29 May 2013

numbers & such

It's always fun to have final reports and numbers to share.  Thought you'd like to celebrate with us....

During the Guinea 2012/13 field service, the Africa Mercy has had:
  •  237 Long-Term Crew (including kids)
  • 572 Short-Term Crew
  • 196 Guests and Visiting Staff (includes Mercy Teams, Vision Teams, Media Teams, Personal Guests, and visiting staff from IOC & National Offices)
  • 25 Contract Workers
  • We have also employed a total of 224 Day Workers onboard this field service.

That’s a total of 1254 unique individuals that have served onboard the AFM over the past 10 months!

And, the incredible thing?  Our God knows every single name...He knows every single heart...He called each one to come here and He accomplished His purposes through them.  He had work for each to do while the Africa Mercy was in Conakry, Guinea.  Each one played a part in God's work of bringing hope and healing through this vessel. 

Because these 1254 individuals were obedient,  God has accomplished much...
Other Incredible Numbers:
13,483 - Eye Evaluations & Treatments
45,168 - Dental Procedures
10,537 - People ministered to through Mercy Ministries
192 - Bibles distributed
3,835 - Individual Counseling session with a Hospital Chaplain

And, the incredible thing? Our God knows the name of every single patient (and He even knows how to pronounce it correctly!)...He knows every single heart...He sees every man, woman and child that was blessed by the presence of the Africa Mercy in Conakry.  Each one played a part in God's work by receiving the hope and healing He offered through this vessel.
There are more numbers and stats available - let us know if you're interested, we can email you a Programs Report.
And a quote from our friend Missy's facebook page (she's been the OR Supervisor this Field Service): 
"Thanks to all of you who have lifted up prayers and offered words of encouragement and blessing throughout these last 10 months we have been here in the country of Guinea!! All Glory, Honor, and Praise belong to the Lord for the amazing field service it has been here, even in the difficult times. These words from Ephesians 3:20, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" Amen." sum up what we have continued to see over and over and BELIEVE. Our God is the God of the impossible!!!!!"
To God be the Glory, GREAT things HE has done.  Much good has been done in Guinea...
Surely there will be more to come.  

26 May 2013


Last Saturday, a landrover full of us drove to a lady's home here in Conakry where we were walked through the process of how Batiks are made.  It was a privilege to see the inner workings of a successful business here in Guinea - and to get to make something of my own to remember this special country.

Thought the pictures and experience were worth sharing:

These Batiks were hanging up to dry when we arrived. Just a small sample of the colors & patterns. 

These are smaller pieces drying on the ground. 

Our host, Aminata, explaining the process of making a Batik and the different methods and styles. 
The gist of batik making (according to me) is that you start with a piece of cloth. Then,you pick out the stamp(s) that you'd like to use.  After that, you stamp the patterns onto the cloth with hot wax.  After the wax dries, you dye the fabric in the color of your choice and let that dry.  After it dries, the fabric is rinsed out and the color is set.  If you're feeling super industrious, the last step is to iron the batik and make something useful out of it.
Notebooks that held examples of all the different stamps that we could choose from.

Some of the stamps.  They are suprisingly lighter than one might think. 

The stamps I chose. 

Once we had picked out out stamps, we took turns stamping our cloth.  The man on the left side of the picture would dip the stamp into a pot of melted wax and hand the stamp over, then we could stamp whatever design we had in mind.  It was quite the process of dipping, passing, stamping, passing, dipping, etc.

This guy is working on more a "free hand" batik.  He was dipping something similar to a paintbrush into wax and painting the design on the cloth

We were served a tasty lunch of rice with a tomato chicken sauce in the middle of the day. 

Lunch on the porch! 

Making the dye.

Dyeing.  The dye doesn't stick where there is wax on the cloth.

It was interesting to watch the cloth change colors.  It looked one color in the dye but when it was lifted out of the tub and hit the air it changed colors.  I think that's called oxidation...?!?

One of the fun little lizards running around (though it wasn't so little...probably about 10 inches long....)
Hanging out to dry...my batiks are the ones on the right and left (wish I could take credit for the middle one - I like it! ...but it's not mine!)
These ladies are working the "salad" method of making a Batik.   You do one round of dyeing and then you scrunch the material all up and squirt another color of dye on it.  

Rinsing them out/getting any remaining wax off - something about this process sets the color.
Hanging up for the 2nd round of drying. 
Another step in the process is ironing. This guy beats the wrinkles out with a round wooden "mallet" type thing.  It's a loud job (there's a video below).   It would not win the award for the job I would most like to do.

