Are We Unique?

I was asked the question above, this week, as we travelled to the other Gulf Islands. As I paused to contemplate that question, I was interrupted by someone else. However, as I think back on the question & my first thoughts, I was thinking about all the things that we have in common.

Many of us who live on the Gulf Islands have a very independent streak, non-conformists, so I was wondering about the differences while trying to explain that we seem to have more in common.

I then read this:

“Ancient Hinduism has long focused on the expression ‘Atman(self) is Brahmin (God).’ This simply states that at the deepest core of who we are, we encounter the realization of our oneness with all things: we are a part of God. The innermost self is the outermost force. This doesn’t mean that you are God, but it does mean that God is you! The words used to explain this vary from person to person, but the ‘experience’ of awakening to this truth is universal.

All of the great spiritual practices have the power to help us reach this point of identity & transcendence in which we realize that we’re a sacred being. They help us understand that every struggle is an opportunity to find a deeper quality of freedom. Every challenge brings a lesson & a step closer to realizing that there’s a force within us that is eternal, indestructible, & beautiful beyond words. After such a realization, we are never the same again. The false self burns away in the light of the innermost spirit, & the soul begins to shine.” ‘Return To The Sacred’ Jonathan Ellerby

‘This doesn’t mean that you are God, but it does mean that God is you!’

So we are individual but one?

‘The false self burns away in the light of the innermost spirit.’

The false self, ego?

We are co-creators but we want to go it alone.

How can we ever be comfortable with our false self?

Wouldn’t it make sense to get in touch with our underlying eternality?

If we could, might the opening question be irrelevant?

Can we ‘see’ through the fog of physicality?

Does our mirror reflect the ‘soul’?

Who are ‘we’?


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Soul Music


I was listening to some music the other day, soul music, which led me to looking up the definition of soul: “The soul – in many traditional spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions – is the incorporeal (and immortal) essence of a person, living thing, or object.” Wikipedia

I then reread a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “It is as though in solitude the soul develops senses which we hardly know in everyday life.”

Picking up Charlotte Gordon’s book, ‘The Woman Who Named God’, she references Adam & Noah: “It seems possible that God had learned something from His experience with these two earlier partners in creation.”

I don’t know about you but this last quote jumped out at me. How could God learn anything from one of us human’s? I thought (s)he was Divine, all knowing?

By the way, is God someone/thing we meet in a future place & time, the Source of all that is today, a part of our being, the soul, or all three?

Is this trip a circle?

Getting back to God learning something from us, Charlotte Gordon does go on to refer to Adam & Noah as ‘partners in creation’. Is that creative ability or instinct, which is part of all of us, connected directly to the Source?

When we tap that source within, are we tapping our divinity? Is it like connecting a battery & allowing the current to flow through us?

If we are tapping the creative Source, then anything is possible. We can direct the energy to positive or negative results. We use our mind & emotions as the steering wheel.

With this co-creative ability, we might want to watch out what we think. Is our soul really ours?

Are we a robot run by an unseen force? Do we have free will?

If we can cut the connection, then I believe we have a say in the outcome. Dust to dust is the trip our physicality takes. Getting in touch with our soul might make for a longer trip, Wikipedia’s definition of soul above had in brackets the word ‘immortal’.

Music has a way of resonating, but I’m not into soul music yet. Maybe I should dig a little deeper, discover the real beat.

Is it the beat of my heart?


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Not Dressed Up…and Someplace to Go!

Not Dressed Up…and Someplace to Go!


Adventure after adventure seems to pile up here in Togo.
Last weekend a group of 15 of us ventured to Ghana to attend the wedding of my cabin mate Annika from Germany, to Idrissa from Sierra Leone. It was a big deal trying to get there. First of all, we all had to get Visas, which included:  colored photos; a trip downtown to take in the visas and a trip to pick them up again. Did you know that Canadians and those from the UK get a cheaper Visa fee than the rest of the world?
We left at 6:30 am on the day of the wedding. First we walked to the local taxi stand…then hailed and negotiated the fee for multiple cabs to take us to the border. There we had two check points to cross, photos taken, passports stamped, room after room to fill out paper work etc. How many times does one need to say “I am going to a wedding in Ghana”?

