24 September 2014

School Pictures - according to the kids

Event: 2014-2015 School Pictures
Location:"The Rose Garden" 
City, Island, Country: Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain
Date: August 27, 2014

"Emma, tell us about these pictures:"
"All of us played and I had my picture taken.  Mr. Ruben took them in the grass.  Also we had a picnic and we ran around and that's all I could think of."  
Emma, Age 4 and 8 months 
Preschool: from 4 different nations 
"Caroline, tell the world about picture day:"
"It was fun. We went to the park and had lunch there.  I got really hot because I was wearing jeans but we played a game.  I was Grace's dragon.  Mrs. Justine took our pictures and it was hot because of the jackets.  I really like my jacket - the teachers gave them to us.  Mine has secret pockets."
Caroline, Age 8 and 10 days
Grade 3: from 3 different nations
"Eli, what was picture day like?" 
"We rode in Land Rovers...for about 2 minutes.  We went to the park with the pirate ship and playground and exercise equipment.  It took forever to get my picture taken...I do not really like to have my picture taken.  After the pictures we got to play.  That was fun and made the trip worth it."
Eli, Age 9 and 5 months
Grades 4 and 5: from 7 different nations (though some of these kids could claim at least 2 nations as "home" -- so they kind of represent 10 different nations)
And our incredible team of teachers!
Teachers: from 7(ish) different nations 
Surely there will be more to come!

15 September 2014

Sailing...God is at work.

Flip flops are packed away and the cabin is secured...we are sailing!

As of 3:00pm today (Monday, September 15), "the AFM has traveled 235 NM and has 4246.7 NM remaining. It is cloudy with a visibility of 6 miles with an easy rolling and surging motion."

photo credit: Josh Callow, the incredible. 
We left Las Palmas, Gran Canaria on Saturday evening, and we are heading to Cape Town,  South Africa.  After a few weeks in South Africa, we will be sailing to Madagascar where we will have our next Field Service.  Click here to read the press release: Going to Madagascar
Someone asked what we thought of going to Madagascar... honestly, in many ways, it doesn't matter to us where we go - we're just glad to be going to a place where this vessel can carry out its mission of bringing hope and healing to the world's forgotten poor. 

But even in the midst of the excitement of going to Madagascar...we're still heartbroken about all that is happening in West Africa in regards to Ebola.   We agree with our friend Jenny as she wrote:  
"West Africa and its people, are deeply rooted in my heart, and in the hearts of all Mercy Ships crew, and will remain so always. My most heartfelt prayer is for an end to Ebola in West Africa and the suffering of her people, and to be able to return there as soon as possible."
And as our friend Bethany put it, "Please continue to pray for West Africa as the Ebola outbreak is still rampant in many countries. It may be off the news but it's far from over."

Our friend Kirstie, who was part of the Advance Team in Benin, also put some beautiful words to the fact that we're not going to Benin on her blog. Even though we won't be there for this next field service, it's amazing to think of what God has accomplished through the Advance Team and the prayers that have been poured into that country.

Here's just one tangible example of God's work in Benin: the before and after photos of the site that was chosen to be the Dental Clinic for the Field Service:

It may never be used as a Mercy Ships Dental Clinic (or maybe it will some day down the road!)...but we are confident that God will put it to good use for the local Beninois population:
"the Advance Team leaves behind this newly renovated facility, which has been turned over to the Ministry of Health and will allow them to expand the following services in Zogbo: vaccinations, hygiene, HIV screening, family planning and an extra maternity ward." Read more here
No, God is not sending this vessel to West Africa at this time - and even if we don't have all of the answers behind that reality, we can trust that He's got good plans in store for West Africa and for the Africa Mercy...and for each of us.  

He is at work in West Africa even if this big blue-&-white vessel isn't physically present - thankfully, we're not his only plan for bringing His love and presence and hope and healing to West Africa.

He is at work on the Africa Mercy.  He is at work in Columbus, Georgia.  He is at work in China and Costa Rica and Bulgaria.  He is at work in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Monrovia, Maryland.  He is at work all over the place...and He invites us to be a part of His work.  What a miraculous honor!

May we have the eyes to see how He is at work...and the courage to join Him.  

For now we're joining in with the waves as they crash their praises to their Creator...enjoying the sail...looking forward to what the next few weeks and months hold in store.  

Surely there will be more to come.

04 September 2014

Home is...our cabin.

