28 July 2017

FAQs for this season of Cash Family Life

How was the ship?
That's such a big question!  A question we could easily talk about for hours...but, in a cute little nutshell (being eaten by a cute little squirrel), the ship and our time there was... Incredible.  Beautiful. Challenging.  Eye-opening. Not without its frustrations.  Amazing.  We are thankful that we were able to serve on the Africa Mercy for the past 5 years, and we would love to talk more about our experiences...please feel to ask us questions (this may come as a shock, but I'm not so great at just talking for the sake of talking... but I love questions... feel free to ask anything, anytime!).

How has it been for y'all, returning home?
So far, so good.  We have definitely had a bit of a "soft" re-entry as a result of traveling (what a gift that has been - the traveling and the progressive re-entry)...


We are going out of town once more this weekend, and then we will be back - and then the settling-in will really start. We will start to find our rhythms again and figure out what God has for us in the day-to-day and week-to-week schedules of our lives here in Columbus.

Where are you living?
Currently we're staying with Nick's parents (their kindness to let us invade their space has been fantastic).  Over the last few weeks, we have been in-town and out-of-town and in-&-out again...

Then, on August 1st, we will move into our cottage (it's nearly twice the size of our cabin on the ship!) while some work is being done on the main house that we will be moving into.  I am hoping hoping hoping the work on the house will be done by the end of August (trying to stay flexible as I know contractors are juggling lots and not always able to do things as quickly as I might like them done!).  Once the work is done, we will move into the main house and then our cottage will be available to friends and family for visits (come see us!).

the view from our future front porch
Do you need anything?
As cliche as it may sound, we need your prayers - seriously.  We believe in the power of prayer and know that there is nothing better (even if the world might say otherwise!).  Here are just a few specific ways you can pray:

  • for all 5 of us as we continue to transition and settle in.
  • for a successful supporter thank you event on August 6th (you are most welcome to attend!). We long for friends and family to know how grateful we are for the support that has been given these past 5 years.  Come enjoy some desserts and hear about our time with Mercy Ships.  4 pm, Christ Community Church, Columbus, GA.
  • for wisdom as we make a homeschooling plan and as Nick begins his job at Christ Community Church in September.  
  • for the Africa Mercy as it makes it way to Cameroon to start a new field service.
As far as tangible needs, so much has already been given.  If you want to see what is still needed, feel free to check this online list (huge gianormous thanks to Matt, the generous, for coordinating this effort!).

At this point, there is still plenty that we need to procure - cleaning supplies and ketchup and laundry detergent and flour and so many other random items... so the most useful item I can think of would be giftcards (Aldi, Wal-Mart, Chick-Fil-A :) would be the cards that would be used quickest!).  If this is something you're interested in, feel free to email me - diannacash@yahoo.com.  But please don't feel any pressure...

You are also more than welcome to give one last donation to us through Mercy Ships.  Donations will continue to be processed on our behalf until August 31st.

What's been your favorite part of being back?
Caroline - spending time with people I have missed and jumping on trampolines

Emma - what she (caroline) said!

Eli - getting to be on vacation, being with friends, knowing our house will be ready soon

White/Cash kids (or Cash\White kids)
Nick - the familiarity of everything here; seeing long-time friends & loved ones; grass & trees & crickets chirping in the evening & birds singing in the morning

Dianna - going to aldi; sweet and wonderful time with family and good friends (I highly recommend good friends...and good family); reminders that we are right where we are supposed to be

McMichael siblings and Meme
And a few of my not-so-favorite moments:

  • hardly being able to speak when I saw a girl wearing a UGA shirt in the London airport (those emotions just hit you out of nowhere sometimes).
  • the anti-climatic re-entry through airport immigration.  I was hoping for a meaningful "welcome home" or "glad to have you back."  nope... nothing.  ha. 
  • accidentally spending more on one meal than we would for a whole week of groceries (we are re-learning the skill of how to wisely order food in America)

There is so much more that can be said about this transition time - about the importance of preparation (and how wonderful Nick is at that - I [dianna] can say that since I am the one writing this blog!) and the similarities of this transition to the one we made 5 years ago.  A whole blog could be written about how having just one good friend in the place you're transitioning to can make all the difference. We will see if/when the time comes to type more on these topics.

For now, please join us in thanking God for the peacefulness of this transition and His great faithfulness every step of the way! 

Surely there will be more to come.