Once the Batiks are stamped and dyed and dried and ironed, this lady sews them into all sorts of lovely creations - dresses, shirts, duvet covers, curtains, bags, bread baskets, slippers, pants.

Our group with our creations and "Mama" (lady in the blue dress).  I didn't realize we were supposed to hold them up.   Ha!  Catherine's "Be Thankful" creation is an example of the salad technique. 
The plan is to make a table runner and some pillows from my batik. Maybe someday I'll have pictures of the finished products to share.  We shall see. 

Thanks for sharing this adventure with me -- and this entire adventure of serving with Mercy Ships with our family.  What a joy to know we're not in this on our own... 

Surely there will more to come!

24 May 2013

character traits/end of school

We have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Academy this past year! We have LOVED our childrens' teachers and have appreciated the partnership we've experienced.  We are thankful - so thankful - for the way the teachers & administrators have invested in our children.   

Mercy Ships as a whole does a good job of celebrating mile markers.  Some of our favorite celebrations came via the Academy at the beginning and ending of the school year.  The school year starts with a "Beginning of the Year Celebration" where all of the classes are presented and prayed over.  The school year ends with a "End of the Year Celebration"where, among other things (like the students leading the parents in worship and the students being presented as their next grade level), each student is presented with a character trait - a trait their teacher saw in them throughout the year - and a Bible verse to go along with that trait.  This was definitely one of the most special gifts our children have been given - to have words of Truth, affirmation & encouragement spoken over them -- we officially love this tradition!

Knowing how much you care for our children (and wanting to make sure we save these words for the future), we thought we'd share them here.

Eli - Willingness - "Eli approaches every task with a good attitude.  He never complains, but instead works hard to put forth his best effort.  I have seen Eli grow tremendously this year because of his cooperative spirit and perseverance."  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."  Colossians 3:23

Caroline - Responsibility "Caroline is very trustworthy and I can always count on her to follow through on her responsibilities."  "His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share in your  master's happiness."  Matthew 25:21

Emma - Compassion & Perseverance "Emma has a loving heart and is very nice and helpful to her friends when they are sad.  She also has a strong will and the combination of these 2 character traits predict a great potential for the Kingdom of God."  "And let us not get tired of well-doing; for at the right time we will get the grain, if we do not give way to weariness."  Galatians 6:9

Fun side note: one of the girls that graduated from the Academy in May has been here her entire life.  One of the most significant parts of the graduation festivities was when her parents read off ALL of character traits throughout the years.  What a beautiful testimony of the Lord's love & development of this young lady.

Surely there will be more to come!

20 May 2013

Date Night...Grillz and a Lesson in Hospitality

We really like date night (um...who doesn't?) and we highly recommend it to all married couples.

Date night has been an important part of our marriage from the beginning.  When we first started working for Teen Advisors, we realized that every night of the week had the potential to get filled up with something - a meeting with a student or growth group...an activity or bible study....hanging out with friends...etc.  So we intentionally set aside one night of the week (Wednesday!) as date night -- we didn't make plans with anyone except each other!

Date night has continued throughout every stage of our marriage.  Once children came along, Yaya (grandmother)(though it's hard to say grandmother because she doesn't "seem"/act/look like a grandmother!!!) made date night possible for us (how can you go wrong when someone who you're crazy about and who is CRAZY about your children is willing to keep them for FREE?). 

Now that we've been here on the Africa Mercy, we have Miss Catharine Fulmer to thank for helping us keep the tradition of date night alive.    There for a while we were doing date night on Tuesdays...but lately we've switched back to our old faithful Wednesdays (Nick gets to play Deck 7 soccer with some guys on Tuesdays!). 

Date night in Guinea doesn't look entirely different than date night in Georgia ever did.  Sometimes we exercise -- though running in the streets of Conakry isn't quite as peaceful as running at Lakebottom, Cooper Creek or Britt David Park....but it's still exercise and it's fun exercising together. 

Sometimes we just stay on the ship and find a quiet place to sit and talk or play a game (scattergories is a favorite).  The past couple of weeks we've managed to watch the Chelsea game (da blues! da blues! da blues!).  Sometimes we go eat  -- and, as much as we would LOVE to eat at Carabba's or Deorios, Guinea has had some nice offerings as far as date night venues go. 

A few Wednesdays ago we had a super special outing...definitely worth sharing. 

