28 April 2013

a "In The Top 10" moment

Just had a "In The Top 10" of favorite moments thus far on the Africa Mercy.  There is no actual list...but if there was, worshipping to the song "Lay Me Down" tonite during church (and the reprise after church!) would definitely make the cut.  Here's a link if you want to listen to it yourself:  Lay Me Down

The words: 

With this heart open wide
From the depths, from the heights
I will bring a sacrifice
With these hands lifted high
Hear my song, Hear my cry
I will bring a sacrifice
I will bring a sacrifice

I lay me down I'm not on my own
I belong to You alone
Lay me down, lay me down
Hand on my heart, this much is true
There's no life apart from You
Lay me down, lay me down

Letting go of my pride
Giving up all my rights
Take this life and let it shine
Take this life and let it shine

It will be my joy to say
Your will, Your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, Your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, Your way

What if we did lay ourselves down?  What if we laid our lives down - for the sake of the Kingdom...for the sake of the world's forgotten poor...for the sake of our neighbor...for the sake of our spouse...for the sake of our children...for the sake of our crewmates...for the sake of our friends...

What if we laid down our rights?  What if we laid down our right to be heard or our right to get what we want when we want it?  What if we laid down our opinion and surrended wanting our opinion to be heard?

What if we laid down our preferences?  What if we let others have it the way they want it?  What if we kept our mouths closed even if we know we are right?  What if we were thankful for the food put before us instead of complaining that it's not something else?

What if we laid down our selfishness?  What if we laid down our ability to think of ourselves first?   What if we actively chose to think of others and what they want BEFORE we think of what we want?  What if we looked not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others?   

We are not our own - We belong to Him alone.  We lay us down.  We let go of our pride. We lay down our rights. God, will you help us do that?  Will you help us live our lives completely laid down?

It truly is our joy to say YOUR WILL, YOUR WAY, God.  Please have your will and your way in the Cash family.  We lay ourselves down....  Your Will, Your way, God - always.

Surely there will be more to come.

27 April 2013

Hope Restored - Sakoba & his family!

a bit amazed this morning by the lives that continue to be impacted by God through the work of Mercy Ships...

The President of Guinea, His Excellency Professor Alpha Condé, recently said that, “the restorative surgeries provided by Mercy Ships also restore hope to every Guinean.” The following story of a young Guinean family, written by Joanne Thibault,  is a perfect example of this powerful hope.

Kadiatou and her husband, Mouctar, prayed for healing for Sakoba. Then, according to Kadiatou, something miraculous occurred. “Our neighbor told us that a big hospital ship was examining people in Conakry the very next day. He said that they might be able to help Sakoba.” Kadiatou hastily bundled up Sakoba and one-year old Ibrahim. They arrived at the  Mercy Ships screening site just in time.
By the time he was three years old, Sakoba had developed severely bowed legs. A naturally happy and energetic boy, Sakoba adapted well, finding his own gait to keep mobile. His mother, Kadiatou, often struggled to keep up with Sakoba, due to her own painful hindrance – Kadiatou was also born with legs that bowed deeply in her early years.

Sakoba was one of the last children, out of hundreds, examined for possible orthopedic surgery. When Sakoba was given an appointment for surgery onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship, Kadiatou was thankful to God that her son would have straight legs.

Kadiatou and Ibrahim accompanied Sakoba to the Africa Mercy hospital ship. Mouctar, who suffered from leprosy, stayed home because he did not think he would be allowed onboard the ship. While Sakoba recovered from his successful surgery, Kadiatou basked in the loving environment of the hospital ward.

She confided to Marie, a Mercy Ships volunteer, “I am cursed with bad legs, and Mouctar, my husband, is cursed with leprosy. Because we are cursed and useless, our children will have lives of suffering too.” This was not the first time that Marie had heard about the deep fatalistic beliefs that could strangle entire communities.

