25 December 2014

Christmas Blessings

Merry Christmas...to all of our friends and family, near and far!  

God continues to wow us as we celebrate the fact that He sent His Son to us....He didn't leave us to figure things out on our own....He didn't just stand back and save us from a distance...He came to earth - moved into the neighborhood - put on flesh and CHOSE to endure humanity, so that we can know Him and His love. 

Jesus is Christmas.

May you truly know Him and His love as you enjoy the celebration and festivities of your Christmas Day - and the days to come...wherever you are....

Surely there will be more to come!

10 December 2014

Celebrating Emma

As we were preparing to be back in the States for these few weeks, lots of people asked how long we were planning to stay.  Our answer was usually something along the lines of "we'll be there for Thanksgiving and Christmas and through the New Year!"  And if Emma happened to be anywhere within earshot she would cheerfully chime in with "AND MY BIRTHDAY!"  

Emma turned 5 years old today!  She was celebrated simply and thoroughly and extravagantly and thoughtfully.  Her request was for a "party with games and cake."  (today we realized that she had a few previously unspoken requests about the specifics...but that's ok....)

A few pre-party practice rounds of Duck, Duck, Goose

 She helped with every part of the cake and cupcake making

 Eli wearing Emma's new hat
 Trying out the art of taking a selfie

Under the table with the White Boys

 Coloring with Aaron

 Marco's Pizza!

 A variety of versions of Duck, Duck, Goose

Exuberant Joy

Emma is a rare and splendid treasure...full of life and energy and fun and songs.  She is a strong leader with passions that run deep.  Her prayers are sincere and her love beautiful.

It's an honor to share life with this one and we're grateful to be a part of the plans that God has for her life.  God uses her in special ways - like simply humming "Ode to Joy" a she was playing on the computer in mid-ships and planting the song in the heart of a crew mate who then went on to share that song in multiple situations.  Or serving by asking if there's anything she can do to help.  Or cheerfully saying hello to all sorts of people (she's come a long way on that one!).

Emma is an essential part of the Cash Crew.  Thank you, God, for the gift of Emma.

Surely there will be more to come.

03 December 2014

Home (one of them). Glimpses into the past week...

It's ridiculously hard to believe that we arrived in the States just over a week ago.  

After a long bus ride, a night and day in Tana and 2 long flights, we arrived in Atlanta safe and sound Monday evening. We were (are!) so blessed by our family waiting for us at the airport....such a delightful way to be welcomed home.

For some reason or another, our camera has stayed tucked away for alot our time.  Wish it was possible to have captured every moment...every hug...every person from this past week -- but then the camera might have become our focus rather than soaking up and enjoying the delight of the moment.
These are just tastes of the joy and a few glimpses into what we've been doing the past week:
Nick and Toni
Incredible siblings. 
Girl Cousins
Boy Cousins
We left the airport and all went to Chick-Fil-A for a most delicious meal.  Doing the same thing twice in a row makes it tradition, right? (Chick-Fil-A was our first stop during our last trip home in June 2013)

Tuesday morning one of the first things the girls wanted to do was take a bubble bath in Yaya's gianormous tub.  They stayed in there a loooong time.  

Another main priority of our first day home was connecting with our dear friends, the Whites.  We were able to spend the afternoon with them playing and catching up and laughing and eating cheeseballs.

Wednesday we headed to Athens to be with Amy (it just so happened that it was her birthday!!)...ate at the Varsity, got pedicures, ate at Cali n Tito's, went to a Lady Dawgs basketball game - great way to spend day #2. 

Thursday morning we left Athens and went to Warrenton for Thanksgiving at the Cabin.  Such a lovely day with family...beautiful weather...tremendously delicious food.

Friday we headed back to Columbus and have been here ever since...
  • building epic train tracks
  • plugging things in without adaptors
  • having rich and meaningful conversations (one far into the night)
  • sharing at Crosspointe 
  • delightfully sweeping up leaves
  • enjoying the Fall weather
  • taking longer than 2 minute showers
  • missing our ship friends
  • catching up with GA friends
  • getting school work done
  • being blessed by so many who know us and love us
  • in awe of the kindness and generosity of so many
  • seeking to enjoy this sweet time and make the most of this time that God has blessed us with.
One other exciting part of our time home has been that Nick was ordained on Sunday evening. Once again we were so blessed by the friends and family who came (some great distances!) to share in this special event with us.