We then entered two vehicles (one of which had been pre-arranged…how did we get so much luggage?), and the journey really began. In Ghana there is about 50 miles or more with huge speed bumps every ¼ mile. Our driver would go incredibly fast…only to screech to a halt…to progress over the speed bump at a snail’s pace… to drive like a maniac to the next speed screech to a halt etc. etc. I wanted to scream “Stop that”, but clearly that was not the polite thing to do.

The scenery was not that fantastic, but as we got closer to the city (3 hours later) we encountered an incredible traffic jam. At this point, our driver assumed the role of the chauffeur from a James Bond movie…dodging this way and that…changing lanes…squealing tires…back roads…back lanes..onto the highway again etc. We decided the best way to cope was to simply close our eyes. As the minutes passed, the anxious groom kept calling the cell phone of our driver…adding to the angst.
The wedding was at 12:00 noon at the Registrar’s office. As 11:30 approached, we realized that changing our clothes into wedding attire, was simply not going to happen…we would be lucky to make it at all! As 11:55 came, our van screamed into the parking lot, and a sweaty, dusty bunch fell out of the van and into the wedding chapel. Wait…you must be ‘pinned’ with a piece of cedar complete with ribbons to support the entrepreneur at the wedding facility…don’t forget to pay$!

The room for the ceremony was split in the middle by an aisle. I realized with horror that we were sitting down as someone else’s service was going on. When that one was over, we were directed to move to the other side of the room, and our ceremony began. For a civil service, it was impressive how the magistrate ensured that both parties actually wanted to get married….as “This is a serious thing, don’t you know”.  In the middle of our service, the door flung open and the next candidates strolled in. I am sure they wondered what kind of vagrants this mixed marriage couple had invited. When I say that the Africans were dressed up..well there are just no words to describe their outfits.  The African bride herself was in a very fussy traditional western wedding dress. All of the women sported large and fancy head coverings. The fathers of the bride and groom were wrapped in African cloth, similar to a toga- in tribal style.  And us? Well sandals, running shoes, shorts, and T shirts just about sums it all up! After the ceremony we stood gathered on the grounds for pictures, and were serenaded by yet another creative businessman who played “Here Comes the Bride” on his harmonica!

We were able to change after the wedding, and we all cleaned up well for the reception. It was held at a very western hotel. The party was a great mix of western ways combined with African drumming and dancing. There were over 8 countries represented. We stayed overnight at a Baptist Mission house. The next morning the bride’s Aunt prepared a lovely bunch for all of us. It was just so normal to sit in the breakfast area in sunlight and take time over a cup of coffee. To be able to hear the birds singing and not the sound of clacking bowls and loud conversations was heavenly indeed-almost brought me to tears!
We returned to the ship that evening. As we crossed back through the Ghana border, the guard I had seemed very interested in who married whom. When I said it was a German woman that married a man from Sierra Leone, the guard said, “Oh, the man has money now”. I could not resist adding, “More importantly, he has love”.

Since serving on the Africa Mercy is much more than weekend adventures, I share this story of a great re-cycling project here on the ship. It is great to see how many things can be recycled in Togo…not because of environmental concerns, but rather out of need.   Cast away cans are made into crafts, plastic bags into purses and bags, and even tires into shoes.