But Kadiatou’s cloak of sadness lifted as she found unexpected solace in the kindness showered on her, Ibrahim and Sakoba. She recalls, “For the first time, I felt that Sakoba and I were accepted and included. We did not feel like cripples and outcasts.” When they returned home from the hospital, Kadiatou gave her husband some more good news, saying, “Mouctar, we were wrong to believe that you could not come with us to Mercy Ships. Your leprosy is being treated, and so, as Sakoba’s father, you are more than welcome to come to his appointments.”
When the family, now including Mouctar, arrived for Sakoba’s follow-up appointment, Marie was there to greet them. Marie started to chat, asking warmly, “How did Sakoba do at home? What business are you in, Mouctar? Isn’t it wonderful that there is now treatment for leprosy? What plans do you have for the family now that Sakoba has straight legs?”

Mouctar gazed intently at Marie and replied. “You are speaking to me like I am a human being. You make me believe that I am worth something and that I can give my family a better future.” Mouctar then took a deep breath, and, holding his wife’s hand, he continued. “People tell us that all we are good for is begging. They tell us to give up hope that we can support ourselves. Kadiatou has a good piece of land that she inherited from her mother. People tell us to sell the land because beggars will never have use for land. Before we came to Mercy Ships, I almost believed that. I almost gave up hope and sold that land. But now? Mercy Ships not only healed our Sakoba, but every person here gave us love and respect. You gave us reason to have hope.”
Mouctar and Kadiatou are determined to build a self-sufficient future for their family – to turn hope into action. With a small hand up from new Mercy Ships friends, plans are underway to build a modest dwelling for the family on their land. Mouctar is also re-activating his plan to expand his phone card business into selling a full range of telephone accessories. Kadiatou foresees a small business for herself selling foodstuffs like rice, tomato sauce and oil. But, as Kadiatou notes, “That is further down the road. Right now, I have Sakoba with his straight and very strong legs to keep up with and Mouctar, who needs help with all of his activities.”

Thank you, God.  Please use this family to draw many to Yourself...may the hope you've given them be multiplied and spread throughout their community and country and continent...may You be on display in Sakoba and his family all the days of their lives.

Surely there will be more to come.

18 April 2013

This is a drill. This is a drill. This is a drill.

Doing fire drills is a regular part of our life.  Here's a non-technical, may-not-be-altogether-perfect list of the steps we take in our fire drills:

Step 1: Wonder if there is going to be a drill (they are typically every other Thursday afternoon sometime between about 3:20 and 3:35...but lately they've been a bit more sporadic as we've been bunkering)(ahhh the things we've learned - bunkering means to take on fuel)(it's super cute to hear Emma say the word "bunkering")

Step 2: If there is indeed a drill, we hear one long beep (of at least 10 seconds)(I think I have my alarms sorted out...but I may have them backwards...I should know, I took BST - basic safety training...remember the fire suits?...oh well...)...So a beep comes across the loudspeaker/intercom system and then someone says "this is a drill. this is a drill. this is a drill.  fire has been reported in ________.  All fire teams please report to their emergency muster stations."  Fun fact: Nick is the Hose and Gear man on Fire Team #4.  His muster station is on Deck 7, forward. 

Different scenarios are set up for each drill...my favorite was when the fire was in the crew galley and the route we would normally take was completely shut off....that's part of the "game" for us - figuring out the best way to get to the gangway.  Secret confession: I think it would be kind of fun to set up the scenarios...

Step 3: After the 1st alarm and before the 2nd alarm, gather up all that we want to take out to the dock for this drill - ice and water in a nalgene, snacks of some sort...chairs/stools and then wait for the next alarm to ring
Step 4: Hear 7 short beeps, followed by one long beep...that's our signal to head to our muster stations out on the dock.

Step 5: Head to our muster stations.  Quietly.
Step 6: Gather at our trusty muster station A-D.  Pick a comfy place to settle in for a bit.
Step 7: Name caller does her job.  Assistant name caller looks over her shoulder and makes sure she's doing her job.  They take role at the muster station and make sure no one is missing.  They have to report anyone who is missing to muster control.  Their other job is to maintain control...and keep order if we get out of control...we tend to get pretty rowdy...not really.  I think we're incredibly calm for a muster station full of kids!  Our name caller is from New Zealand - it's fun to listen to her take role.

Step 8: Wait.  Get our Vitamin D therapy.  Eat a snack. Share a conversation.  Do homework. 

