21 August 2014

all over the place...and right here.

We've been trying to figure out how to put into words what exactly is going on in our world and in the world of the Africa Mercy (and feel the need to remind our readers that these are just our thoughts and feelings and aren't necessarily the views and beliefs of Mercy Ships) ....

But we've been waiting -- waiting "until we know more" -- waiting until we know which direction we are heading....waiting until the right words just magically came together...but the truth of the matter is that we don't know more and we don't really know when we'll know more, and words rarely (if ever) magically come together.   Here are streams of words that are managing to magically not come together: 
  • Words: waiting. unknown. trusting. changes. transition. unexpected. change of plans. unsettled. 
  • Roadblocks: ebola. issues with the propeller.  country-next? 
  • Locations: Congo. Guinea. Benin. Benin? Congo? Somewhere else? 
  • New New New: New Managing Director.  New Hospital Director. New Operations Director. New HR Director. New Deputy Chief Medical Officer. New Crew Physician. New Preschool Teacher.
So very much feels up in the air.  So much "new" and so many unknowns cannot help but lend themselves to a certain level of unsettled uncertainty.  Yet there's peace in the uncertainty.

There are 2 pictures that have come to mind in the past few days (we're not saying this is how we feel...just 2 pictures that seem to help make sense of things that are going on).  One is of a person playing in the waves.  

It's fun and the waves are exciting...but then you get knocked down.  Ok...that was alright...still fun.  You get back up and play some more and get knocked down again - not quite as fun as the first time but still ok...and about the time you get your footing under you, another wave bowls you over...and another...and then you are swirling around and can't get your footing.  Finally the footing comes and you can catch your breath...but then, here comes another wave!  

Sometimes all of the changes and the unknowns feel a bit like waves - fun and exciting at times, terrifying and frustrating at times... but the fact is that we're right where we supposed to be...and somehow we've got to make the most of the waves!  

The other picture is a bit calmer...it's of a puzzle -- a puzzle that is well on its way to completion. 

It's been challenging to put the puzzle together, but you can see that progress has been made and it's making some sense.  There are still pieces that need to be plugged in and moved around...but you can see the picture that's taking shape and it feels like a pretty nice, orderly process.  BUT THEN - a cat steps on the puzzle and knocks it on the floor and now all the pieces are all over the place!  
You know the pieces are still there...it's just a matter of putting them back where they go (and maybe someone changed the puzzle you were working on in the middle of the spill?!?).  

So after that spew of words and pictures, we'll try to fill you in on what we do know....

What we do know is that our God has a plan.  And we trust Him.

What we do know is that Mercy Ships has capable leaders who are doing everything they can to make the best and wisest decisions.  

What we do know is that our God is faithful - His plans are good and He always guides us in the way we should go. 

We were scheduled to set sail for Benin last Friday...but because of the Ebola situation, the sail was delayed.  It is now looking more and more unlikely that we'll be in West Africa at all in the next season.

Here are links to 2 news stories about the ship/decisions: 

And here's a quote from one of our leaders (you can read the rest of the article here): 
"Africa is and remains our priority, but crew safety drives every decision," he emphasized.  "We request prayer as we consider all options to manage the risk, including deployment to other unaffected nations." - Don Stephens
One of the big questions is, "If not West Africa, then where?"  That is yet to be determined...but is being diligently worked on.  We were told tonite in our Community Meeting that we will be sailing to Africa - just not sure where or when. 

For now, we are in the Canary Islands.  We were on the Island of Gran Canaria for shipyard/maintenance...then sailed to Tenerife...and now we're back on Gran Canaria -- there's a problem with one of the propellers so we needed to come back to the shipyard.  Our Captain put it well in an email today.  He said, 
"I am grateful that we have discovered this problem now, while we are on hold and so near a qualified repair facility.  I see God’s redeeming nature in the situation." - Captain Tim
And, as a friend posted on Facebook, "there are certainly worse places that we could be stuck for a while." 
It's lovely here...but even in its loveliness, our hearts and the heart of the AFM Crew is to be serving in Africa and using this vessel to do what it was created to do - provide life-changing surgeries, dental and eye care, as well as education and training, to Africa's poorest countries.  

In a lot of ways, the location of the ship doesn't affect our family all that much.  The kids still go to school each weekday and our jobs as chaplains are in full swing - our team is working hard to lay the foundations for a strong, healthy, Spirit empowered and God-reliant ship community for wherever we end up.  

But in other ways our jobs are massively impacted by the ship's location, primarily because the AFM Crew is massively impacted by the ship's location.  

We are praying that this time will be useful for pressing into God and pressing into one another as a community.  We want to be purposeful in loving whoever God puts in front of us - whether that's here in Spain, or in Benin, or wherever we are!

Another main point for prayer is the fact that the ship is going through significant changes in leadership (see all the "News" at the beginning of this post).  Please pray into this as the Spirit leads you.  

