28 August 2012

Breaking news!! (but you probably won't be as excited as I am)

One of the containers is here!!!!  Well, it's been here in Guinea for quite a while...today's the day it is HERE HERE...and being unloaded right now 5 (or so) decks below me!!!  We know that our stuff was put into at least 2 different containers - so we won't get everything today...but I am so excited about getting whatever is on this container!  It kind of feels like Christmas (especially cause I don't totally remember what all we packed)(funny how it all seemed absolutely essential at the time...).

The view from our window.  They've got the lines on the cover of the cargo hold ready for the crane to lift it up.

The men using ropes to help wrangle the cover and then the container into just the right position (yup, taken from our cabin)(sometimes there will just be a man randomly climbing up the side of the ship outside of our window)

2 containers on the dock (I ran outside and took a picture from Deck 7)(though we're not supposed to run on the ship...and we're not supposed to be barefoot.  Uh-oh...I broke 2 rules.).  The one on the right is about to be lifted up onto the ship (the one on the left is full of supplies for all sorts of things - the hospital, the Eye Team, the dental clinic, screening day, the ship shop)

The cover being lifted off of the cargo hold!

My snack of choice during the excitement. (my drink of choice = ice)

The container being lifted up and manuevered into the cargo hold.
You can't really tell...but this was taken during the few moments when I kind of thought the container was going to slam into our window.  Thankfully, that didn't happen.

The container being lowered ever so gently into the cargo hold. 

Thought you might enjoy another view from our window...we sure do - especially at sunset! 

Thanks for sharing in the excitement with me (my apologies if you were totally bored by this post!!).

Surely there will be more to come.

26 August 2012

Preparing for Screening Day - September 3

The following was posted on The Bergman Family's Blog - they are another family here on the Africa Mercy.  I felt like it would be better to copy and paste (with their permission!) than to reinvent the wheel  when sharing how you can be praying this week for Screening Day (screening day is just that - the day individuals go through a screening process to see if Mercy Ships can help with their problem/illness/disease.  Here's a link to another Bergman blogpost that talks about Screening Day February 2012).

"...Mercy Ships has not been to Guinea since 1999 so we will be working with a lot of new connections, new places, and new crew members. Also, since we haven't been in the country for 13 years, we anticipate that there will be a huge amount of need - creating larger than normal crowds.

This year we won't be using a stadium for our screening, but rather the People's Palace (Palais du peuple). This is a "large, Chinese-built auditorium that is home to two national ballet troupes."

This three-story building should be a great resource for us on screening day. We are arriving at the end of rainy season (an average of 44 inches over 27 days of rain in August, and dropping to 25 inches over 22 days of rain in September). So, there is a good chance that rain will be falling outside. Being able to bring the potential patients inside and having all the stations out of the rain (or intense sun) will be helpful.

Will you join us in praying over this next week as we plan, prepare and train all those that will be involved?

The entire crew plays a part in screening. We need:

*drivers that will transport workers to and from the screening site,
*trained medical staff to take histories, do evaluations, draw lab work, and make the hard calls of who we will be able to assist,
*administrative folks that will enter all the data onto each patient's card and our database,
*schedulers to methodically fill our OR calendars for the next ten months,
*pharmacists to give pre-op medications and vitamins,
*palliative care team to talk with patients who have incurable and untreatable conditions,
*prayer teams to comfort, console or rejoice with patients or family members,
*enthusiastic crew members to entertain the children waiting for hours in line,
*people willing to help with logistics to handle the water, snacks, lunch, toilet paper, trash bag, light bulbs and other necessities,
*our photographers to collect pre-op photos for each patient scheduled,
*public relations representatives to field any questions or make statements for the media or any government officials that show up,
*security guards to manage the crowd and keep everyone calm and orderly in the midst of desperation,
*and the list goes on.

But most importantly we need the patients.

We anticipate long hours. Sore feet. Blisters. Sweat. Glitches in the best laid plans. Long lines.

But we also look forward with positive anticipation to bring a little bit of oxygen for that spark of hope that thousands have been carrying around with them. A spark of hope that tells them, "one day, you might get medical help." "Maybe there will be a way for you to receive treatment, despite the lack of resources."

