We are now in Benin,
Africa--- the birthplace of
Voodoo! Glenn and I sailed for 10 days from Tenerife in the Canary
Islands and arrived in Benin
on Feb. 10th. Sailing for someone like me is beyond adventure- more like
endurance practice! Although I suffer from motion sickness on any form of
transport, I did miraculously well! I am convinced that is because I had
a diligent prayer team devoted to praying for this specifically and a
gracious God who answered their prayers to keep my cookies in place!
I for one, though, am VERY glad to see land (although I do feel a bit like
Rip Van Winkle!) We
have included some pictures of the ship during the sail (see below - our room is in the
middle, 3 floors down), our dock in Benin, and the fishing village
directly in front of us. Quite a contrast!
For those asking "Where IS Benin?" It is in the
Africa next to Nigeria.
is French speaking along with 52+ tribal languages!!! (And I barely know
my English according some of our UK crew !) My greeting above
is the French/Fon phrase which means 'hello white people!'.
HA! We will be hearing that a lot!
The ship has been very, very busy unpacking and cleaning and
orientating the crew to the Benin.
We have hosted the American Ambassador as well as a number of other local and
international dignitaries. We visited a key local hospital and connected
with the ophthalmologist there. Glenn also spoke at the Benin Society of
Ophthalmology to extend an invitation to the 10 ophthalmologists to come for
training. We have been enthusiastically received on every occasion
and thank the Lord for already opening doors. We learned that although
statistics say that Benin
is 1/3 Christian, many of these are Catholics that have been infiltrated by the
Voodoo people who felt Catholicism was compatible! Yikes! The
other 1/3 is tribal/ Voodoo and the last 1/3 is Muslim. The great news is
that this country, after being Marxist, finally had free and fair elections in
2006 and elected a truly Christ- following man, President Yayi Boni. Thank
the Lord who has chosen this leader!
Although this country is a more financially advanced country
than Liberia, the pervasive belief in evil spirits and the recent departure
from Marxism has resulted in a country that is more dirty, fearful, and more chaotic
than Liberia. Even animal and child sacrificing still exists here.
It is evident how belief precedes actions but God is at work and with this new
president, things are improving. We pray our mission to bring The Light
to the darkness in this country would also offer The Answer to their
fears. Pray that this present spirit of fear here does not
infiltrate our crew. Our captain has noted the dangers in this country and has
asked the crew NOT to go out at all after the sun sets or before it rises. Pray
for our crews' wisdom and safety.
Glenn has been expertly handling the Mercy Vision project
this year and was even asked recently to join the advisory board of Right to
Sight, an international ophthalmic development organization. Our project
in Benin plans to do 3,000 cataracts, develop 2 missionary eye surgeons for
fulltime work in Africa, see 20,000 eye patients, train 10 Beninese in eye
screening techniques, train 2 to 3 Beninese ophthalmologists in effective
cataract surgical techniques who can then train others, run 4 off-ship
eye clinics, and do 400+ other eye surgeries. Now that's a mouthful and
will keep us depending on God!
We are ecstatic about our eye team this year! This is
our best team ever! We are sure God has put this one together and if any team can
accomplish this task...this one can! But we remember that giving sight to
the blind and healing potentially blinding diseases is secondary to sharing the
truth God has given us. Pray for our translators who we must depend on to
correctly convey what we say. We will be selecting these translators
"For You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten
my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop. By my God I can
leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the
Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. " II Sam.
Glenn and I will be on the ship for almost all of the 10
months that the Africa Mercy will serve Benin. It would be a blessing
to us to hear from any and all of you! Although we have plenty of people
here (400+) we need and enjoy that connection and encouragement from
home. Really...we are never too busy to hear from you! This is
God's mission and we are so happy for you to be a part of it.
By His Grace,
Glenn and Kim Strauss