Thank you for walking with us and being faithful to invest in us.  We absolutely couldn't be here without you.  

We are looking forward to the day when we can look back and clearly see what God was up to during this time - we know it's something...just not entirely sure what it is.  

Trusting that...
Surely there is more to come.

11 August 2014

School Starts Tomorrow!

"Twas the night before school started and all through the ship, not a Cash kid was sleeping...."

Um...I (dianna) can't think of a line with a word that rhymes with ship that makes sense...and there's just not quite enough creative energy to see this one through the end (or past the first line). 

It is indeed the night before the first day of the 2014-2015 Mercy Ships Academy School year and the Cash kids are quite excited.  They maaaay actually be asleep now (2+ hours after they started trying to fall asleep).  

We had the Academy Open House tonite (or the "night before school starts party" as Caroline described it to a friend on the phone today). It was such a fun time to see the teachers and classrooms all set up - fresh decorations, fresh supplies, fresh energy....it's lovely.  

Emma - K4 (pre-kindergarten) with Mrs. Herma

Emma will be in class with 5 other beautiful girls and will go every day (Monday - Friday) from 8am until Noon.  We're excited that she'll be with Mrs. Herma again.  Mrs. Herma is the only teacher Emma has had on the Africa Mercy - she has invested so much love, so many prayers and oh so many songs into our littlest one!

Caroline - 3rd grade with Mrs. Denise

We thoroughly enjoyed having Mrs. Denise teach Eli last year - and we're glad Caroline has the privilege of being in her class this year.  Denise has a calm, quiet strength about her that will be perfect for her class of 4 -  2 girls and 2 boys...each with their own "unique personalities." 

 Eli - 4th grade with Miss Remy

I will admit it - when Remy told me she was extending and would be around for another school year, I cried tears of joy.  This sweet lady from the Netherlands joined Mercy Ships when we did and was a part of our Onboarding/Gateway group.  She's got a passion for teaching and a love for her students that shines out from her eyes and her smile.  We're so very grateful that Eli gets to be in her class this year (and maybe even next year if she decides to stick around!)(no, we're not planning for Eli to repeat 4th grade...Miss Remy is so smart that she teaches 2 classes!  4th and 5th grades are combined into one classroom....still 2 separate grade levels - but 1 classroom).  We've been hoping for the day when we'd have a kid in Miss Remy's class...we're so glad that day is tomorrow!

We are such big fans of the Academy....we love the teachers and are so grateful for all that they pour into our children.  We are very aware that each of the teachers are called to be here on the Africa Mercy just as much as we are. It's beautiful to watch individuals live in obedience to God.  It's amazing to watch Him use these willing vessels invest in the children of Mercy Ships.

Please join us in praying for Eli, Caroline and Emma - may they be ALL that God created them to be.  May they enjoy learning and be enjoyable students.   May they know the love, presence, provision and power of God through the education that He is blessing them with. 

Please also pray for our children's teachers - they are incredible ladies who bring so many gifts and talents to the table.  We believe God has intentionally placed Emma with Mrs. Herma, Caroline with Mrs. Denise and Eli with Miss Remy for very specific reasons.  His plans are perfect and we're glad to be a part of His perfect planning.  

We're looking forward to 8:00am tomorrow.  All of the students and parents will meet in the International Lounge for a celebratory kick-off meeting...and then off they'll go into the new school year.  It's going to be a great year of learning and growing....we can't wait to see all that God is going to do in, through and all around our children and their teachers this year!

Surely there will be more to come.   

03 August 2014

5 posts in 1 - back home, Aunt Amy, Shipyard, Ebola & Benin

There seems to be lots to share -- returning home, Aunt Amy's visit, shipyard, thoughts on Ebola, heading to Benin.  Just for fun, we'll put 5 posts into 1. 

Returning home:  We flew back into Gran Canaria July 18 - originally we had planned to return directly back to the ship but because of some delays, we were housed back in the hotel for an extra week (we didn't hear any complaints about the amazing breakfast, icecream availability, fabulous pool facilities, etc. from the Cash Kids).  

We were allowed back on the Africa Mercy on the evening of July 24.  We were welcomed back with the traditional AFM Thursday night icecream (complete with icecream cones this time!!!).  We spent our first night in our new cabin 6318 (everyone was just a little excited and had quite the time falling asleep in their new beds!).  

Here are a flew glimpses into our new cabin: 
Front door of 6318 
We have a bed!! ( a bed that doesn't have to be folded up and used as a couch during the day!!!!)

Our "Wall of Love" (so many of you are on it!  If you're not sure if you are or not - send us a picture, we're happy to add you!) 
We are settling into Cabin 6318 and enjoying the space immensely!  We've always felt that we've had plenty of room in each of our cabins....this one is just especially roomy and full of windows.  We think we might keep this one for a while :)  We'll share some more pictures soon. 