Thank you, Jesus, that you provide us that hope each day. And thank you that we get to share that hope in a physical, tangible way to the thousands we will see.

Please pray with us that hope would be kindled at screening day."

Surely there will be more to come!

23 August 2012

A Birthday, The Bridge & 5+ Days of Sailing

The past week has been full of excitment...Caroline turned 6 and we had a fantastic time celebrating her.  We've quickly realized that birthdays on the ship are quite special - lots of love and attention from hundreds of your neighbors!!  She was celebrated with a popsicle party...a surprise treasure hunt...a dance party...cupcakes in her class...a "6 special friends" party after school (complete with water balloons thrown at nick)....and, of course, in the traditional Mercy Ships way - the bell was rung in the dining room and everyone sang to her!   She was also loved on with phone calls, facebooks posts, emails and videos (and there is still more celebrating to come when we get our things from the container!) All in all, Caroline was celebrated thoroughly and thoughtfully!
Cupcakes for Caroline's class (and a glimpse into her classroom!).

We couldn't find any icing...but managed to find a strawberry mousse mix that worked beautifully!

A few of the sweet girls who came over after school with their kind gifts!
Magnetic Clothespin Noteholders that the girls made
Part of the Popsicle Party Crowd (pretty much our entire Gateway group came!)
Mr. Nick getting Caroline ready for "pin the banana on the monkey" at her surprise dance party Friday night in Miss Remy's 4th Grade Classroom.
We also sailed for the majority of the past week.  We left Tenerife on Thursday (August 16). It was really a great sail - not much seasickness, no "cabin fever"...life pretty much carried on "as normal." 

During the sail, the Captain allows visitors to the Bridge (the bridge is the "cockpit" of the ship)(not sure of the proper maritime vocabulary!).  Here are a couple of pictures from our Tour of the Bridge: 

Captain Tim! (and eli)

The Cash Crew learning about the Radar system from a Deck Crew member named Nick
Other happenings during the sail:  we saw dolphins, flying fish and whales (though the whales were much smaller than I anticipated....kind of looked like dolphins to me!).  We worshipped on the bow.  Nick and Eli played sock golf.  I started my new job in the Hospital Administration office (my title is "hospital secretary" - that sounds a bit more important than it is...but I'm happy to be the little puzzle piece that God has made me to be!!).  We rocked and swayed and learned to manuever up and down steps and hallways while rocking and swaying.  We semi-secured things for the sail (and hunted down things that were rolling around and knocking because they weren't quite secured).  We saw nothing but sky and sea for 5 days - and it was lovely!!!
And then yesterday we "landed" here in Conakry, Guinea (apparently I am much more familiar with airplane terms than I am with ship terms!).

First glimpse of Guinea!
The Pilot boat coming out to bring us in!

The Advance Team & Others there to welcome us to our dock.  The white tent with the brown top will be used for Admissions once surgeries are scheduled.  The blue tent was where the Welcome Ceremony took place
The View from Deck 8.  The people between the blue tent & white tent are part of the brass band that played for our arrival. 

The Guinea Flag being brought down the Gangway.  Fun note:  these 3 girls are the 3 members of the Mercy Ships Academy Senior Class! 
Caroline with her Guinea Flag. All of the children made them and waved them as we pulled into the dock.
Coming into the port was quite emotional for me - I've been trying to figure out all day why it was so emotional and how to put it into words...I'm just not sure that my writing is eloquent enough to express the emotions that God was allowing to surface in my heart and head -- not sure I can explain what was causing the tears to splash out of my eyes onto my cheeks and to the deck (some even managed to fall into the ocean!). 