We had been hearing about a place called "Grillz" with great hamburgers and fries.  Being the hamburger and fries loving people that we are, we decided to try it.  Another pro for this place is that it's within walking distance...and walking to dinner sounded appealing to us.  So we got directions from Gretchen and Mark -- the very official directions went something like this "walk out of the port...go down the "dental clinic road"...you'll want to walk on the left instead of on the right like we usually do....look for a sign that says "grillz", turn left.  If you get to the building with the lions, you've gone too far.  The restaurant will be a few blocks down the street on the left."

A very official map.
Gretchen was also kind enough to share that when they went, they got to the restaurant and it was locked and looked closed...but within a few moments, someone came out into the street and let them in.  We're glad she said that because, sure enough, when we got there, the door was locked and we thought it was closed - and had Gretchen not shared her expertise, we would have walked away.  But, after we had stood there for a few seconds, a fella came out and welcomed us in.

We sat down...the only ones in the restaurant - music was playing (something unfamiliar...but fine); the tv was on (we decided it was Guinea's version of "The People's Court" - except more than just the judge had on black robes....); it was kind of hot (but that's ok...we weren't expecting anything else)...

Within minutes, the music had been changed to something in English.  The TV had been changed to the Chelsea game (how did they know?!) and the air conditioning unit had been turned on.  We were SO IMPRESSED by the measures taken to make us feel welcome.  None of those things were necessary...but they were done out of a spirit of hospitality and kindness. 

The man who let us in was our waiter (and may have been our cook, too).  We weren't sure he completely understood what we were ordering - we asked for cheeseburgers with just bread, meat and cheese and everything else on the side (cause sometimes burgers here come with "extra" things...like cucumbers...or a "special sauce"...or  something completely unfamiliar)...and we ordered 2 cokes and some ice.  His response?  "It is possible."  (with a slight head nod and very serious expression).

Turns out it was possible!  Our order was perfect (the only unfortunate part of the evening was finding out that frites (fries!) weren't possible...but the fried plantains they served were fantastic!).

He was so kind to open our straws and pour our drinks...he was making every effort to give us the best dining experience possible.

Side note: We want to be hospitable like that.  Taking intentional measures to help others feel welcome and thought of.  Serving in the details. 

So the burgers came and were DELICIOUS (our favorite burgers in Guinea...and there IS some competition).  And the music playing was wonderful -- through the course of our evening we found out that our server's name was (get this!) Yaya...and the music playing was Adele (we weren't familiar with her...but really enjoyed some live versions or her songs as well as some of her versions of familiar songs).  Nick offered to buy the CD from Yaya...instead of letting us buy it then, he invited us to come back to dinner on Saturday night.  He said he would 1)give us 50% off of our meal 2) join us for dinner and 3)give us the CD.  So we went back on Saturday night.  We took our kids and some friends...had some more great burgers...got to hear some of Yaya's story.  He and Nick are even facebook friends now.  AND we came home with a great CD.

So...date night turned out to feed our marriage, our friendship, our bellies & our music collection...as well as give us a tangible example of excellent hospitality, kindness & thoughtfulness.  What gifts! 

Surely there will be more to come.

14 May 2013

random bits and pieces

A post worth sharing:

Our friend Catherine put together a fun post about Guinea...thought we'd share it while we're still here:  fun & factual information about Guinea!  The rest of her blog posts are really incredible, as well -- feel free to wander around her website...you'll be blessed. 

  • days until the dental clinic closes for this field service: 3
  • days until the end of school: 7
  • days until the hospital closes for this field service: 10
  • days until the Sail:  somewhere around 19
  • days until our feet are in GA: 31 
Fun News:

We've got friends from Columbus coming to serve onboard the Africa Mercy this summer!  Matt & Sarah Robertson saw & responded to this picture:

They are coming to serve for 6 weeks while the ship is in the Canary Islands.  We're so excited about welcoming them to our home here (we'll miss the majority of their time onboard...but we're so thankful to be able to catch them at the beginning and the end of their time here)!  Please pray for Matt & Sarah as they are getting everything squared away with their business and are preparing to give so generously of themselves this summer! 

Sweet Scripture:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14

Please keep praying:

"The last patient to have surgery here is just as significant as the first." - Ans Rozema

Surely there will be more to come. 

12 May 2013

A touching story on Mother's Day - as told by Nick.

"It was a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon.  The young lad and I had stepped outside to try our hand at cricket on the Starboard side of Deck 7 .  The bat was a tennis racquet; the ball, a UGA mini foam basketball from Aunt Amy.  A delightful way to spend some time with my son. 