A random sidenote: one fun-incredible-amazing-helpful aspect of this community:  when we arrived to this ship from the hotel, all of our luggage was scooped up by others and carried up the gangway for us. Even this past Friday, when returning to the ship with a few IKEA purchases, a kind crewmate grabbed the boxes and bag and insisted on carrying them all the way to our cabin.  Reminder for the day: taking the opportunity to be thoughtful and generous in everyday moments = beautiful gifts from God

Aunt Amy's Visit
My (dianna) lovely sister came to visit us!  She arrived the same day that we did and spent the week at the hotel with us and then had nearly a week with us on the ship.  We had so much fun and shared so many wonderful moments!!  Here are pictures of a few: 
Rendezvous at the airport
Playing at the Park
Teaching her nieces a thing or 2 
Holiday World
It was so good to have Amy with us!  It's one thing to share pictures and stories - we hope we do a good job of that - BUT it's another thing entirely to experience the ship for yourself.  We know it was just a taste for Amy (she's going to have to come back during a field service to get the full experience!) - we're so thankful she made the effort and came to see our home.  It means more than words in a blog can express.  (sidenote:  we'd love to host any of you who would like to come visit....the invitation is always open!  You can come visit...or you can apply and come serve for a while with us!)(planting seeds, can't hurt, right?!)

This shipyard time has been extremely important (an understatement, at best).  The projects completed and improvements that have been made these past 6 weeks will allow the Africa Mercy to operate more effectively and efficiently in the months and years to come (just realized that 2 different meanings of the word "operate" fully apply here).  It may not seem like maintenance work has much to do with offering hope and healing -- but this vessel couldn't do what it does without being taken care of and worked on during the time between field services.  

Floors have been redone.  Pipes have been replaced.  Major work was done on the ship's tailshaft. The alarm and sound systems have been improved. Wish we had a complete list of all the work that has been accomplished by the crew that's been onboard - maybe we can find that and share it.  It's amazing what all has been done!    

These 2 pictures give a very vivid look at a significant "before and after"  (this is just one major project....there were dozens and dozens of others - we just don't have  the "before and after" pictures of them):

For those of you who may not know, West Africa is dealing with a horrific outbreak of the Ebola Virus.  

There are plenty of articles, opinions and ideas out there about the Ebola outbreak.  We'd like to encourage you to research it and read as much as you can/want to about it (preferably from reliable sources...).  Here's one place you could start: article about Ebola

Here are just a few of the questions we've been asked:

Has the Ebola outbreak has affected you? Simple answer: YES, it has affected us.  One of the main reasons we are going to the country of Benin is because of the Ebola that is present in Guinea - so, in essence it has affected the entire course of our lives.  More importantly, it affects many of our crewmates who are from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  It also affects many of our crew who have served in these countries.  Hearts are certainly breaking and hurting.  This outbreak is devastating. We need to pray for it to END.

Are you in any danger? Another simple answer: NO.  The leadership of Mercy Ships has a close eye on the outbreak and is very aware of where we're going/what we're doing and the best practices for keeping us safe from Ebola.  Is it possible that a case of Ebola will show up on the ship?  We suppose it's possible - but consider it very unlikely.  We're not afraid or fearful - but understand how and why others may be (or how/why others may be concerned for us).

What do you think of the missionaries being transported to Emory?  Isn't that endangering the US?  One phrase comes to mind: put yourself in their shoes (or put Nick in Dr. Brantly's shoes if you need to).  If one of us was battling with any type of disease/medical condition, Emory would be THE PLACE we would want to be.  And no, we don't think it's endangering the US.  The standards and practices at Emory are excellent. We probably don't have a clue about all the infectious diseases and viruses and such that are dealt with on a daily basis in our country (in safe and controlled ways).  It makes us sad for the hundreds who don't have the support and resources to get the same kind of care and treatment....but so so so glad for these 2 and their families that they are getting the absolute best care possible.  We're praying God's best for the Brantlys and Writebols - and for ALL the families affected by Ebola.

Heading to Benin
Soon and very soon we'll sail to Benin!

The Advance Team has been hard at work in country preparing for the arrival and work of the Africa Mercy.  Please pray for a fresh burst of energy and strength for them as they finish strong.  Pray that God will bind them together in perfect peace and unity as they prepare for our arrival and for all the incredible work that is going to be done in Benin in the next 10 months (and beyond!).

One major prayer request that has been answered (in the way we were hoping it would!) has to do with the dock space that we've been assigned.  At one point it was questionable if we would be able to set up the tents that we use on the dock -- the last time the ship was in Benin the dock space was pretty much non-existent.  The Advance Team let us know that we've been assigned a berth that will allow for our tents.  As our Managing Director shared with us, this makes a life-changing difference for HUNDREDS of people.  It's amazing how one decision/assignment/determination can make such a profound impact...

So lots to report on...lots to pray for....lots to think about...lots of thank God for. Please keep on praying for us...please keep on praying for God's work in, on, through and around the Africa Mercy.

Surely there will be more to come.