The best way I can describe it is as an OVERWHELMING knowing that, even as God is bringing hope and healing into the country of Guinea and the continent of Africa through this ship, His hope and healing are also meeting us here.  I wish you could see my hand motions....picture me making a ship/wave motion with my right hand - that hand represents the Africa Mercy...and then my left hand is coming to meet the ship -- both hands represent the hope and healing and presence of God -- so then they meet and CRASH!  God's power and majesty and awesomeness and love and presence and healing are on display!!!   I think that, as believers, we long to be the light and life of Christ to those we come in contact with -- but, if you're anything like me, we wonder if anyone can actually see anything different about us....but there's no denying a big white ship coming in the name of Jesus.  The ship is a tangible representation of the light, life and love of Christ!  Lives are about to be changed in the name of Jesus!!  The lame will walk!  The blind will see!  The mourning will be turned into dancing!  The outcast will be loved!  The broken will be restored!  God is at work in and through this vessel!  It's too much to take in sometimes...

And yesterday my heart experienced OVERWHELMING JOY knowing that God is allowing our family to be a part of the hope and healing that God is bringing to Guinea through Mercy Ships. What an honor. We are so grateful to be here. 

Surely there will be more to come! 

21 August 2012

'Twas the Night before Guinea....thanking God for the Advance Team

As I'm typing this, the engines are steadily doing their part to get us to Conakry - nautical mile by nautical mile (as they have been since Thursday).  The ship is rocking side to side (the cups that were drying on the counter have now been on the floor for quite a while).  The curtains are sliding back and forth along their rod.  I keep wondering if I'm going to hear the "thud" of a child falling out of their bed.  All in all it's been a smooth sail - a few moments of seasickness....but nothing too traumatic. 

From what I can understand, the ship's time in Tenerife was something of a vacation - though I am certain the deck guys and engineers would disagree!!  And rightfully so!! For them, the maintenance & inspections & all that they had to do was certainly not a vacation! And sailing the ship from Tenerife to Conakry certainly hasn't been anything like a vacation for the Captain and his crew.  So maybe it would be more correct to say that the hospital has not been in operation these past 2 months!   

We'll be docking in Guinea tomorrow morning.  From what I've heard, everyone will hit the ground running - the hospital will go from "secured for sail" to up and running; off ship sites will get put together in record time; nurses and doctors will come (and those who have been working in all sorts of roles as stewards and cooks and dining room servers will finally get to go back to their "regular" jobs!); screening day will happen and then the surgeries will begin...

Feels like tomorrow is a big day. The start of something significant.  

But God's been reminding me tonite that it's absolutely not just starting tomorrow.  Plans have been in the works for years...prayers have been prayed....meetings have been held.  And, most recently, the Advance Team has been hard at work preparing the way for God to bring hope and healing through the Africa Mercy in Guinea.

I think I know only about the tip of the iceberg of what all the Advance Team has done (it's slightly hard to make an iceberg reference while we're still sailing...thankfully I would venture to guess that there is no threat of anything even semi-related to an iceburg here off the coast of West Africa).  Maybe I'll learn more about what all the Advance Team has done and can report back in the coming days.

But I do know that they have been hard at work - and what is coming in the next few days, weeks and months would not be possible without their dedication, hard-work and God-honoring lives.

A lady named Tracey Swopes has been the leader of the Advance Team.  She wrote an article that was posted on our internal website today.  It encouraged and challenged me - and I wanted to share the last paragraph with you (the "dance" she talks about is definitely not talking about actual dancing in Guinea! :))(though, if it's anything like Ghana, there will certainly be plenty of dancing!)
So, how should we dance in Guinea? I want to encourage everyone (AFM, International Officers and the IOC) to put away his or her own plans for saving Guinea. I encourage you to pray for and love the Guinean people as Jesus loves us. I am NOT saying accept the corruption, the Islamic faith, or other worldviews. I am saying listen to the music, dance the dance of relationship building while standing on the Father’s toes and be willing to go where the Holy Spirit leads you. There is a popular song out there that I have enjoyed...one sentence now strikes me differently: “I'm gonna shape history . . . and I’m going to change the world”. No I am not! I am going to stand on my Father’s toes like the uncoordinated 9 year old that I am and allow Him to use me to change the world one worldview clash at a time ... His timing not mine ... I encourage you to give it a whirl.  -- Tracey Swopes, Advance Team Leader
Please pray for us -  pray for the Africa Mercy as a whole.  Pray for the individuals that make up Mercy Ships. Pray for the Technical side of Mercy Ships. Pray for the medical side of Mercy Ships.  Pray for the doctors & nurses, the teachers & stewards.  Pray for those who - even now! - are making their way to Conakry for screening day.  Pray for the Cash family. Pray for Nick as he continues to learn & carry out his roles as HR manager.  Pray for Eli, Caroline & Emma as they learn & play & grow & develop.  Pray for me as I serve our family and help in other ways on the ship.  May we all stand on our Father's toes and allow Him to lead...allow Him to set the pace...allow Him to dip us and twirl us and draw us close....willing to go wherever, whenever & however... 

