to me "the way the group are standing it looks like a heart!". I agree.
The last few weeks...
These last few weeks have been about packing, saying goodbye, spending time with our buddies, and making sure we tick some things off our Dakar bucket list. One of those things on the list was Goree Island, a 20 minute boat ride from the port. It is believed by many that this island was used as slave port, and millions went to this island before being transported to Europe and the Americas.
We left early and caught the morning light. It is beautiful. We stayed for the morning and some of the afternoon, mostly taking photos and wandering around, but Louis got his beach fix, too. He spent some time with other friends from the ship running in and out of waves and digging holes in the sand.
We also took a friend to Bandia reserve, where we had been a few weeks before. It was amazing again, and refreshing to be in nature again.
It's strange to think of nature in such a way, as all our lives we have been surrounded by parks and hills and grass. There's not so much of that where we have been with Mercy Ships, especially as we live in a port. The weekend just gone Amy, Louis, and my Dad went to a cafe in the UK for lunch when Louis saw the grass out the front. Not having access to grass much lately has definitely made him appreciate it when he sees it! He didn't want to go into the Cafe, but just wanted to play on the grass outside! Apparently he was quite upset when he was told they needed to go inside and get some lunch!
It has been good to do some 'lasts' with friends, too, as we close out our time here. It has been good to dedicate time to our friends and those we enjoy spending time with. Especially for Louis, who has some friends and admirers.
The next few weeks...
The next few weeks will mainly be about rest. I have not really had any time off for a couple of years, and it's beginning to show. I leave the ship the weekend after next to return to the UK. Amy & I will travel to the Netherlands to celebrate a wedding anniversary with some friends, then we will all go together to France for Christmas and New Year. The plan is to turn the phones off, and concentrate on rest.
I still need to find a job, which will trigger finding somewhere to live and other details, so that is pretty much top of the agenda right now, and will probably be my one reason to be on the internet over the festive period. But I'm not expecting much to happen until January. We have been offered somewhere to stay in January, which will help a lot, so just letting things happen the way God has planned it, and making sure we are in tune with what He is doing.
Amy & Louis are spending time with family, attended a wedding, resting themselves, and eagerly awaiting my return of course!!
We want to say a huge thank you to everyone for reading these blogs and updates. Staying in contact with you all has been encouraging to us as we have spent the last six years with Mercy Ships. We want to thank those of you who have supported us financially, as we could not have done this or stayed as long as we did without your support. Thanks also to those that have donated to our unofficial 'going home' fund; that will help immensely (and there's obviously still the opportunity to donate to that fund if you want to - let us know!).
We return home with a grateful heart, knowing that we can be used by God in the UK as much as he has used us here. We are praying for jobs, the right place to live, the right timing of it all, and invite you to pray with us!
There might be one more update to let you know that we're all reunited, but for now we wish you all the best and we hope that Christmas and New Year is a refreshing, fulfilling time for all of you.
Lots of love,
Louis leaving the ship for the last time