24 June 2014

a picture worth studying..and a glimpse into life change

This picture is definitely worth studying.  The numbers and stats here are BEAUTIFUL testimonies to what the Lord did (and continues to do!) in and through the Africa Mercy while she was docked in Pointe Noire, Congo these past 10 months.  If you have a few minutes, please read it as an act of worship and thanksgiving (and know that all of the pictures that make up the background are pictures from our time in Congo!).  
...and of the "countless lives changed", mine was certainly one of them (this is dianna writing, by the way).

In silly ways I know that my life has been changed since we've been serving on the Africa Mercy:
  • I have a greater ability to pick out accents and pinpoint people's location of origin
  • Never would I ever have willingly eaten fried bananas/plantains from a breakfast buffet
  • Lime in my coke is nearly essential now 
  • There's a deeper creativity being stirred up in me - I've been challenged to look at things in new ways (whether that's beliefs or convictions or pictures or situations.  Community stirs up creativity. )
And I know my life has been changed on deeper levels as well. 

One quick story: 

During the last Thursday night Community Meeting of the Field Service, Mae Palmer led us in a time of reflection and sharing about our time in the Congo.  She encouraged each of us to think of story or a circumstance or a memory from the Field Service - and to sum it up into one word.  

My word: service

The story that goes with the word is almost too simple.  It has nothing to do with life-changing surgery or a statistics or anything that would necessarily be recorded or reported (though there are dozens and dozens of those kinds of stories that are beautiful and well worth sharing!).  

My story is about a man - one of our officers - who served a pitcher of cold water.  A man who was loving on people.  He was taking a pitcher of ice cold water to the Congolese men who had brought fuel to be loaded onto our ship.  He served them water.  He refreshed them. And I happened to look out the window at just the right moment to be a witness to this act of worship.  God knew my heart needed that tangible representation of Him.  

So maybe the word could have been beautiful.  or worship.  or, had we been allowed a phrase, "unto Me."  

This fellow crew member was living out the Scripture recorded in Matthew 25:37-40

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

And it affected me greatly. 

So much so that it wins the prize for "My Favorite Moment in Congo."  A moment of seeing someone love like Jesus loves....serving...giving...blessing - with no strings attached or hidden agenda or ulterior motive. 

I told this officer about how what he did really blessed me...he just shrugged it off as no big deal - he saw it as the normal, natural thing to do - bring water to guys who are working hard on a hot day.  Maybe that's what loving others truly looks like...

At another gathering, a sweet lady named Anne shared about how sometimes people aren't even aware that what they are doing is helping point her to Jesus and direct her thoughts to God.  

This all ties into what the Lord has been trying to hammer into my heart and mind (ever so gently, as He is so patient).  

He continues to say "Walk with me, Dianna. Be who I've made you to be.  Do what I've called you to do.  Love others.  Don't think about results or what difference you are (or aren't) making. Just be with Me and let Me be with you." 

You never know when you may be doing the very thing that pleases Father most and brings His kingdom to Earth.  You never know when your act of obedience is THE THING that draws someone into the presence of our God.  You never know...

...and I suppose we're not meant to know.  

He knows.

Surely there will be more to come.  

16 June 2014

strawberries & prayer requests

We arrived safe and sound in Gran Canaria Friday evening after another week (almost) of sailing.  The second week proved to be a bit less rocky than the first (thankfully).  

Many of the crew were antsy to get off the ship as soon as possible (apparently more than 50 calmly  made their way down the gangway within minutes of the Captain announcing that we had permission to go ashore!) 

The Cash Crew headed off the ship Saturday morning.  We walked to our favorite park...picked up some groceries along the way and enjoyed a delightful few hours of playing and picnic-ing.  We intended to wander a few more blocks to the beach/boardwalk...but managed to enjoy ourselves so much at the park that we saved the beach for Sunday evening.  

It never ceases to amaze us how delicious strawberries are (and how much we've missed them the past 10 months!).  What an incredible fruit God created!!

Part of our picnic included cheeseballs that Emma was especially fond of (she really enjoyed being a chipmunk with her snack).

This morning we ventured out to IKEA and McDonald's.  Caroline requested a picture with "the most delicious cheeseburger she's had in a long, long, long, long time."
Favorite parts of these past few days:

  • strawberries (many packages have been bought)
  • plums
  • nectarines
  • walking into town
  • running to the beach
  • cafe con leche leche with a lovely friend
  • playing on the beach in the evening
  • smelling roses
  • watching the World Cup
  • the temperature outside
  • longer daylight hours
  • more relaxed atmosphere onboard
  • unlimited water useage (ie - looooong showers!)(the ship is trying to get rid of as much weight as possible before being dry docked - this includes extra water!)
Least favorite part of these past few days:
  • having to say good-bye to a few more treasured friends

Tonite we're packing up and getting ready to head to the hotel on the other end of Gran Canaria where we'll be staying for the next week. The Africa Mercy will go into Dry Dock on Wednesday morning (that's the reason for families being moved off of the ship and into hotels: no children allowed in/on a dry docked ship).  Nick will continue to work this week - he'll commute back and forth (with the other dads) from the hotel to the ship (and vice versa).  The rest of us are planning to have a restful, peaceful week enjoying a part of Gran Canaria that we're not as familiar with.  Next Wednesday (June 25), we'll leave for our family vacation.

