28 October 2012

Tour de l'Africa Mercy: The Engine Room

A few of you have requested that we give a "tour of the ship" -- so here's the first installment in the "Tour de l' Africa Mercy" (that middle part is French for "of the" - seemed a little fancier).  The plan is to start on Deck 2 and work our way up.   Why not Deck 1, you may be asking?  Deck 1 is tanks.  All kinds of tanks.  I'm not sure they are very photographic and I don't have much to say about tanks....so, the first stop on the tour will be the Engine Room on Deck 2 (really it has nothing to do with the tanks and everything to do with the fact that that's where our kids got to visit this past week!!)(and the tanks of Deck 1 will be included in this part of the tour and we'll move on to Deck 3 next time!)

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders got to go on a field trip Wednesday!  They've been reading "Flat Stanley" and have sent him all over the ship. Their fabulous teachers lined up a visit to the Engine Room down on Deck 2.  It's so fun that our kids can go on a "Field Trip" and never have to leave the ship. In this case, they just walked down 4 flights of steps (5 flights for the 2nd graders!). 

All 3 classes & their lovely teachers!
Here are some pictures & quotes from their visit (all pictures taken by Eli! Except the ones he's in...not sure who took those!):

"Loud. Hot.  Interesting. Fun." - Eli's response to "tell me about the engine room"
"It was really fun.  I got to use earplugs…here’s how you use them:  squish them..stick them in my  ears...wait a few minutes and they get stuck in there." - Caroline
"The engines are kind of loud – but not too loud when you have ear plugs." - Eli 
"The engine room is on Deck 2 – it’s completely under water.  WE weren’t under water – cause we were on the ship…but outside of that deck is water. " - Eli 
"There’s a room that they make stuff in – a workshop.  I don’t know what they make…but one other thing is that the room they make stuff in isn’t that noisy – it’s just hot."  - Caroline

"There were lots of tubes & pipes and tanks. And knobs and buttons and gauges." - Eli

"They wash the engines –  just like some people clean the stairs and floors here on the ship, there are people who clean the engines so that the whole ship can be clean!" - Caroline
"There are a bunch of tanks....one for electricity (?? really ??), one for water, I don't remember what the other tanks are for...maybe fuel...and cleaning supplies…there's a pipe that takes out the bacteria from the water.  There’s a sprinkler tank in case there’s a fire." - Caroline
"The tanks are big cylinders – they are HUGE.  Even taller than our tour guide.  Our tour guide was Mr. Andrew Rothwell." -Eli
Mr. Andy - The Tour Guide

After the tour, the 1st, 2nd & 3rd graders with their Flat Stanleys (and Flat Stellas) up on Deck 8
Lots of incredible things happen down in the Engine Room - we don't know or understand even half of it! But we are thankful for ALL of it. Without the Engine Room, the ship could NOT run.   
Thank you God for providing workers on this ship who know and understand the buttons, levers, guages, knobs, tubes, pipes and tanks.  Please bless them as they serve and work on Deck 1 in the Engine Room.  Please multiply the work of their hands and increcrease their productivity.  Pour out your peace in the Engine Room & all of its processes.  
Surely there will be more to come (the rest of Deck 2 and Decks 3-8!).

20 October 2012

The Hope Center

Earlier this week we - Eli, Caroline, Emma, 2 of our friends from Gateway - 'Chelle and Joanne - a translator (sad to admit that I didn't catch his name) and I -  loaded into a Land Rover (total excitment for the kids - there's just something special about riding in the "back back") and coursed through the streets of Conakry to the Hope Center.  The fantasic Joanne Thibault (pronounced te-bow...as in Tim Tebow.) worked her magic at the steering wheel.  She's a braver woman than I. 