11 June 2017

a little walk down (prayer card) memory lane

Spring 2012
Lakebottom Park, Columbus, Georgia, USA
Photographer: Ritchie White

Spring 2013
Africa Mercy, Conakry, Guinea
Photographer: Suzanne Scheumann

Fall 2014
On the Dock, Tamatave, Madagascar
Photographer: Catrice Wulf

Spring 2016
SPAT Port, Tamatave, Madagascar
Photographer: Suzanne Veltjens (artist formerly known as Suzanne Scheumann)

Can we have a prayer card for living and serving in Columbus, Georgia?  Maybe everyone should have a prayer card - a Christian's call to live and serve on a ship in Africa is no more or less significant than a Christian's call to live and serve wherever it is that God has them living and serving...but if everyone had a prayer card, we'd all need industrial sized fridges to put them on. 

Card or no card, we're greedy when it comes to prayer - we love all the prayer support we can get....and we are so very grateful for all the prayers that have been prayed on our behalf these past 5 years.  Please keep praying for us...and let us know how we can be praying for you

Surely there will be more to come.

20 May 2017

life lately.

A few pictures from our life lately...we've been...

Talking about transition
what do we want to take with us in our "backpack"? (emma's response:  "i want to take Africa with me.") what do we want to leave behind?

yay duck & yuck duck - so much of life is a mixture of the good and not so good

transition ladder
 Packing things up
priceless possessions (depending on who you ask)

sending luggage with generous crew mates (one of which is going to be living in Columbus soon!!!)
 Making lists and packing more luggage

 Getting sweet notes
 Writing notes
 Having a Cabin Sale

Offering some of the things that we can't take with us to friends on the ship
this pallet star is so special for so many reasons....i was thinking of making it my carry on item. 
Taking down the wall of love
we're so thankful for the family and friends who have walked with us so faithfully throughout our lives - and especially in these past 5 years.
 getting supporter thank you's ready
#spoileralert
We're so thankful for peace.  Peace in the midst of preparing to go.  Peace as we think about being back in Georgia.  Peace in the good-byes.  Peace in the packing.  Peace. Peace. Peace.

Surely there will be more to come.  

26 April 2017

What do you think you'll miss most? (and a little of what we won't!)

When I asked our children what they'll miss most about the ship, each one's first response had to do with their friends.


It goes without saying - but we're saying it anyway - the relationships we've formed have been the most valuable part of this journey.  God has blessed each of us with various friendships throughout our time onboard the Africa Mercy...some left us waving on the dock and some we'll be leaving behind....some friendships started 5 years ago at the beginning of this journey, while some friendships been formed in just the past few months.  

It's true, "the best ships are friendships" - and this ship has provided us with some friendships that are going to last this lifetime and on into eternity. We have no doubt that we'll be hosting people in Columbus and making plans to visit friends in various places all over the globe in the coming years.  
As we've been thinking about what we'll miss most, we've also been thinking of things we won't miss...

Eli
won't miss:

  • firedrills
  • having to walk up so many flights of stairs
  • life jackets

will miss most:

  • seeing his friends all the time (how easy it is to get together with friends)
  • amount/variety of food offered at each meal
  • how close everything is (we haven't had to drive to school or church...)

Nick
won't miss:

  • the process that is required in order to take a car out into town (looking forward to 2 steps:  get in the car and go.)
  • lack of green space

will miss most:

  • getting to follow Jesus with Christians from so many different cultures (35+ nations at any given time)
  • maintenance needs being so easily and quickly (and freely) taken care of
  • being so close to the ocean


Emma
won't miss

  • all the good-byes
  • the loud alarms
  • the cold air conditioning

will miss most:

  • mid-ships and the games on the computers
  • the academy
  • my mom and dad's bed -it's comfortable. 

Caroline
won't miss:

  • small bedroom
  • getting seasick

will miss most:

  • how close everything is
  • spaghetti in the dining room

Dianna
won't miss:

  • the sound of the EVAC system
  • having to "get ready" before going to the dining room to get breakfast

will miss most:

  • being able to do 4-5 loads of laundry at one time
  • hearing so many accents
It's all a bit bittersweet - bittersweet makes for good cooking chocolate...but it's not always fun in life.

(and my apologies to the friends who's pictures aren't on this blog...you are loved and treasured just as much as the ones pictured!  These are just the pictures that I happened to have easy access to....)

Surely there will be more to come. 

12 April 2017

numbers and preparation.

Our Group Managing Director, Donovan Palmer, likes to use numbers.  It's become a bit of his tradition to start any time of sharing with "___ (insert number) of days until the new ship is ready." or "we're on day #____ of the Field Service."