“Necessity is the Mother of invention”, so the saying goes. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the physiotherapy department onboard the Africa Mercy. When patients’ legs are put in casts, they can’t wear shoes – but they can’t go barefoot, either. The Rehabilitation Team has found a suitable, inexpensive, and easily available way to give each patient the foot protection they need during their recovery. The answer is . . . tire shoes.
Anama Latta, a day-worker in physiotherapy, is responsible for producing shoes from tires in various sizes to accommodate patients. He gathers old tires from motorbikes and begins by removing the wire inside with a knife. Then he measures for sizes – 10″ for large, 6″ for medium, and 4″ for small. Using a box cutter, he cuts incisions to mark where he will use the scissors to cut through. Next, he cuts three holes on each side. Then proper lengths of polypropalene ribbon are used to tie the shoes on. Anama says the tire shoes are stronger than other footgear they might use, and they provide more protection on the sides of the foot. “When I was a child in Togo, I used to wear shoes like these to go to my Daddy’s farm,” said Anama.”They protect better than flip-flops, and the cast doesn’t get wet.”Tire shoes last longer than ordinary shoes, and patients can walk easily in them. Anama says he enjoys making the tire shoes. “This is one way I can help the patients and the Rehabilitation Team, and I’m happy to make them.”
I wonder if Canada’s tire re-cycling tax pays for tire shipments to Togo?

May you always be well dressed for the adventures that await you!


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Reality, the Truth, Get Real

What is reality? A question I have thought a lot about lately. Isn’t the world, the way we ‘see’ it?

Marco Tempest might expand the meaning of the word reality:

Don’t kids have an imagination that stretches even what Marco can conjure? Sam, our grandson, was 5 yesterday & he had everyone dressed as Pirates, a world quite real to him.

“The reason we don’t solve problems is the answers interfere with our concepts.” Samuel Lewis

Each of us perceives the world in a different way. That is our reality.

Meatloaf sings, “No matter what they teach you, what you believe is true.”

When you go to this next video hit skip the ad & start the video at 2 min 30 seconds for the words (or you can watch the whole thing)

How can we actually get along as a Universal family if we all ‘see’ things differently?

“Only when we begin to think as an extended global family, that not only includes our own species but all of our fellow travelers in the evolutionary sojourn on Earth, will we be able to save our common biosphere community & renew the planet for future generations.” Jeremy Rifkin ‘The Third Industrial Revolution’

So what we believe is true, what we perceive we believe to be true, how does love enter the equation?

John Lennon:

“Love is real, real is love

Love is feeling, feeling love

Love is wanting to be loved

Love is touch, touch is love”

So do our feelings reveal reality or do they distort the real world?

So was Meatloaf right?

In case you missed the lyrics to his song here they are:

“No matter what they tell us

No matter what they do

No matter what they teach us

What we believe is true


No matter what they call us

However they attack

No matter where they take us

We’ll find our own way back


I can’t deny what I believe

I can’t be what I’m not

I know I’ll love forever

I know, no matter what


If only tears were laughter

If only night was day

If only prayers were answered

Then we would hear God say


No matter what they tell you

No matter what they do

No matter what they teach you

What you believe is true


And I will keep you safe and strong

And sheltered from the storm

No matter where it’s barren

A dream is being born


No matter who they follow

No matter where they lead

No matter how they judge us

I’ll be everyone you need


No matter if the sun don’t shine

Or if the skies are blue

No matter what the end is

My life began with you


I can’t deny what I believe

I can’t be what I’m not

I know, I know

I know this love’s forever


That’s all that matters now

No matter what…”

This song was actually written by Andrew Lloyd Webber for his musical “Whistle Down the Wind”.        What is The Truth?

Only time will tell.

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The Homeless Boy

This week a number of challenges arose that made me question my ability to meet them.

The first thought that hit me was ‘I won’t be able to……….’, but I won’t bore you with the details as you can probably fill in the blank from your own life experiences.

I decided to take some time to sit quietly & read thus running into the following quotes:

“The greater danger is not that our hopes are too high & we fail to reach them. It’s that they are too low, & we do.” Michelangelo

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams & endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau

“What is now proved, was once only imagined.” William Blake

This last quote led right into: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

This quote came from an amazing young lady on the following video: enjoy

One of the books that I sat down with this week was the ‘I Am Discourses’. If you are not familiar with those just google them.

The essence, what I believe, I am.

But does that really apply to me, aren’t I limited by circumstances that others don’t have to face?

How can I ever get beyond the difficult circumstances & challenges that are unique to me.

Well, you probably have been wondering why I titled these thoughts, The Homeless Boy.

Should I say enjoy?