Eli won the "you better not smile" game.  He actually didn't smile

Just a little bit gianormous amount of cuteness.
'Chelle is one of the ship's photographers (she's an incredible and gifted gal - she does an amazing job of capturing the heart & beauty of God through her pictures!) and Joanne is one of the writers on the Ship (a lovely lady who has a way of bringing Hope and Healing and Truth through her words and interviews!).  They had "official Mercy Ships business" to do.  The Cash's just went along for the ride. ;)

Here are some pictures Chelle took:

The Hope Center  is basically a place for patients to go when they are well enough to be out of the hospital but still need some kind of medical attention (dressing changes, physical therapy, etc.).  It's for people who live outside of the city of Conakry (or wherever the ship may be at the time - there's always a Hope Center where the ship is!) - it's for people who can't just go home and come back easily or repeatedly.   The Hope Center is just one of the tangible ways Mercy Ships is so very thorough - I've been impressed as I've realized that, whenever possible, every obstacle is removed for people to be able to have life-changing surgery and to recover well (another example of removing obstacles: Mercy Ships will pay for transportation to/from the ship for patients and a care giver if they are unable to pay for it themselves.  Maybe that seems like a given to you, but it was incredible for me to think about the fact that sometimes the only thing standing between life and death for someone - literally and/or figuratively - is a taxi fare or bus ticket.)

The Hope Center is a neat way for the crew to continue to connect with patients - another level of investment into their lives.  A team of volunteers goes over multiple times each week to play games and blow bubbles and share life with the patients.  Many nurses will go on their days off to visit the patients that were released from their care in the hospital.   

Here's a link to an article about the Hope Center in Lome, Togo (the last Field Service location) just in case you want to read more (fun fact: it was written by Joanne!).    

So our visit on Tuesday was good.  I was glad (and am still glad!)  we went - thankful for a chance to stretch ourselves a bit.  I enjoyed playing with the kids and trying to learn a few French phrases from the adults (Carey Bray, I wish you were here with your French speaking skillz).  Emma ended up taking pictures with my camara most of the time...Eli read a book...and Caroline played a bit and then just sat a bit.

Here are some of the pictures that Emma took (most of the ones she took didn't turn out very well...but it was neat to see her interacting with the kids as she took pictures)(who knows, maybe she'll be doing 'Chelle's job someday!):

This sweet girl was burned badly. She's healing so well and looking so good!!!

This cute one insisted on sitting in my lap & really wanted Emma to take his picture! 

Yup, cats at the hospital. Emma insisted on capturing them with the camara.

A picture of the photograher!

Blocks on the floor. Enough. Amazing.

Now this next part, I'm not so sure I'm going to explain very well.  Basically, I want to be transparent and say that I've had to surrender how I THOUGHT my kids would be "on the foreign mission field" and embrace how they actually ARE. Before we got here, if you told me we would be visiting kids in the Hope Center, I would have thought "Yes!  We're going to the Hope Center...my kids will love it and will be happy to do it.  We'll all play with some kids...laugh...hug...high five....sing some Jesus songs....etc.  Everyone will have a great time and we'll just all serve the Lord together!!" And yes, that is happening - kind of - but it's not happening how I thought it would.
God's been helping us to ease our children into serving here...ease them into Africa....ease them into the sometimes hard to look at faces and bodies of the patients...ease them into the smells and tastes...ease them into a new world and way of life.  At times the steps certainly seem smaller and slower than I would like....but I'd much rather go at God's pace than mine!!  I think Eli, maybe more so than the other 2, has a hard time with the physical deformities that are so present in the life and work of the ship - maybe because he is a little older or maybe because of his compassionate heart.  He just doesn't want to look at them...and I understand that.  I'm trying to help him see past the outside...and realize that these kids would love and appreciate his smiles and a boy to play with!  It's also an easy way to remind him of why we're here and what the ship is all about.  It was a big deal for him to be at the Hope Center and be "ok" being there - so that's why he was allowed to read a book - being there was the step for him.  One step at a time, right?  One step at a time.
My prayer lately for our children (and for me and Nick!) is that God would put a deep desire in us to love and serve those around us -- Mercy Ships Crew, West Africans, the sick, the well, our co-workers, our friends, our teachers, each others -- to love deeply and serve thoroughly.  I'm praying that for you, too.  May we all love and serve those around us - whether we are living on a ship off the coast of Guinea or in a mansion in Beverly Hills (though I don't think this blog has any readers that live in Beverly Hills...)...or in an apartment in China or a house in Columbus.  Whether it is easy or difficult or somewhere in between...whether it's comfortable and convenient or ridiculously stretching and inconvenient.  May we love deeply and serve thoroughly those around us. 
Surely there will be more to come.  