Step 9: Listen for the announcement "If anyone knows the whereabouts of the following people please contact Muster Control" -- then the names of people who are missing are read across the loudspeaker - we're supposed to report to Muster Control if we know their whereabouts.  Once everyone is accounted for and the fire team has successfully "put out the fire" (taken would what be the proper steps to put out the fire since there is no actual fire...), the drill is complete.  Some drills are shorter than others (I'd guess, on average, they are about 30-35 minutes long). 

Step 10: Wait for the Captain to announce the end of the drill.

Step 11:  Once the announcement is made, we can head inside.
Step 12: Make a tally mark on our white board signifying the completion of another Fire Drill.

Step 13:  Go on about the rest of our Thursday feeling safer and better prepared to handled any emergency that may come our way.

Fun things to note: 
  • Today is a "non-drill Thursday" (though they could throw a surprise one on us if they wanted!)
  • When the alarm starts alarming, Emma doesn't scream like she used to (thank You, GOD!!!).  She still covers her ears...but no more screaming. 
  • There are 2 main kinds of fire drills:  "at sea drills" (we muster on Deck 7) and "in port drills" (that's what we do throughout the year since we're - you've got it - in port!) There's also a "hospital evacuation drill" - the hospital has to practice evacuating ALL the patients -- they do that one before there are actually patients on the ward....
  • Nick was the assistant name caller at our muster station before he said "yes" to being on the fire team.
  • Alternate names for this blog post:  "Vitamin D Therapy" or "Every other Thursday Afternoon"
Surely there will be more to come. 

14 April 2013

A Trip to "God is Love" Orphanage - as told by Caroline

Caroline talked, I (dianna) typed. 

"Saturday morning I went to an orphanage with my mom and Emma.  Some people go every week - this was my first time. We sang some songs and played some games with some kids who are orphans.  A couple...I can't remember their names...takes care of all the kids.  I don't know how many kids are there...maybe about 20...or 12...no...I think it's closer to 20.    I got to hold a baby chick. 
We went in a land rover.  My friends Bella and Nathaniel went in the Land Rover, too.   We all sat in the back.  Emma did, too. The Walls were in the other car with some other people. It took us about 30 minutes to get there I guess. 
While we were there  I got my nails painted pink and blue.  My mom let one of the girls paint her nails all of the colors.  Isabella's dad let them paint his nails, too!  That was so silly!!!  And I got to hold a baby.  My favorite part of the day was when I got to hold the baby.  Emma said her favorite part was taking pictures (cause my mom lets her do that so she's not so fussy).
Ms. Herma taught a story about how if you build your house upon the Rock of Jesus it will not tumble down.  And I got to stand on a pillow to show how it is hard to keep your balance on ground that's not firm.  And then I stood on the ground while the other girl stood on the pillows.  They were teaching us that if you build your house upon the sand it will go "splat" but if you build it on the rock, it will stand. That means if you trust in God your life will keep standing - even if it rains or storms or hard things happen.

The children were nice. I'm glad I went.  I don't know if I'll go again...maybe.  Bella said the kids are coming to the ship this Sunday for a Pancake Party...I think that's something the Dutch do.  Maybe I'll get to hold the baby again. 
We came home and ate grilled cheeses and drank apple juice."

Surely there will be more to come!

10 April 2013

grateful...an email for sharing.

This is especially for YOU, Mr and/or Mrs (Ms/Miss/Dr/Prof/Esq?) Anonymous Donor (you didn't get the email yesterday).

We are so grateful for the support that has been shown/shared/given to our family.  Yesterday was one of those days when we were blown away by God's Love and provision for our family.  We sent an email to a group of people...but realized that, even though the list was significant, it was still incomplete -- especially in light of the fact that financial support is just a small aspect of all the support God has provided us. 

He uses SO MANY of you to encourage us with your words, your prayers, your "shares" on facebook, your comments, your packages, your letters, your LOVE....

To just say "thanks" to those who have given money would be failing to say thank you for a  multitude of gifts.  I thought that sharing the email here would reach another segment of our incredible network of God's provision and support.

So....without further adieu....the email (with some added images)....

