24 December 2015

Cash Crew Christmas 2015 - part 2

Solomon's Creativity
I saw this picture on facebook - and loved it!  Solomon, one of our crew (the guy in the blue!) created these trees for the Hope Center out of pallets.  Creativity is absolutely lovely! 
Santa Lucia
This is one of the most beautiful Christmas traditions on the AFM!  The roots of the Scandinavian tradition are connected to the winter light festival of St. Lucy, a Christian Martry from the 3rd Century.  (one of the rare times candles are able to be lit on the ship...rest assured, there's a fire extinguisher nearby)
pc: KJ
Decking our own halls: Cabin 6318

Gingerbread House Making
Mad love, huge props and major respect to KJ for making a gingerbread house with the Cash and Dunne kids - that's quite the undertaking.  They had quite the creative result...complete with a story about dinosaurs attacking, santa eating and then rebuilding their house.

 a few of the other "results"

Carols by Candlelight
Monday night we gathered in the warehouse on the dock and got to hold REAL candles!  Some of our crew from the Southern Hemisphere shared this Australian Tradition with us.   It's easy to forget that not everyone's Christmas involves wishing for a white Christmas, fire places and bundling up. Fun fact: the acoustics in the warehouse are amazing!!  

The Australian born (AFM/Malagasy version) "Wiggles" also made an appearance...sorry for the blurriness...they lived up to their name and weren't still
Elementary Students Caroling
The day before their break from school, the kids were able to sing down on the wards in the hospital and share some joy through singing. Then they came up and sang for the crew in mid-ships and shared joy through cupcakes!
More memories made...more celebrations shared...more excitement over the coming of Jesus.  One more sleep until Christmas Day! 

Surely there will be more to come!

21 December 2015

Cash Crew Christmas 2015 - part 1

'Tis the season...and what a special season it is!  This month has been so full of getting ready for and celebrating Jesus' birthday.  Here are some snapshots of Cash Crew Christmas 2015...part 1 of some...

Christmas Cookie Bake
The dough is provided...the cookies are cut and then whisked away to the galley for baking...and then brought back for the icing part.  Definitely a delightful way to make Christmas cookies -- it's all the best parts of making cookies - primarily using cookie cutters and icing them - without all of the not so best parts (dirtying dishes, washing dishes, making sure the cookies don't burn).  (not to mention you get to go home with dozens and dozens of delicious cookies - for the low, low cost of $2 for a kilo of dough!)
A Cash Family favorite....click here to read more about the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas.  The best parts? Every child gets a gift...and the "pepernoten" (a little Dutch gingerbread like treat) that is tossed out to the crowd (imagine candy in a parade).  The songs the kids sing are special, too!
Sinterklaas arrived by Tuk Tuk this year 
The Barr family...Elle's gift (the orange creature!)
was bigger than she is! 

Jingle Bell Dash & Dine
Such a great way to gather and build community (and be healthy!) - running/riding/walking to the port gate with 50+ incredible people...and with jingle bells (and loud singing by one runner)!  And then sharing a meal on the dock....always a delight. 

I'm certainly representing GA well...
I'm not kneeing him...just showing off my socks. 

 Christmas Concert
A delightful evening of music - 4 of the 5 Cashes were a part of the performances! Hopefully the video below will work and you can hear some of the joy that the Elementary Choir shared with us (Miss Katie has talent!).  

Click here to watch!
Christmas Craft Night
This is a delightful evening with plenty of craft options for crew of all ages!  These are samples from the "ornament painting" station -- which was just one out of about 20 crafts available.
We hope this blog post finds you merry and bright...enjoying ALL of the gifts that God wants to give this Christmas season.  

Surely there will be more to come.

30 November 2015

News: Country Next

We received some news recently...thought you might be interested in it as well.  We're glad you'll be going with us to Benin in August. 

"After careful consideration, the Executive Committee of the Mercy Ships International Board has approved the deployment of the Africa Mercy to the nation of Benin for the August 2016 – June 2017 field service.

The Africa Mercy was previously scheduled to dock in Benin in 2014, but had to redeploy due to the Ebola outbreak in the region of West Africa.  Following the past two years of service in Madagascar, the decision to return to West Africa was taken with great care and deliberation even though Benin was not affected.  During the past several months a number of West African countries have been declared Ebola free.  In the coming months, Mercy Ships will continue to carefully monitor these encouraging developments, study and make the necessary preparations for this field service.

Benin is considered one of the most stable and safest countries in the region, with a history of peaceful transitions between governments through democratic elections, and a progressive government striving to modernise the country and eradicate poverty.

Despite the stability of both the country and its economic growth, it is still considered one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking at 165 out of 187 countries according to the United Nations Human Development Index in 2013. Benin welcomes support to improve the country’s health system.

Donovan Palmer, Group Managing Director for Mercy Ships, reports, “Since our last visit to Benin, the Mercy Ships programmatic model has expanded.  Capacity-building projects are now possible on a scale which did not exist previously.  Coupled with the opportunity to build on projects from the past, we believe Mercy Ships efforts have the potential to catalyze change in Benin in ways not possible before now.”

the AFM in Cotonou, Benin 2009
The Africa Mercy last visited Benin in 2009.  Previous to that time, Mercy Ships have also docked in Cotonou in 2004, 2001, and first served in the nation in 1997."