14 October 2012

Africa Mercy "Fall" Festival

We don't quite know what to do with ourselves...while the vast majority of everyone we know is celebrating cooler weather and changing leaves and all things pumpkin, Guinea is getting warmer!  I've done my best to compensate for the lack of Fall - the header of my email account is a "fall theme"...the picture on my login screen is fall...buuuut it's really not the same.  And that's ok!  If being where God wants us means missing Fall, we'd give it up everytime. 
We DID, however, get to enjoy quite the "Fall Festival" Friday night in Mid-Ships (the "living room" of the Africa Mercy!).  It was a delightful time of games, prizes, yummy treats and costumes (eli opted not to dress up...and caroline changed 1/2 way through....).  The ones who organized it may beg to differ, but from my perspective it all seemed to come together smoothly and easily. Somehow it had the perfect mixture of low-key and excellence (seems like  sometimes excellence can be compromised for the sake of "simplicity").  Everything about the evening was "just right." 
The "Mercy Ships Family" did a great job of using available resources to come up with games for the kids.  There was...
  • Ship Shower Curtain Ring Toss (used shower curtain rings and the rack used for cups in the dishwasher)
  • Bean Bag Toss (used a hula hoop, a copy paper box and 3 bean bags)(this one was run by an ex-marine and his wife - I loved all the spins and twists they put on it - some kids had to stand on one foot...one boy even had to try to throw the bags in while doing a push-up.)
  • AFM Bowling at its finest (used water bottles and oranges!)(though the "oranges" are actually quite green)
  • A Cup Stacking game (used cups from the dining room!) (2 people would compete to see who could make a pyramid with their cups and then get them back in the original stack the fastest)
  • Go Fish (the kids had to put on a poncho and a fun rain hat...)
  • A Fall Leaf "raking" game (paper leaves and forks...)(and a fan that was used on occassion to blow the leaves all around!)
  • Bobbing for apples (though I think the apples may have been floating in lemonade instead of water??)
  • Facepainting
  • A photo booth (not sure a single cash participated in this one!)
  • Popcorn, pumpkin bread & cookies 
A few pictures of the kiddos for your viewing pleasure:





Fun times! It's nice to be able to enjoy so many "normal" and delightful activities here on the ship. 

Surely there will be more to come. 

13 October 2012

Primarily Pictures!

Just a few pictures from our past week or so...(sorry for the lack of pictures of 2 of the Cash's).
Nick's cute cast.  (he's watching the Chelsea game...)

Emma's Favorite Spot & one of her favorite activities on Deck 8

She finds the chair with no legs (which happens to be my favorite chair up there, too)...drags it over to the side...plops down and reads. 

Eli was visited by a Flat Stanley from GA! 