And just to answer a few of the questions that have been asked quite frequently lately...

Yes, we are enjoying being home...yes, it's a little strange and overwhelming (but not really)....yes, we miss the ship....yes, we can relate to this article about home...yes, it's good to be here....yes, this first week was full (but no worries - the others aren't nearly as full!)...yes, we'll be going back to the ship (January 5)...yes, we're seeking to enjoy this time and make the most of it - peaceful, restful, meaningful, rich...those are some of our prayers for this time.  Please pray with us and for us.

Surely there will be more to come.

07 November 2014

Screening & Such

For those of you who have been around with us the past couple of years (and for those of you who have been around Mercy Ships long before we came onto the scene!), you will know that in the past, our patient screening process has primarily been one, massive, day-long event where thousands of people line up.  One-by-one, the patients come through our screening process where it is determined whether or not they will be able to receive surgery.  

This year, Mercy Ships has implemented a new screening process -- the reasons behind this are many (we're happy to share them with you if you'd like to hear!) - but it mainly comes down to best practices and the way to best serve the country of Madagascar!  Smaller screening events will now take place throughout the entire field service -- the first of which began this week. 

Here are a few pictures that were taken earlier this week.  What a joy it is to think that these pictures represent thousands of Malagasy lives that will be forever changed in the coming weeks and months (not to mention the hundreds of nurses and doctors whose lives will forever be changed as they care for these patients)...

If you're interested, here's a blog post from Sierra - one of our writers onboard.  She shares "the Starfish story" that we love so much and her screening experience.
Yes, there are many in the line that had to hear a very hard and disappointing "no, we're very sorry, but we are unable to help with your condition..." But even those who weren't given an appointment card encountered the love of Jesus as they were seen and talked to and prayed for.  Please pray for those that received a "no" -- may they know their great worth even in the midst of struggling with whatever issue it is that they are suffering with.

Please also pray for those who received the ever hopeful "Yes" -- may God give them patience as they wait for their appointment day and then may they receive the best possible care and treatment as they come onto the ship.
And please pray for our Screening Team -- Mirjam, Jasmine, Naomi, and Nate (others certainly help them -- but the vast majority of the screening work falls to these four). They will continue these screenings here in Toamasina for three more weeks, and then they will travel to other parts of the country to continue finding patients.  Pray for strength, endurance, and energy.  

Want to know one of our favorite things about these pictures?

One of our favorite things is KNOWING the crew in the pictures....that's not just some guy blowing bubbles -- that's our friend Peter making a kid's wait in line a bit brighter and more fun.  This is the same Peter who teaches Eli karate and shares chocolate chip cookies and has Adel songs on his ipod.
And this isn't just another person giving an eye test.  This is Therese from Norway who met the love of her life in Congo and who gives and serves selflessly on the Eye Team.
And this is not just a random lovely lady taking notes on a potential patient.  This is our friend Jas.  Jas who speaks life and Truth and has a creative flare that many just dream about.  This is Jas who is a coffee connoisseur and has a brilliant accent and generously shares herself and her friendship. 

And these aren't just 3 people taking a break and chatting it up.  These are 3 strong and mighty ladies who have boatloads of knowledge, experience, and passion.  Kirstie, Mirjam and Michelle... our Hospital Director, Screening Coordinator, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, respectively.

What a privilege to get to know these people and share life with them here on the Africa Mercy.  We get to live and serve and play and pray with some incredible people!

We can't tell you enough how beautiful it is to see the hospital coming alive again after months of being dormant... this week patients have been onboard for pre-surgery consultations and further screening.  On Monday, patients will be admitted to the hospital, and on Tuesday the first surgeries will take place.

These photos were on a nurse's Facebook wall today.  It shows the nurses as they looped around the wards and through the OR to pray together over the hospital. We thought it was beautiful and certainly worth sharing.
It's good to be here.

Surely there will be more to come.