In honor of his leadership, character and kindness, some Cash Family numbers:

  • 29 days until Nick & Dianna's 15th wedding anniversary (May 11, 2017)
  • 49 days until the end of the school year (May 31, 2017)
  • 68 days until we depart the Africa Mercy (June 19, 2017) 
  • 90 days until we arrive in Columbus, Georgia (July 11, 2017)

While we are preparing to move back to Georgia, there are plenty of people who are preparing for the next field service in Cameroon.
The Advance Team - some are already in Cameroon; others will be heading there soon
These screening posters that have been distributed throughout the country of Cameroon have been serving as a beautiful reminder that preparation is important and is pretty much continually going on.


These posters have also been reminding me that the work of Mercy Ships doesn't depend on us.  At all. Some of you who love us very much might like to argue that point :)  but the fact is that we've done what God has asked us to do for the time frame He has asked us to do it.  And that is enough.  And once we depart the Africa Mercy, God will continue His work in, on, and through the vessel - and in, on, and through us.

The other night, Emma was quite sad. She was sharing about how hard it is to say good-bye.  In an effort to reassure her and help her sort through her feelings, I said, "You know, when we move back to Georgia, we won't have nearly the number of good-byes that we've had on the ship."

She said, "You mean, we won't be leaving again?"  

"No...we won't...and we probably won't even travel outside of the country for a while."

"But we have to leave again, don't we?"

"No...we're moving back to stay..."

"But Mama...we're missionaries...and missionaries leave their country."

"Oh, sweet girl...sometimes missionaries leave their country....but what makes someone a missionary is that they love God and want to share His love with others....we're going to be missionaries in Columbus, Georgia.  That's where God wants us...the only reason we'd leave is if He says to...and we don't think that will happen - at least not for a long time."
A Papa and his 3 children who all received eye surgeries

A recent Dress Ceremony celebrating successful obstetric fistula surgeries.  (fun fact: the OBF surgeon - Dr. Andy Norman, upper left corner - has roots in Lincolnton, GA!)
It's been a privilege to be here on the Africa Mercy these past five years...loving and serving God...loving and serving others...trying to be obedient to be and do all that He has asked of us....and now we get the chance to do more of the same in Columbus.

For now we'll keep preparing...slowly sending our things back in small packages with crew who have extra room/weight in their luggage...figuring out who on the ship needs what of our things that we're giving away...already in awe of how God is preparing the way for us (a post on that to come!)...seeking to finish our 68 days in this place well (this week that looks like orchestrating and facilitating all things Easter for the crew of the Africa Mercy!).

Surely there will be more to come.

05 March 2017

Internet Official: An Announcement from the Cash Family

I suppose it's time to make things internet official.  We've shared this with our friends, family, and supporters and we're pretty sure most of our Mercy Ships Community/Family is aware...  but just in case there's someone out there that doesn't know -- our time on the Africa Mercy is drawing to a close.
OUR FIRST SAIL! Heading to GUINEA. 
Here's the scoop in bullet form (though each bullet could easily be turned into a blog post of its own):

  • Back in 2012 we committed to Mercy Ships for 4-5 years (though when we arrived we realized that kind of commitment was unusual -- most people sign up for 2 years or less...  or for an indefinite amount of time.  Nick has felt pretty strongly about a 4-5 year time frame for us all along...  but I wasn't so sure -- I kind-of imagined us being here for much longer...  I imagined our kids graduating from the onboard Academy...  but God did what He's so faithful to do -- He gets us all on the same page.)
  • We knew that the end of this field service (Benin) would be 5 years...
  • All along we've been saying "God, we just want to be where you want us" (that's what got us into all this in the first place :-) ) -- so we were certainly open to staying...  and open to going....
  • This past summer we spent significant time praying and asking God for clear direction as to whether we should extend our 5-year commitment with Mercy Ships.
  • He brought us all to the same place of knowing that this would be our last field service.  
  • In June we will be leaving the Africa Mercy and heading back to Columbus, Georgia. 

Easter in CONGO
When God was calling us into Mercy Ships, there was a moment where He used a song to confirm that He was indeed calling us out of Teen Advisors as much as He was calling us in to Mercy Ships.  There was a line in the song that said "The one who called you in will call you out."  And, even though I've never heard the song since that day pulling out of the driveway at Christ Community Church (honestly, I've wondered if it was actually a song or something that God did special just for me), He's using the same lyrics to call us out of Mercy Ships.

It's interesting to try and wrap our minds around the "lasts" -- we enjoyed our last Christmas on the ship a few months ago...  we just had our last Ash Wednesday Service...  we are in the midst of our last season of Lent on the ship...  soon the kids will be in their last quarter as students in the onboard Academy.  Eventually we will attend our last Community Meeting...  respond to our last fire drill...  lead our last Worship Gathering...  host our last meeting with the Chaplaincy Team...  enjoy our last waffle Friday...  and, finally, take our last walk down the gangway.
Visiting the Lemur Park in MADAGASCAR
With the short-term nature of service onboard and all the constant coming & going of Crew Members, we've been saying good-bye ever since we arrived in this place...  so that's nothing new...  but it's a different kind of good-bye when you're the one doing the leaving.

