24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

I've had Bebo Norman's "Come & Worship" song stuck in my head for 2 days now (if a song has to be stuck, that's a good one...much better than "All My Ex's live in Texas" -- not sure why in the world that song gets stuck in my head...but it does.).  "Come & Worship" got stuck in my head last year, too...here's a link to that blog post: Come & Worship
It's been a sweet advent season for the Cash Family.  We've had official celebrations with the Dutch (Sinter Klaas), Swedish (Santa Lucia) (here's a link to a great blog about Santa Lucia) and Australians (candles by carol light) ...we've made cookies...we've wrapped presents (and been quite creative in our wrapping)...we've gotten to participate in some projects where serving and blessing others was the focus....there's been an Academy Christmas Play and a production of the Nutcracker....we've gotten to participate in and enjoy special Advent services every Sunday evening.  It's good to celebrate Jesus' birthday and to do it in meaningful and purposeful ways...  
Here are a few pictures from the past few weeks:

Caroline packing Care Bags for some of the children who are visited/loved on through Mercy Ministries
A whole box of bags!  Over 600 were put together for babies in orphanages, kids in hospitals, children at the deaf school, and for women and men in prison.
 Cookie Making:

Our Nativity Scene! 
Australian Tradition of a Bar B Que, Candles & Carols
Yes, it's certainly been a special Christmas Season...but it's been bittersweet at times....missing others and knowing that others miss us - it's a positive and negative.  It's good to know we are missed and loved and thought of...but it's hard to be missed - and hard to miss others!  We're very thankful for blogs, emails, facebook, skype, letters, packages, phone calls and the like that help keep us connected. Thankful that we can be close in heart and spirit even though we're an ocean apart.  It sounds like such a cliche'...but cliches are cliches for a reason. 
Something we've all missed is getting Christmas cards -- we're thinking the ones that were sent will show up mid to late January (if you happen to have an extra, feel free to go ahead and send it!). The "Christmas Container" is somewhere nearby - but not on the ship...but it's coming!  So we'll just keep on celebrating as long as it takes... :) 
Christmas Greetings from the Cash Kids:
Emma: "yay!!  Christmas!!" (then she sang "Twinkle, Twinkle letter star)
Caroline:"May you give lots of presents & get lots of present!  Happy Christmas!"
Eli:   "Enjoy getting presents...but know that the real meaning of Christmas is giving.  God gave us Jesus - the best gift!  Enjoy your Christmas!  Have fun with your family!"

From Cabin 7219 aboard the Africa Mercy off the coast of Guinea, Africa...Merry Christmas & Many Blessings!!  May you know the peace, joy, presence, love and generosity of our God this Christmas...and always. 
Surely there will be more to come.

17 December 2012

Too wonderful not to share!

The following picture and writing is from our friend Michelle's blog,  Here's a link to it: micey's blog (she posts something pretty much every day...it's a neat way to keep up with the goings on of the ship - especially the OR since that's where she works) 

"Today, there was a dress ceremony on B ward. It’s to celebrate a VVF patient becoming dry. Every lady receives a new dress to go home. It’s one of the most special celebrations on the ship. Each lady has a chance to share her story and give thanks and praise to God. I was able to see a bit of the ceremony. One lady told us how she had been wet for over 20 years. She thanked God and she thanked us. Then she sang a beautiful song. Then she cried tears of joy and relief. We cried with her. Another girl told us she was wet for 18 months. She was at university to be a doctor then, but she dropped out because of the shame. Now she can go back to school. The last story was from another older woman. She searched many hospitals for a cure. No one could help her. Then she had a bad accident on top of it all. She lost everything. She was here in Conakry trying to find money to go home when she heard we were coming. Now she is healed. She began a song and humbly bowed low to the ground to walk among us as she said thank you. As she passed my way I touched her back and thought, I should be thanking you sweet lady. God is so good."

Our friend Stephanie Fiduk is the VVF team leader.  Here's a link to her thoughts on the dress ceremony:  stephanie's blog

To God be the Glory, great things He has done!