Surely there will be more to come. 

15 August 2012

As promised...Emma's First Day of School...& writing numbers on pink forms

This first picture doesn't really have anything to do with the first day of school...just thought it was amusing.  This is Emma's semi-usual first attempt at being picked up.  Which is immediately followed by me saying, "try again. name, request, please."  which is sometimes followed by her saying "Mama, can you pick me up, please?" (and sometimes it's followed with more fussing).

Not this mama's favorite thing to look at (well, I like looking at her fine...just  not a fan of the fussing)

On to actual "first day of school" stuff:  
emma's hair do of choice today...she got to pick her clothes, too. 

In her classroom getting ready for me to leave...she's holding a heart she drew on for her teacher.  She cried a bit when I left - but she's always done that...even at Christ Community back home.  She's just trying to make me feel loved and special.  riiiight.  She stopped crying about 10 seconds after I left...I waited & listened in the hall!

A sneak peak through the window of her classroom about an hour and a half in (I didn't want her to see me so I just raised the camera and pointed...).  It's not the best of pictures - but it captures her entire class:  all 3 kids (emma, malachi & adelyn) and both teachers (Mrs. Herma & Mrs. Elizabeth)

Emma's artwork!  
Things I know Emma did today at "school": artwork, played with water out on deck 7, sang "head and shoulders, knees & toes", drank juice.  All the essentials of nursery/playschool :)  I think "school" agrees with Emma - she's been happier this afternoon than I've seen her in a while! 
And what did I do with my first morning with all 3 kids in school?  I got to combine a few of my favorite things: being helpful, filling out forms, prayer & worship!  I found someone who had something that needed to be done...the little pink rectangle post-it in the first picture below is my instructions - basically, I wrote numbers & a country code on pink pieces of paper.  I've made it from 17,971 to 19,100 (I think the beginning number for Guinea was 17,500).  My goal is 19,500.   

This is the kind of mindless work I love - the kind that allows me to get a job done and have my mind somewhere else.  Though in this case, my mind was kind of still on the pink forms. These are the forms that will be used in the patient screenings coming up in a few weeks. These are the forms where information will be written regarding life-changing operations and procedures. These are the forms that will be used to determine who gets surgery and when.

What a privilege to be able to pray for those who will be doing the screening and for the Africans who will come through the screenings with high hopes. What sadness to think of those who might come with problems that this ship isn't able to solve. What delight knowing that our God sees and knows each one - He knows the number of hairs on each of their heads. He knows who He has surgery in store for...and He knows how the others will be healed.

And to be able to do this while listening to a God-ordained playlist on my ipod, with a cup of coffee, a roll of green mentos and (after the coffee) a cup of ice - all-in-all it was a terrific way to spend a couple of hours on a Wednesday morning. 

Surely there will be more to come.   

14 August 2012

First Day of School!

Mercy Ships Academy started today!  Eli and Caroline were so excited!  They had a hard time falling asleep last night!  Both woke up early this morning - cheerful and ready to go! 

We had cinnamon rolls & Lucky Charms for breakfast in the Dining Room (first day of school = first day we've all made it down for breakfast in the dining room!)

These next 2 pictures are compliments of Emma.  Is the glass half full or half empty?  We'll post pictures of her first day tomorrow!  She'll be going to "nursery class" with Mrs. Herma 3 mornings a week. 

We had the privilege of being in Gateway with both Eli and Caroline's teachers.  We are SO excited that Miss Moriah will be teaching Eli and Miss Kayleigh will be teaching Caroline.  Both of these ladies are beautiful, kind, loving, capable & smart - they love God and want to serve Him as they teach on board the ship!  We're praying that God will use Kayleigh & Moriah in big and small ways as they invest in our kids' lives on a daily basis.  Please feel free to pray for them as God brings them to mind!