Today is one of those days when I am overwhelmed by the Love, the goodness & the faithfulness of God. Specifically, I've been overwhelmed in thinking about the way He has provided for us and continues to provide for us - and YOU are a part of that provision.

I just have to say THANK YOU...I kind of feel like I need to share some of this gratefulness or my heart is going to explode!!

Thank you for being a part of God's plan for the people of Guinea.  Thank you for caring enough to support us so generously.  We are so very grateful.

In other news, all 5 of us Cashes are looking forward to our trip to the States this summer! There's not a day that goes by when someone doesn't say something along the lines of "I'm so excited about going to GA!" We’ll be coming to Columbus June 15 and we’ll be around and about until July 11.

this face represents all of the Cash Family's excitement & anticipation
We’re planning to have some sort of “Catch up with the Cashes” event just to be able to share in person what the past year has been like. I’ve been thanking God because we really can just share an update – because of YOUR GENEROSITY, there’s really no reason for us to have to raise support/make pleas for money on this trip (and that makes for a much more relaxing trip!). Yet another gift you’re giving us! Hallelujah!!

We would LOVE to see as many of you as possible this summer….you are an important part of our life and a valuable partner in this journey we are on.

Please continue to pray for the work of God through Mercy Ships. Things are winding down here in Guinea - but there is much left to be done before the ship sails. The Advance Team left last week for the Congo - please pray for them as they prepare for the Africa Mercy's arrival in August.

...you.  we are especially grateful for YOU.  Thank you for sharing life with us.

For all the Cashes,

Surely there will be more to come.

07 April 2013

i love the laundry room

This post has been a long time coming. 

I LOVE the laundry room here on the Africa Mercy.  I know that everyone on the ship does not share my affinity for this particular place (who knew people could get so fiesty over laundry :))...but I love the laundry room and am so thankful for it.  The laundry room has become somewhat of a sanctuary for me - a place where I meet with God and recognize His faithfulness. 

The easiest way to describe the Faithfulness of God I've experienced is to say that, since we've been on the Africa Mercy (going on 9 months), EVERY time we've needed a laundry slot, there's been one. 

Even as I typed that, it doesn't seem like "that big of a deal"... BUT IT IS.  The Africa Mercy has somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 people living onboard.  There are 10 washers & dryers (2 of which are used for the often nasty oily galley and engineering laundry - so it's recommended that you NOT use them for normal clothes...) -- so 8 washers & dryers...and, at any given time, one or two (or more if it's a really bad week) of those washers or dryers may be out of commission (these machines keep our electricians and repairmen quite busy!  Washers and dryers running around the clock...it's a wonder they work as often as they do). 

All in all, the chances are slim that a slot will be open -- but EVERY time I've needed one, there's been one.  Every time there's been a crazy mess or unexpected wet sheets, every time we've come back from the Island and needed to do "one quick load", everytime I realized that someone is out of something necessary - there's an open slot. 

The first few times it happened I thanked God and continued on about  my business...the next few times I thanked Him some more and marveled at His goodness...the next few times (and every time since) is when it all became some what of a "sacred game" -- "God, is there really going to be a slot this time?  God, You've provided a slot everytime...are You going to do it again?  God, it's 2pm on a Saturday...there's no way there's going to be a slot.  God, You've done it again!  God, thank you for reminding me of your love and provision through the availability of a washing machine." 

 Just to further explain, those open slots are in addition to the slots that I've signed up.  There's a "Laundry Sign up Book" that has a page for each machine each week and each day is divided up into one hour time slots from 6am until 10pm (after 10 is first come, first serve).  You sign up for the machines and time slots that you want a few days in advance.

There's also a "Laundry Room Guide" book - it contains PAGES of rules/policies/explanations/guidelines that are a beautiful work of art intended to help with the peace and cooperation of all in the laundry room.  It would take me far too long to explain everything that's in that book...you'll just have to come and see for yourself.    