If you google "Home is where..." you get all kinds of sweet (and funny)(and inappropriate) sayings...

Home is where the heart is...
Home is where the stuff is...
Home is where the story begins...
For us, home is in Cabin 6318 on a ship called the Africa Mercy.  Deck 6, Aft, Port Side. A home that goes with us (or maybe it would be more accurate to say a home that we go with...).
Front Door (the quote/verse/signs change on a regular basis)
This is our third cabin since we first moved onboard.  We started off in a lovely flat up on Deck 7...then moved down the hall to another fantastic piece of corner real estate...and now we've arrived in a cabin where we think we'll be a while.  
Home is... where we live...home is where we eat and play and cry and laugh....home is where we watch movies and have random dance parties and invite others to join us for lunch....home is where we take 2 minute showers and hear overhead announcements...home is were we do homework and write blogposts and read books and play games... home is where we grow as a family and where we help one another be who God has created us to be.
Living Room, Angle 1 (Eli's room and the door are to the left, the girls' room is right behind me, the wall of windows is to the right)
Living Room, Angle 2 (our bedroom is behind me, the "kitchen" and bathroom are to the right, the wall of windows is to the left)
Living Room, Angle 3 (the "kitchen" and bathroom are behind me)
If you were looking to rent a place like this, the advertisement might read something like....

A cozy, waterfront 3 bedroom, 1 bath flat.  Split floor plan with common central multi-purpose area for living, dining, cooking and entertaining.  Spacious ocean views from the 6th story of a 7 level earthquake proof complex.  Ample storage space in a variety of built in shelves and cabinets. Centrally located.  Just steps away from abundant amenities, including laundry and cooking facilities, communal vacuums, pool, 2 separate work out rooms, on-site dining facilities and meal plan included, excellent schools in the area, very short pedestrian commute to business district which includes post office, bank, coffee shop, library and church.  The rooftop patio features nightly sunset viewing and frequent wildlife sightings.  Nearly all surfaces are magnetic, creating abundant personalization opportunities throughout. On site plumbers, electricians, carpenters, medical personnel, on-call 24 hours a day.  Vintage style internet services. A lovely neighborhood rich in culture and diversity. 
Substitute these curtains for the ones in any of the other pictures of the living room.

Eli's Room

Caroline & Emma's Room

Nick & Dianna's Room

The Bathroom

A cabinet that was brave enough to be photographed
We have 8 sets of these cabinets in our cabin. All of the shelves are adjustable and removable!
We really are enjoying our new cabin.  We love the windows (all TEN of them!) and the extra space is a treasure.  And (this may be the best part!) it is beyond wonderful to have our own bedroom again.  We didn't mind the sleeper sofa the past 2 years -  it was actually rather comfortable for a sleeper sofa!!  But we are grateful to have a space that is truly ours....no more sleeping in the kitchen...or the living room....or the playroom...or the dining room.   

AND we love the location of this cabin.  Our other 2 cabins were up on the back of Deck 7 -- which is a very nice hall but the only reason most people were up there was because they live there (don't get us wrong, some amazing people live there!) - but there was never really a reason for people to "just pass by" (unless they were lost and trying to find the meeting room that's on the other end of Deck 7!).  6318 is right across from the laundry room - so that guarantees that pretty much all of the crew walk by our cabin.  It's also a nice route to take to get to the crew galley and the Academy - it's a pretty high traffic area. 

It reminds us a bit of our house on 19th Ave....one of the things we loved in Columbus was having students and friends stop by.  We never knew who might be sitting on the porch swing when we pulled into the driveway....or who might knock on the door.  

Favorite parts and special spots
Mini-Version of our family crest and verses that we're working on

So many special things in this picture!  Cup and saucer from a friend in Guinea...jar of rocks from all over the place...special plate that we brought from Georgia...
We want to live lives that are open, available and accessible -- and we're enjoying the fact that our cabin location is contributing to that (and yet still allows us plenty of time and space to be together as a family).  It's fun to have people stop by...it's fun to put verses and quotes and pictures up on the door knowing they'll be read by a plethora of people (and it's fun to brainstorm about ways that God might want to use our door to bless and encourage the crew!)....it's fun to meet new people and be able to say "if you get lonely or need anything just come round to our cabin, we're right across from the laundry room."  

So we're living it up in Cabin 6318 (which admittedly isn't as neat on a daily basis as the pictures on this blog portray....)...seeking to love and serve and be the family that God has called us to be...

Surely there will be more to come.