After a 10 over and bowling no wickets to Eli, the Batsmen, I asked him if he would like to bowl to me.  On Eli's third bowl, I hit a high arching shot to my right that managed to find the smallest opening in the deck 7 netting.  The ball soared down from Deck 7 in a flight of freedom and agony (freedom for the ball, agony for us).  Distraught, we searched for our ball - it is, afterall, the best "Ball Tag" ball ever.  But we couldn't see it!

Operation Rescue the Ball commenced. 

I immediately grabbed my name badge and shoes and speedily made my way through the ship to the gangway (walking - not running.  No running on the ship).  I scanned myself out and ran to the scene of the accident.  Still no sight of the beloved ball. 

We thought it had landed in the water but, thinking it may have taken an errant bounce, I looked under land rovers and other dock equipment to no avail.  Then I prayed (and this is true)(as is the rest of this story) - "if the ball can be found, please let me find it." 

I wandered down the fence line (the fence that keeps people from falling off of the dock into the water) a bit to see if the ball had taken a bounce careening away from the scene of the accident.  And there, 2 meters down betwix the dock and the hull of the ship next to an empty plastic bottle and a broken piece of styrofoam, floated our tiny basketball!

I could see it was floating further and further down the fence line toward the open sea (cue the "gotta make a decision, we're almost out of time, hurry!" music).  I needed a long flexible pole with a net on the end. but where would I find such a thing?  I would have to construct my own. But I was running out of time.

I ran back up the gangway, walking as fast as humanly possibly all the way to deck 8 where I found a long piece of pvc pipe. Then I scurried down the steps to our cabin, found Emma's small "butterfly net" and a roll of athletic tape (not sure how it's possible but we don't have any duct tape).

I walked hastily back through the ship, down the gangway and to the dock where I constructed my ball rescue contraption.

The photographer couldn't tell what she was taken pictures of...she didn't mean to just get his foot...it's hard to zoom from Deck 7 in bright sunshine.
With one hand affixed to the fence on the edge of the dock, the other guiding the pole down to the water's surface, I managed to pin the ball against the side of the ship, "catch" it in the trusty net and pull it up to safety. 

Much rejoicing in Cabin 7219 followed.  The end."

The rescuer and his tools
 Other titles for this blog:
  • A Second Saving (the first was the disc that flew from deck 7 in much the same fashion)
  • Bring the magnets next time (to pin up the gaps in the netting)
  • Dad of the Decade!
  • He's the reason I'm a Mom
  • Going to great lengths to save a UGA "G"
  • a silly Sunday story
Surely there will be more to come.

02 May 2013

school picture day!

The kids had their school pictures taken....here are the results.  We were talking about how our school pictures were never this cool!!  It's not everday you get to have your school pictures taken on a dock in Guinea, West Africa or on top of a ship...

The whole Academy - teachers, kids, landrovers...the littlest Cash is on the front row, three from the right.  The next to the littlest Cash is in the 2nd row, three from left.  The biggest Cash kid is standing directly behind the life ring.  Fun Fact: there's another Cash somewhere in the picture...

Mrs. Herma and her little ones.

The entire Elementary - kids and a few of the "specials" teachers (art, drama, PE,computer, choir).  It's incredible to us to think of the Nations represented by this group -- the Netherlands, the UK, Ethiopia, America, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Canada, Switzerland
Miss Kayleigh & her First Graders!  The tricyles they are sitting on were built by Crew Members on the Anastasis (Mercy Ship's previous ship!) -- they are older than the kids sitting on them!

A classic Mercy Ships' shot - everybody jumps and the photographer snaps the picture! Miss Kayleigh has some ups!

Miss Moriah and her 2nd Graders!
Miss Moriah is a dancer, can you tell?!
The teachers (and principal) doing (or attempting to do) the Sprinkler...or something...regardless of their Sprinkler skills, they are a wonderful group of Educators who take their calling to love on & teach students very seriously.  It's a blessing to know that our children are in such capable hands!

Too cute not to share! 
We are  so thankful for our ship photographers who give so generously of their time and talent to make sure all the pictures are taken for allll the different areas of Mercy Ships.  Debra and 'Chelle do an EXCELLENT job of using their gifts and abilities to honor God and bless this organization.

Please pray for the Academy as the school year is wrapping up - we know the teachers would love to finish well with strength, creativity and energy.  Please pray for those who are transitioning off of the ship (like our beloved Miss Kayleigh!) and for those who are continuing on/joining the Academy staff.  This school is a gift from God...we're thankful to be a part of it!

Surely there will be more to come!