Surely there will be more to come.

14 December 2012

Fooday Friday!!!!

Just wanted to share this story of one of God's sweet children named Fooday.  It was written by the talented and fabulous Mercy Ship's writer, Joanne Thibault.  The pictures are courtesy of ship photographer Debra Bell.  This is just one of MANY lives that God is bring hope and healing to through His work aboard the Africa Mercy.  To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Volunteer nurse Melinda Kaney joyfully exclaimed, “The eight-plate surgery to straighten Fooday’s legs worked wonderfully!” Aladji, Fooday’s father, was so grateful that his eldest son’s journey to healing was complete. Fooday would now return to school and perhaps, one day, be a teacher – something his mother Yakha dreamed about for her son.

Fooday’s start in life was tenuous, Aladji recalls. “Fooday was born prematurely. He was so tiny and weak, we didn’t think he would live. All of our family and the neighbors prayed for Fooday to pull through. By the grace of God, he did.”

When Fooday began walking at eighteen months, his parents noticed that his legs were bowed. The family’s meager income wasn’t enough to pay for the herbal poultices offered by the traditional healer. In desperation, Aladji resorted to beggging to raise money for Fooday’s sessions. Sadly, the traditional medicine did not help – the abnormal curve in Fooday’s legs worsened.

Yakha explains how much they worried for their son. “Fooday had pain that kept him crying all night. But worse was the shame and hurt that I knew Fooday would go through with bent legs.” Yakha’s fears were well-founded. When Fooday started school at age five, other children continually laughed at him. After a few steps Fooday’s unsteady gait would falter, and he would fall. With each tumble Fooday faced another barrage of insults. Aladji and Yakha were heartbroken. The only safe place for Fooday was at home. He could no longer go to school.

Praying continually, Yakha and Aladji asked God for a miracle of healing for Fooday. Aladji clearly recalls the morning that their prayers were answered. “There was an announcement on the radio that a hospital ship was coming to provide free medical care. I heard that the hospital did surgeries for children with bent legs. Yakha and I were overjoyed.”

Within three weeks Fooday was onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship for his free surgery. A small metal plate, in the shape of a figure eight, was attached to the outside of each of his leg bones. The eight-plate, designed to slowly correct the bow in Fooday’s legs, would also allow the bones to grow straight in the future. When successful, this technique avoids a much larger operation that requires the bones to be broken and reset.

Now, only one step remained until everyone could breathe a complete sigh of relief. After doing their straightening job, the eight-plates would need to be removed. Otherwise, the legs would bow out the other way! So, over the next eighteen months, while back at home, Fooday’s legs gradually straightened. His eventual return to school was a cause for amazement as his schoolmates could already see a dramatic change in his legs.

At the eighteen-month point, Aladji and Fooday eagerly travelled to the Africa Mercy hospital, now docked in Conakry, Guinea, for his final surgery.
Fooday and other hospital patients enjoy a Bible story while staying at the Mercy Ships HOPE Center, which provides lodging for out-of-town patients before and after surgery.

Fooday, his father and other hospital patients enjoy nutritious meals while staying at the HOPE Center
Volunteer Nurse Melinda doing an assessment of Fooday's progress
Fooday’s reunion with nurse Melinda was filled with excitement, hugs and giggles. “Melinda took such good care of me when I had my first surgery, and I always hoped I would see her again. Now, here she is giving me the best hug of my life!” he declared.

As it turned out, Fooday’s eight-plate removal was not the only step in store for the family. To Aladji’s surprise, Mercy Ships had a greatly appreciated treatment in store for him too. For years Aladji had focused entirely on Fooday’s healing, while ignoring the pain of his own four decayed teeth and infected gums. At the same time that Fooday was in the Africa Mercy hospital, Aladji had an appointment at the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic. Aladji, with the tormenting dental pain completely gone, shared a warm smile with Fooday back at the ship. Aladji whispered in his son’s ear, “Fooday, thanks to Mercy Ships, it is happy teeth for me and back to school for you!! God is good!”           