Miss Moriah & Eli

Caroline & Miss Kayleigh
We're excited about all that God has in store for our kids as they grow & learn.  The Academy program is excellent - very well rounded (Bible! art! PE! music! drama! French! library time! Computer!)(and, of course, all the "regular" stuff as well) and is well equipped.  We were quite impressed as we toured all of the rooms last night during the open house by all of the resources available to the students and teachers   God has certainly been generous to the Mercy Ship's Academy - and generous to our family in allowing us to be a part of this community within a community!

Surely there will be more to come!

13 August 2012

Many Thanks to God for Emma's Napping Abilities

A few of our favorite photos from the journey to Dallas to London to Accra to Pai Katanga to Accra to Madrid to Grand Canaria to the ship!  The activities going on in these pictures are some of the main reasons that our travel & time in Ghana was as peaceful as it was. 
First nap on the flight from Dallas to London
on the bus from Accra to Pai Katanga
the kids' bed in Pai Katanga....there wasn't quite this much overlap every night.
Napping in our room in Pai Katanga.  Thank you, God, for the fan.  Thank you, God, for naps.  

Sleeping at the mall in Accra

On the flight from Accra to Madrid...yup, she fell asleep coloring.

too cute not to share

On the flight from Madrid to Grand Canaria

Sleeping with Miss Stephanie on the bus from the hotel in Grand Canaria to the Ferry (only about a 30 minute bus ride - long enough for a nap!)

Another one of my disclaimers:  Paci  &  Bebe are now confined to Emma's room/bed....we've been making great exceptions through this transitional 3+ months. No more!!  I know all you dentists out there want the paci gone for good...we're working on that.  Taking one step at a time.  Always!  One step at a time...  :)

Surely there will be more to come! 

09 August 2012

First Week Anniversary!

This week we’ve:
  • Moved & settled into our new home!
  • Been oriented (officially)
  • Earned free coffee by turning in our forms
  • Taken a ship tour
  • Had our first fire drill

The Cash Crew at our Muster Station.  "This is a drill. This is a drill.  This is a drill." 

The alarm was emma's wake-up call - thus the fabulous bed head and paci.
  • Nick started his job
  • Caroline has made 5 friends (officially)
  • Eli has made 3 friends (officially)
  • Taken a tour of the Academy
  • Eaten good food!
  • Learned the art of making a cinnamon toast panini
  • Had Cash Family Church
  • Dianna walked to the “spanish wal-mart” (took a taxi home)
  • Checked email! 
  • Gotten to talk to friends and family on the phone (well, some of them!  Left some messages…got some messages…)
  • Gone to a lovely zoo/Sea World type place called Loro Parque (see pictures below!)
  • Dianna & the kids walked to a park – probably about 1 ½ miles one way – enjoyed some playtime, icecream & a sweet walk back
  • Enjoyed our first week of ship life!

It’s really been a great week. Things are going well and we are enjoying life here aboard the Africa Mercy.  The food has been fantastic (though we’ve been told that we shouldn’t get so used to all the fresh fruit).  Our cabin is plenty big and just right for our family (pictures to come…someday!). 

The ship is preparing to sail to Guinea next week.  We’re looking forward to getting there and meeting up with the rest of our stuff – the containers we were able to ship things on went straight from the IOC in Texas to Guinea. 

he Cash Crew is preparing for school to start on Tuesday and we’re also preparing to celebrate Caroline’s 6th birthday on the 17th!  Birthday plans include having everyone in the dining room sing to her (Mercy Ships' tradition, complete with a bell that gets rung!), throwing water balloons at the Cash men and eating cake!

We’re thankful for the kindness and thoughtfulness of God…He's been filling our lives with reminders of His goodness.  He’s got good plans for the Cash Family – and for you and your family. 
Surely there will be more to come!

the dolphin show at Loro Parque! we've heard the dolphins do this along side the ship sometimes...

this was about a second before the biggest, loudest belly flop we've ever seen or heard!