There is a deep sense of peace surrounding this transition.  Peace about finishing here.  Peace about moving back to Columbus.  Peace that He is with us and that He has good plans for us!

We know that transition can be difficult -- and we're going into it with eyes wide open -- but, so far, pretty much everything about this transition has had a sweet peace about it. We're not sure why but God is making the way so smooth and we are so very grateful.  We are absolutely amazed at the things that are already lined up / are lining up for us in Columbus.
Sharing a meal during Aunt Amy's visit in BENIN
Our hope and heart is to finish well here on the Africa Mercy.  Ever since we made our decision that this field service would be our last, we've done our best to stay fully invested and to serve God and His beloved people here -- and maybe because we know it is our last, we've been able to stay fully invested

Please pray for us that we finish our commitment on the Africa Mercy with excellence & effectiveness.  And thank you.  Thank you again and again and again, for making it possible for us to be here!  Your financial support, prayers, encouragement, friendship, and love have made the past 5 years (and really our lives!) possible.

Surely there will be more to come.
A glimpse into what's next: GEORGIA, USA

28 February 2017

AFM youth retreat!

"It was great until the jellyfish came."  That was Eli's response when I asked him about the youth retreat that he went on last weekend.  

The youth leaders (who are REMARKABLE) organized an overnight campout for the youth of the AFM.  They ventured a not very far distance away to a place called "El Dorado Beach" and braved a night away with a group of 6th-12th grade students.  (all photos thanks to Jenny!)

Here are some of Eli's thoughts on it all (I asked questions, he talked, I typed...and asked more questions):


After we left the ship we went straight to the place we were staying and set up our tents. Throughout the weekend we had a lot of free time to play on the beach and swim in the ocean.  The youth leaders had organized some games and we swam a lot.

What was the retreat speaker like? 
There was a guy named Justin (black shirt and grey shorts in the picture above) with us on the retreat – he’s from the US and is living here in Benin with his wife, Rachel.  They work at an orphanage a couple of hours away called Arbre de vie.  Justin talked to us a few times about hope. 

Did anything in particular stand out to you about hope?
The main thing I learned about hope is that we don’t always get what we want but we can still trust that God will provide for us.



What was your favorite part? 
The bonfire was probably my favorite part.  We had s’mores and we had fun being together.  We sat around the campfire and worshipped…and then we ended up singing fun songs.   Yes, I like the bonfire…and breakfast..and lunch…and having my shirt off most of the weekend...and sleeping at a table.

You slept at a table? Why did you sleep at a table? 
Because I didn’t want to sleep in the tent because my friend Mark was already in our tent and the tents weren’t really big enough for 2…unless you’re really snuggling and I wasn’t willing to do that.  So I fell asleep in a chair, at a table.  I woke up when the sun was rising and it got bright – probably about 7.
Any other thoughts? 
We had one of our Gurkas with us, Dil.  He stayed up all night. 

We had toast and egg casserole for breakfast.  Then we had more free time.  I swam out to the platform in the water – that’s when the jelly fish showed up.  It was really annoying and difficult to swim back to the shore. Nobody got stung...but I didn't like it. At all.  

After swimming back we had one more session and some lunch and then it was time to pack up and head back to the ship. 

Were you glad to be back on the ship? 
Yes...but I wish the retreat could have been longer – I was really enjoying myself.  I was glad to be back because there aren’t jellyfish on the ship…though there are some in the water just outside the ship.  But that’s ok because I don’t swim in that water.  

There ya have it.  A sixth grader's take on the AFM Youth Retreat!  

And now, a word about/for the youth leaders:
We can't say THANK YOU enough to the youth leaders on the ship.  These ladies and gentlemen volunteer on top of their volunteering...they give of their free time to invest in the youth...they are certainly role models and tremendous examples to the youth - and really to all the rest of the crew as well. 
Ryan, Ruben, Tyler, Keverly, Anna and Jenny - Thank you.  Thank you for investing in Eli...and in our family as a whole - by investing in him you are investing in all of us!  Thank you for being willing to share life with our students and for investing in them with your time,energy, efforts, prayers, care and love.  You are amazing individuals - and a FABULOUS TEAM.  Nick and I would be more than happy if our kids' lives ended up looking something like any of yours -- young adults loving and serving God.  Young adults investing in those coming up behind them.  Young adults who know how to love, laugh, dance and enjoy snacks (among other things).  

Surely there will be more to come.