Dancing! Rejoicing! Look what God has done
Now Fooday can run, jump and play with straight and steady legs. He can return to school and be accepted by the other children. Fooday’s mother, Yakha, prays for her son to one day become a teacher.

Fooday showing off his straight-as-an-arrow leg to his proud papa!
Please pray for Fooday and his father if God brings them to mind.  May God do mighty things and bring much attention to His kingdom through this little boy and his story. 
Surely there will be more to come! 

04 December 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It doesn't "feel" much like Christmas (but isn't that one of the greatest lessons in life, we can't completely trust or rely on our "feelings"???  at least that's been a big lesson for me...but let's put that bunny back in its cage/burrow/hole/home before it gets too far down the trail...) -- regardless of feelings, it's begining to look alot like Christmas around the Africa Mercy....and, truth be told, it really is starting to feel like Christmas, too.

The Cash Crew decorated our cabin last week...complete with Christmas music and a lively game of Christmas tag (and Christmas dancing, of course!)...

Our very own St. Nicholas hanging up the fireplace
(never done that one before....)

"Putting up the Christmas Tree" takes on a whole new meaning when it involves a sheet of plastic & magnets!

The stockings are indeed hung by the chimney with care...very thankful that we have our stockings here! 

Little bit of decor on our door...we may be adding more, we'll see.
Catching on to the theme word?  It's kind of fun what you can create with a little bit of paper...

A Favorite Christmas tradition - the "Countdown to Christmas Calendar"!!  It's incomplete right now...more things will be added - just need to get the Africa Mercy Christmas calendar so that we're not double booking ourselves...

It's been fun for the kids to stick ornaments on the tree...and to figure out which magnets work on the plastic and which slide right off....

Blue Bunny's stocking even made it!  (just to the left of Eli)

One of Nick's favorite things about Christmas (and maybe even life in general?) - WHITE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!  Thanks to the generosity of another, we have some in our cabin!

After decorating, the kids got to listen to a surprise recording of "Snowmen at Night" read by Grandaddy!!
Mercy Ships is going to be a special place to celebrate the birth of our Savior!  There are activities throughout the month - meaningful, purposeful ways to connect with one another and with our God.  The community did a tremendous job of decorating on Saturday - it's amazing how a few Christmas trees, garlands and lights can help get you in the "Christmas Spirit" (by that I mean the "feeling" of Christmas - not the True Christmas Spirit of giving, loving, sharing, hope, joy -- it is our desire to have that year round!!) 

Here are a few pictures from around the ship (a fun way to see some parts of the ship!!) (courtesy of a sweet girl named Suzanne!):

This is Midships (The Town Square), by the cafe and the ship shop...

The Dining Room!
The gangway even got lights! (Random PS - I love pictures of the ship at night!)

This is the Starbucks cafe (this picture was taken from the stairway in the other picture!)

Admittedly, there have been moments of sadness as we've entered this Christmas season (at least for me!) - just missing our living room & porch on 19th Ave and the thoughts of all the wonderful traditions that were born in Columbus...missing cool weather and candles and our Willow Tree Nativity...missing family & friends (and already missing the gatherings that will take place throughout the month) BUT the good news is that Jesus' birth is just as worthy to be celebrated on a ship in Guinea as it ever was in a house in Georgia!! The good GREAT, AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, MIRACULOUS, AWESOME, HOLY news is that GOD sent His Son -HIS SON- to this earth as a baby so that through Him and His sacrifice we would get to experience His love & life.  Oh what a Savior!

Surely there will be more to come (but not the Christmas container...at least not yet....we got news that it most likely won't make it before Christmas.  Somehow that news wasn't hard to hear...just means we get to extend the celebration!  Takes even more focus off of the 'getting'...)

Yes, there will definitely be more to come.  Merry Christmas!  Happy December! 

28 November 2012

Very few words Wednesday

We had the delightful pleasure of going to a nearby playground this past Saturday.  We'll let the pictures speak for themselves....10,0000+ words worth. (and definitely part of our 10,000 reasons that our souls are finding to bless the Lord!)