Another fabulous perk of the laundry room - I can get multiple loads of laundry done at the same time!  When we are not on water restrictions, we are allowed 2 loads of laundry per person per week.  When we are on water restrictions (as we've been the entire time we've been in Guinea), we are allowed one load per person per week...so, technically, I can do 5 loads at one time if I get my signing up right (thankfully we don't usually need all 5)! 
Feel free to call me crazy...but my FAVORITE laundry slots are the 6am slots.  I usually do 3 loads at once.  So at 6am: Load washer 1. Load washer 2. Load washer 3. Put in the detergent (x3). Close the doors (x3). Push the buttons (x3).  Go to exercise class.  Go get breakfast.  Come back at 7am:  Transfer laundry from washer to dryer (x3). Put in a dryer sheet (x3). Close the doors (x3). Push the buttons (x3).  Go take a shower. Get kids up and fed and ready for school and out the door.  Go back and get the dry laundry by 8am.  Fold it.  And done.  

Other amenenities:  the laundry room is equipped with a "drying area" for clothes that you don't want to put in the dryer...I tend not to use this (I just take things back to our cabin and drape them all over the cabinet doors...)

There are also plenty o' irons and ironing boards -- another aspect of the room that I do not make great use of....I've ironed melty beads but not clothes.  Ironing is not a part of my reportoire of homemaking skillz.
There's a handy dandy lost and found area...for all those socks that are missing their match.  It's kind of amusing the things that turn up in the lost and found.  The unclaimed lost and found is eventually taken to the boutique.  Fun story:  I had my eye on a dress that was in the laundry room lost and found...I was quite tempted to take it...but that would be stealing...so I waited and eventually it showed up in the boutique...and I got it!  But it didn't fit right...so it ended up back in the boutique!  Glad I didn't steal it and have that weighing on my conscience....
The laundry room is also home to the corner of vacuums.  We make great use of these.  My favorites are #7 and #2.  You go sign one out, use it, bring it back. 
 So, I love the laundry room...even if someone takes my clothes out of the washine machine early (not my favorite...but not a big deal)...even if they remove my clothes from the dryer while they are still a bit damp (little bit frustrating...but we have a drying rack in our cabin that can be put to good use every now and then)...even if someone happens to take the slot that I signed up for (now that takes a bit of patience and grace on my part - especially if there aren't any other machines available) ...even if the machine leaves the clothes a bit sudsy sometimes (that doesn't seem to be a problem...i'm trying to convince myself that it just makes the clothes smell better if the soap isn't all rinsed out)....

All of these things frustrate me to some degree or another - but, when it comes down to it, I am so beyond grateful that we have machines to wash and dry our clothes -- a whole room full of them one deck below our home: brilliant!  It would be exhausting to have to take our clothes down to a river and wash them all with rocks...or to have to haul them off the ship...or to have to hand wash them in buckets (I had enough of that in Pai Katanga, thank you very much).  Modern appliances are a gift from God.

God is in the laundry room...and I love meeting Him there. 

Surely there will be more to come. 

04 April 2013

Easter Island trip

Last Friday was a ship holiday (and also Good Friday!).  We were able to take a boat to Roome Island and spend the day swimming, playing, riding the paddleboard and enjoying being outside.  It was fantastic - all around great attitudes, good french fries, no sunburns and no injuries makes for a great day!

Emma had a delightful time playing in the water and digging in the sand!  She set a personal best "longest stretch of no-fussing" record on this particular island trip.  Emma bear clocked in at around 5 hours of absolutely no fussing, complaining, crying, or fit pitching.  This mama was very very thankful.  

Caroline and her friend Megan.  This trip was especially fun because of all the families/kids that went!
Eli getting his first paddleboard lesson from Miss Kelly

Nick & Emma giving the paddleboard a try

This was fun to watch.  They could've gotten some more kids on there...

 Nick venturing out on the paddleboard

Having the paddleboard was definitely a fun addition!  (many thanks to Kelly for sharing and teaching!)

Such a special 8 year old!!! 
We are so thankful for the way God takes care of us and refreshes us.  He doesn't have to provide beautiful weather and inexpensive boat rides and fun families to share a day at the island with....He doesn't have to provide lovely views and a relaxing beach.  He doesn't have to bless us with so many incredible gifts.  But He does...and we are grateful.

Surely there will be more to come!