On the other side of every problem is an opportunity, the trick is to ‘see’ the other side.


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Up the River with a Pole

Up the River with a Pole

Hello from the Africa Mercy! It is hard to believe that our time here is nearly half over. Work in the sterilizing room continues to go well, and weekends have been providing some very interesting experiences.

Last weekend I was asked to join a small group to go hiking just outside of Lomé. We drove for about twenty minutes and hiked a short way to fields which stretched far ahead in the distance. The plan was to hike from this location to Lake Togo…but we stopped short when we discovered a river, surrounded by marshland.

In the river was a huge dugout canoe, filled with people, their wears and even a motorcycle! It was built out of one log from the Balboa tree – a tree which grows incredibly straight, and very large in circumference. We talked to the boat owner about being able to hike through the fields to Lake Togo. This caused an uproar of laughter, as the locals envisioned the white folks trudging through the marshes. A few of our group seemed bent on walking, but the thought was cut short by the word ‘crocodile’.

Negotiations then began to secure seats for nine in the canoe.  I was not sure why we could not wait for the next boat (it turned out there were many) but we all stumbled our way into our seats, and sat four to a bench. The water was shallow at points and we kept hitting bottom. The ‘driver’ had only a long pole to propel us through the water, and seemed quite upset with us – although we paid much more for our ride than the average passenger. He spoke with a very loud and angry voice. His companion told him to be quiet… “After all it is business…you should be thankful”, he stated.

We travelled for 30 minutes up the polluted and meandering river. At one point some passengers farther back must have shifted their weight, and water poured over the side and down into my pants. I tried to sit as far to one side as possible…but …oh well, it will dry!
We landed upriver and began our two hour hike on a completely flat and dusty road (oh for the hikes in BC!). The road led us to a well developed village complete with schools, medical clinic, churches, mosques and cemeteries. Apparently there was a road into this village from the north, but most folks without transport take the water route. We met many children who shouted “Wabo” (Yabo)..meaning white man. People came outside of their huts to see the white people who were dumb enough to walk in the scorching mid day sun….and my, was it hot!

After two hours, we back tracked to the river bank. There we met Mister Grumpy (now happy that we had returned to his boat for our homeward ride). I was dismayed when we seemed to cut ahead of an elderly gentleman and his wife who were also waiting to take the canoe transport. He looked perfectly resigned to the fact that in Africa, the white man seems to always go first! Despite questions and then protest, one can never seem to negotiate these things…they simply fall out that way.

There seems no better way to convey to you the stories of our work here, than by sharing a patient’s story.

Wapondi’s Circle of Love

There is a wide circle of love surrounding Wapondi Napo. Because Wapondi was born with a cleft lip, her family is very protective of her. However, in Bassar, their home community, there were some who were afraid of Wapondi. They thought she was not good for the village.

Soon after Wapondi was born, her mother and father traveled to the nearest hospital in Socado, hoping to find a way for their daughter’s cleft lip to be repaired. There they waited in admissions for three days. They were given were some liquids and were sent away, being told that there was no treatment for their little girl in Togo.

While this news was difficult to hear, Wapondi’s family accepted the condition. They focused on taking care of their baby and giving her all of the love and care she needed to thrive. One evening, while the family was watching television, they saw an announcement that Mercy Ships was offering a free medical screening for many conditions, including cleft lip. Wapondi’s parents   immediately agreed that they had to take her to Lomé for the screening.

The family made the eight-hour journey to Lomé, and arrived at the screening site with Wapondi at 4:00 in the morning. They joined an already long line, but were seen and accepted for surgery. Once onboard the Africa Mercy, Wapondi’s cleft lip was successfully repaired by Dr. Gary Parker, Mercy Ship’s surgeon and Medical Director. Within a few days, eighteen month old Wapondi was clapping and giggling with her usual energy.

The family can now return home to Bassar ,to a very special celebration in honor of Wapondi’s transformation. The family is thankful to everyone on Mercy Ships who added Wapondi to their own wide circle of love and caring.

May your pole always be long enough…as you ply your rivers of life.



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