Alex, Eli & Flat Stanley riding around on Deck 8
Flat Stanley was hot and wanted to go for a swim
The President of Guinea visited the French Naval ship that was docked beside us.  He then came over to the Africa Mercy for a tour!  I know this isn't the best of pictures (ie - you can't really see much of anything....) but the President is there!!  I LOVE the view from our cabin window. 
Nick got to see the Eiffel Tower during his layover in Paris.
Nick with some of the greatest guys in the world!  He was able to meet them for lunch while he was in Columbus.  So thankful for the friendship they all share.
We've had a pretty good week...definitely missing Nick (for those of you who may not know, he's been in the States the last week doing the on campus portion of his seminary classes at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi -  he'll be back a week from tomorrow!), but we're surrounded by plenty of people who are willing to help and encourage and support us here on the ship.
Question of the day for the Cash kids: 
What was your favorite part of the week?
Caroline: "no homework day!" (yesterday)
Emma: "no homework!" (i say whatever my big sister says)
Emma, take 2:  "coloring a cross and a picture for adalynn!" (it was adalyn's 2nd birthday yesterday!)
Eli: "Going to the Library.  I got to get books...my favorite was "If You Give a Pig a Party."
Surely there will be more to come (like pictures of the kids enjoying the Fall Carnival last night). 

04 October 2012

Hospital Open House

Last night we went down to Deck 3 for the Hospital Open House. Some of us went more willingly than others - one certain little Cash boy didn't really want to go...but he ended up having the best time of all of us! (and some of us, the matriarch of the family, went primarily for the cookies).  The nurses and doctors and other hospital staff did a fantastic job - there were games and lots of hands on activities (and cookies!). 
Warning: I can almost guarantee that words will be spelled wrong and terms will be used incorrectly in this blogpost.  I don't know how to spell most medical terms - nor do I even know the correct terms that I am misspelling...I decided that it will be ok (I just don't want to look up the proper spellings and terms)
Fun Fact: I remember reading about the hospital open house last year about this time on someone else's blog (back when Mercy Ships was just a possibility for us....and what seemed like a slim possibility at that!)(hard to believe that was a year ago)...so, ever since I've known we were coming,  I've been looking forward to the Hospital Open House.
Confession:  I felt kind of queasy in the "play" operating room...I was thinking that someday I might like to observe a real operation ('cause you can sign up to do that!) but now I'm really doubting my ability to do that...
Curious Observers - watching "Dr. Jacob" perform a tumor removal surgery on a patient (a real live person is under that sheet!)(but no real live cutting was involved)
Eli getting all suited up for sugery.

Dr. Eli using some tool to "hold open" the patient while he waits for some clampers or tweezers or something 

He got his clamper or tweezers...or whatever it was that Dr. Runnels told him to ask for! 
Intubation & Such

 Learning to stitch (suchers?)

 Starting an IV

And what was Emma doing the whole time? Hanging out with Miss Stephanie Duncan. Emma loves this sweet lady!!! (we all do!)  They even won the "grand prize" in the "being a nurse" relay race (I think it helped that Stephanie is actually a nurse!) :)

Miss Stephanie & Emma

So, after our experience last night, I can see Eli and/or Caroline serving in the Medical Field someday.  Makes me curious what God will end up having them doing. 
Incredible Statistics:  According to our internal website, affectionately known as Navigator, the very hospital that we were touring and walking through has been the site of  266 surgeries in the past 4 weeks.
  • 28 General Surgeries
  • 100 Eye Surgeries (85 cataract removals, 15 other types of eye surgery)
  • 1 Plastics Reconstruction Surgery (the majority of those will be in the Spring)
  • 98 MaxFax Surgeries
  • 19 Cleft Repair Surgeries
  • 20 Orthopaedic Surgeries 
Those numbers were shocking to me!!  I had no idea that THAT many surgeries have been happening 4 floors beneath us. What a work the Lord is doing through this ship and the people serving on it!!! 
And in other news:  Nick broke a bone in his hand yesterday while he was playing football (soccer).  If you need to see it to believe it, he'll be in Columbus next week (or maybe I'll post a picture soon!)
Surely there will be more to come (but hopefully no more broken bones...but if you're going to break a bone, this is the place to do it.  He had a doctor's appointment, an x-ray and got a cast within the course of the morning (in the midst of attending a training and doing other work related things) - and we don't have a single medical bill to pay or insurance claim to file!!)