Thankful for the GRASS (it's kind of rare here in Conakry).  Thankful for the swings and slides (all the different versions of concrete slides!) and things to climb on.  Thankful for snacks and friends and a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

Surely there will be more to come!

23 November 2012

This time last week...

This time last week we were sitting/playing/swimming/resting at the beach!  The ship has a holiday every 6 weeks - so we end up being blessed with a 3 day weekend quite often! 

We had the wonderful privilege and fabulous experience of going to "The Island" with some friends.  It actually ended up that the vast majority of the 2 boatloads of people were from our Gateway...and they just happen to be some of our favorite friends on the ship :)(non-gateway ship friends are cool, too...).

Mercy Ships has made arrangements with....hmmm....I'm not sure whether to say a "Boat Business" or "some guys with some boats" or something different altogether - regardless of what the right words are, Mercy Ships has made arrangements for boats to come right here to the dock, pick us up, take us to the island, drop us off and then bring us right back here to the ship at the end of the day. It's SUPER convenient...and the Cash's are super fond of super convenient sometimes.  It costs 50,000 francs for the adults (about $7) and is FREE for kids.  That was one of the best $14 we've spent yet...

So we loaded up into boats around 9:30 and headed to Roume Island.  Eli and Caroline weren't too sure about the boats...I think they had something more like "Ms. Jean's pontoon from Lake Harding" in mind.  But, much to their credit, they stayed calm ... a bit pensive...but calm and we all enjoyed the 45ish minute ride to the Island. 

It was fun getting a different view of the Africa Mercy (that's it in the background of the picture below...)

Emma's face cracks me up!  That's pretty much the face she had the whole ride...

The "other" boat.  Ours looked very smiliar.   That's Mr. Dave & Mr. Nick in the front row, 

See?! Same Emma face. 

Some houses that we passed as we were getting close to our destination.  Emma said "that's the Wells' house." (the one on the right)  Chad & Hollie, do you own property in Guinea that we don't know about??
 So we got to the Island and got out of boats right into the water...(not sure what I was expecting...but I hadn't thought of that possibility)(my flip flop got stuck in the mud and I kind of thought it was gone forever....but my foot managed to find it....)(I was thankful...those flip flops are what I wear about 98% of the time).  We eventually found "our spot" and settled in for a delightful few hours of running and playing and swimming and splashing and building and frisbee throwing. 

We had a picnic lunch and Nick even played some football (soccer) on the beach with some local guys. We could have shopped right there on the beach if we had wanted to - some guys brought out some fabric and all sorts of beautiful jewelry. Around 3:30 we loaded back into the boats and headed back to the Africa Mercy. Emma promptly fell asleep. 

Yup, she slept just like this.

Home sweet Home.
We got back to the Africa Mercy to find that the tide had gone out - so instead of stepping from the boat directly to the dock, we had to climb up a ladder...which is quite interesting with a 2 year old and a few bags of stuff.  I started out with Emma on my back...but quickly (wisely?) realized that wasn't the best idea and someone ended up handing her up to me (I'm thankful for whoever was holding me as I reached down to pull her up!).  Somewhere in that process my flip flop managed to fall into the water....thought it was definitely gone for good (again) - but a nice African fella managed to fish it out for me.  Caroline's flip flop also fell into the water...it was fished out, too.  (lesson learned:  Cash girls do not need to wear flip flops on future adventures of this nature...)

Favorite parts of the day/things we're most thankful for:
  • Seeing the kids RUNNING on the beach.  There's something more special than ever about wide open spaces.
  • The chance to "get away"...to be off ship...to have a change of scenery and a change of pace in a peaceful and beautiful part of God's creation.
  • No sunburns...
One of the other ladies that went with us took some really incredible pictures - they really capture the beauty of Africa (sadly the world doesn't always associate the word "beauty" with the word "Africa").  Here's a link to her blog post about the island if you're interested Reka's blog - more pictures!

Our God gives such good gifts...our trip to the Island was certainly one of them! 

Surely there will be more to come!