Sometimes when we come into Gran Canaria for the ship’s refit, the Academy is still in session.

Gran Canaria. This is a volcanic island, part of the Grand Canary Islands. It is about 100 km west of Morocco, though it belongs to Spain. The Spanish came in the late 1400’s to discover this archipelago, full of a tall, blond people—the Guanches. They had no metals, no boats, but had formed a well-organized society. However, they could not win against the superior numbers and metal weaponry of the Spanish. Though the Guanches are all gone now, one island keeps the close name of its grand Guanche King Tinerife, as Tenerife. His family kept the island organized in nine municipalities for a thousand years, an organization still present today.

Whether enjoying the wooded hillsides, rugged volcanic hikes, goat-studded mountainsides, or pretty coastal towns, the crew always enjoyed this mini-trip to Europe. Though all was done in Spanish, the bus system, shops and expressways were easy to maneuver.

While the kids loved all that—especially trips into town to the beach or the ice cream parlor—in 2018 some of the adults worked to allow our elementary kids’ soccer team to play against some local children in a little park close to the port. It was exhilarating!

The “park” was an Astro turf lot with high fences. It was a popular spot for both adult and kid football (US soccer) games. There were no bleachers, but no one cared. Parents and friends stood on the sidelines and yelled and cheered as our Academy kids played. We were even able to get them uniforms in our blue and white school colors! For kids used to having a ship promenade as their sport’s area, this was sheer heaven!

It reflected the welcome that Teneriffe and Gran Canaria always gave both our ship and our Academy. When COVID-19 shut down our outreach in Senegal in March of 2020, Tenerife welcomed the Africa Mercy to come and stay there and work on various refit tasks. We are grateful for their ongoing support!

by Kim Robinson