The One About Advance

It’s time to swap my dinosaur dress for a pencil skirt and my $2 Old Navy flip flops for a pair of black heels. To switch from bargaining for material to negotiating terms and conditions, to pack up my little ship life and switch to living out of a suitcase and to say goodbye again to Benin and all the people I’ve come to love here. Its time again for Advance.

When people ask what Advance is like, I use this example, it’s like making spaghetti into lasagna. It seems like an impossible task but somehow you make it work. And that’s what I love about this job, its taking something so complex and breaking it down and figuring out the best way to put it together. It’s an incredibly wonderful challenge and no two countries are the same so while you’ve got some foundational knowledge, it’s always a little different.

I still remember writing my first letter as the Operations Liaison back in 2014. I felt so overwhelmed and out of my league, what on earth had I signed up for! I didn’t know how to write an official letter let alone to the Minister of Interior (to be honest, at that time I still didn’t understand why he was called a Minister…). I remember thinking, “Who am I to be in this place, surely there are many far more qualified than me…” But the truth that God will equip the called never seemed more true than in that moment. And it continues to ring true each year.

It’s another reminder to me that service looks so different depending on how God has created us. He has not created me to be a surgeon removing a tumor, or a nurse changing a burn dressing, I am not an engineer keeping our AC on or a cook keeping our crew fed. I am just a business woman who said yes and enjoys checking things off the task list.

And while I still have moments where I’m overwhelmed by the responsibility I know God has gone before me and I trust that I am equipped and perfectly prepared for each challenge that comes. I anticipate God to show up in big ways that are far beyond what I expect. He has big dreams for Cameroon and though our Advance team is but a small part, we will play it very, very well.

Cameroon Advance Team

(L-R) Femi, Joan, Caroline, Liz, Nate, Sandrine, KJ, Renee, Manda, Suzanne

Sandrine, Advance Director – oversees the entire project from start to finish, ensures that the Protocol is followed and bridges relationships between the host government and the ship leadership, and keeps us well stocked with Swiss chocolate

KJ, Operations Liaison – responsible for getting the crew into the country, obtaining waivers for specific taxes for containers, registering our fleet of vehicles, securing contracts for internet and mobile phones, maintaining bank accounts and of course making sure we have some parties along the way

Nate, Screening Supervisor – oversees the screening process and will train the 30 local people pre-screening for patients and will help make sure we schedule the right patients for the field service

Femi, Port Liaison – responsible for making sure the ship’s berth space is sufficient and has everything we need… water access points, smooth dock, certifications, security and dockside patient toilets

Liz, Hospital Liaison – responsible for building relationships and partnerships with local hospitals, explaining our programs, finding pharmacies and TB screening clinics, making sure our off site locations are what the ship needs, in short, basically making sure our hospital can be up and running within a couple weeks

Suzanne, Medical Capacity Building Liaison – responsible to make arrangements so the MCB team can begin training courses quickly and effectively, sets up the WHO Checklist project, support and helps prepare our mentoring program

Renee, HR Team Leader – responsible for hiring over 220 nationals as our cooks, cleaners, drivers, translators, teachers, etc

Manda and Joan, HR Assistants – will help review applications and interview more than 400 people for jobs on the ship, then will help provide basic Mercy Ships training and prepare the 220 day crew for their jobs onboard

Caroline, Translator and Accounting – responsible to translate our letters and documents and help us with phone calls, emails and random other needs. Also will take our the team accounting from me when she arrives which I will hand over with a lot of joy and some chocolate.

Follow the adventure on Instagram: KJStella 

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