We're looking forward to what God has in store for us in the coming weeks....a few of our "word prayers" for this vacation are rest, laughter, exercise, time outdoors, refreshment, connection, excellent family time, memory making moments. We'd love for you join us in praying for these gifts for our family.

Please also pray for this technical period of the Africa Mercy.  There's quite a bit of maintenance, repair work and construction projects that need to be completed in a short amount of time.  Pray for the Astican (shipyard company) workers as they come alongside our crew to help make this vessel the best she can be - the best she can be so that as many as possible are able to encounter the love, hope and healing of Jesus in the coming months and years.  

One other prayer request: please pray for so many of our crew who are spending time at home this summer - there are many who need to experience rest and refreshment during this time before we head to Benin in August.  And there are many who are going home to difficult circumstances and situations and need to know the power, provision and presence of God in real and tangible ways. 

Thank you for being more than friends and family - thank you for being ones who come along side of us and hold us (and our Africa Mercy Community) up in prayer.  Thank you for talking to God on our behalf...for making these requests known to Him and inviting Him and His power to invade our lives.  There's no telling what is being accomplished by and through your prayers.  

Surely there will be more to come.

08 June 2014


It's a little hard to believe that it was just a week ago that the Africa Mercy pulled away from our dock space in Pointe Noire.  

Leaving is always rich with so many emotions...sadness to say good-bye to a place and people that we loved before we ever came (and will continue to love long after we're gone)....relief that we're finally setting out on the next part of the adventure...thankful for all that God accomplished through this vessel and her crew....amazed by the lives that were forever changed....concern over the sail and the seasickness that may come...happiness to know that we're heading in the direction God wants us....

One of the most fun parts of departure is hearing the cacophony of ship horns (and vuvuzelas) saying good-bye.  There's something special about the sounding of a ship's horn. 

All in all, there was a general sense of peace and excitement as the mooring lines were loosed, the lifeboats were checked once more and we sailed away from Congo.  
Congolese dock worker waiting for the instructions to let our mooring lines loose
Some of the Africa Mercy Deck Crew handling the lines
Mr. Josh doing an incredible job (as usual) of capturing the goings on of the AFM
One of the tugs getting ready to be attached to our vessel - these little boats do BIG work
Another tug doing "doughnuts" in our honor as we pulled away!
Looking back on our home for the past 10 months....it's a bit surreal to see it so empty

The leaving may have been peaceful and smooth...but "peaceful" wouldn't have been one of the best words to describe what was happening in our cabin.  We had been told that the ride might be a bit rough - that the ocean had some swells.  Our Captain was correct.  As the ship was teetering and tottering, we found out just how unsecure the contents of our cabin really were. After some adjustments - most involving bungee cords across cabinets and doors - and listening carefully to what was rolling around so that it could be removed - and after some cleaning (including soaking up some of the contents of the fridge that found their way to freedom), we settled in to the sail.  And what a sail it's been.  

Last week was quite rock-y and roll-y -- but overall a really nice week. Thankfully, we've had little to no issues with seasickness. We had a full week of activities for the kids (while Nick - and the majority of the rest of the crew - worked!).  Some may think it would be difficult to keep kids from getting bored and going stir crazy during a 2 week sail...but that's not been the case for us.  We're finding that a little planning and creativity go a long way!   

Some snapshots and collages from our week: 

Cement Mixers being unloaded from a ship in the port as we were leaving
Time on the bow...some of the best time during the sail
Fort City in the International Lounge
Crafts in the Cafe
Crossing the Equator and Prime Meridian - usually a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity...we are officially "Double Diamond Shellbacks"
There's a buoy marking the general area (but no yellow lines or flashing X's...and certainly nothing that made the ship bump as we passed over)
Dutch Games and Pancakes
The only dolphin to be seen (until today!)
Majesty in the skies
Games in the International Lounge
Rock Party in the Queen's Lounge
So there's been lots to do (and this doesn't even include all the activities in the evenings....) and there's still a week of sailing left!

We've "turned a corner" (quite literally as we've passed Liberia and continued our journey up the West African Coast) and the seas are much calmer (though we've been told there may be some interesting weather coming in the next day or so).  Nothing has flown off the counter in the past 24 hours - but we're still keeping things in their "secure state"!  

We've got another week of sailing....another week of kids' activities in the morning and dodgeball on deck 7 in the afternoon...another week of spending evenings on the bow....another week of lunch picnics with a most lovely view - water, water, everywhere...another week of especially creative exercising...another week of freedom on the open ocean....

Another week of enjoying being right where we are supposed to be...

Surely there will be more to come.