We're excited about going to Benin in August (though, to be really honest, we'd be excited no matter what country was announced as "next"). For now, we'll enjoy Madagascar and all that this beautifully breathtaking and heartbreaking country holds. 

Surely there will be more to come. 

16 November 2015

Return Addresses

This might possibly be the most random blog post ever....but I (dianna) think it's pretty interesting - maybe you will, too (or maybe this will just continue to confirm how very quirky I am)(though quite a while back I decided that "quirky = freedom to be who God has made me to be!")

Fun fact:  we are instructed to always shred all names and addresses before throwing things away here on the Africa Mercy.  Really it's not a bad thing to practice no matter who you are or where you live - there's always the possibility that trash may be gone through in America but it is a definite  reality that trash is gone through in Africa.  It's actually very impressive how trash is used and even stewarded here.

Another fun fact:  we LOVE getting mail. (click on that phrase for more information on this topic!)   Thanks to the kindness of so many, we end up with quite a few envelopes that need to be shredded, BUT, honestly, I don't always want to make the not-even-very-far trip down to the shredder....so I rip out the return addresses (ever so carefully). And I save them (and then I throw the envelopes away in our trash can).

2014 Christmas Cards sans the Return Addresses
Return Addresses (I tried hard to make sure no one's address was fully showing in this picture!)
the collection
I don't even know why I'm sharing all of this....I was just tearing the return addresses off the envelopes the other night and thought "This is so random...and it would be fun to share."  And I also thought "I bet no one has a clue that this is being done with their return addresses."  

I'm also sharing because I need some help - I don't really know what to do with all of the return addresses. Right now they are filling up a little basket in my desk drawer.  I keep thinking some great idea is going to pop into my head...but, alas, nothing has.  Maybe I should try to find something on pinterest (I just ventured into that world recently.  Watch out.)

Any ideas?  What can I make or how can I use these delightful bits of paper?  Because they really are gifts from God - each one represents a card, note, letter or package that some awesome individual or family sent our way.  

Thanks to each of you that have sent tangible love and care to us through the mail.  Your efforts cross the ocean and encourage our souls!! 

Surely there will be more to come. 

01 November 2015

Specialty: Ortho

The way our hospital runs is amazing.  I know my understanding of it all is rather simple - thousands of patients screened, scheduled, brought to the ship, admitted, prepped for surgery, have surgery, recover, have whatever rehab or physical therapy is needed, and then return home with changed lives - and hopefully not just physically.  It's a miraculous process that requires the love, effort and expertise of many. 
One thing that happens that helps with orchestrating it all is that certain types of surgeries happen at certain times -- for instance, during "Plastics", surgeons who specialize in burns/contractures are brought in and the majority of surgeries will be of that nature (makes sense, right?!). 

Right now Orthopedics is the speciality that is running.  Dr. Frank (in the picture above) and his wife, Kathleen, are beloved crew who come year after year, willingly sharing their gifts and talents so that people - primarily children - can walk or run or dance or play again (and some for the first time in their life!). 

Thought you might like a few glimpses into what God is doing in and through the Ortho Team.  

Here's a link to a great video that's well worth watching:

2 Quotes From Mercy Ships' Facebook Page:

"The orthopedic team recently saw 35 pediatric patients from our last field service for follow-up appointments. Many shared how well they have done since their surgeries last year, and it was wonderful to hear how many of these children are now in school, some for the first time ever. We are thrilled to see these patients doing so well."

"This week we're welcoming orthopedic patients on board the #AfricaMercy. Cyriane comes to us from a village in northern Madagascar. Though she was born with clubbed feet, she hasn't let that slow her down. Cyriane is determined to keep up with the boys in her village - but due to her condition she can't wear shoes, which makes life difficult for an active child. Because of our generous donors and incredible volunteers, this won't be the case for much longer. Soon Cyriane will receive the treatment and therapy she needs to walk and run normally. In the meantime, she can be found on a hospital ship - where she is being spoiled by nurses who paint her fingernails and playing with the new friends she's met along the way." 

Thoughts from the blog of our Chief Steward, Katie Stull (...the windows in her office overlook the gangway...)

"Today, orthopedic surgeries started and so last week I got to see parades of adorable children making their slow way down to deck 3. Give those kids a few weeks though and they will be tearing around creation on straight legs."

Thoughts from Dean Hufstedler Dean is one of our physical therapists (and the uncle of our friends, the Bullocks, who served with us our first 2 years on the ship!  We like to claim "Uncle Dean" and "Aunt Marcia", as family, too!) 

Sobering moments:

During orthopedic screening, Dr. Frank asked the father of one obviously malnourished child what she had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The shame and helplessness showed on his face as he answered, "rice, rice, rice." Most of the world's families try to survive on less than two US dollars a day. I waste more than that every day on my wants.

While riding the 45 minutes to church this morning, I watched hundreds, maybe thousands of the 2-dollar a day folks walking, shopping, working along the route. I thought of Matthew 9:36:  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

I couldn't stand it if I didn't know that God loves them more than I do. Come soon, Lord Jesus. 
It is a joy and a privilege and a delight to be a part - a small part - of the miracles that are happening onboard the Africa Mercy through all things Ortho - and through every part of this vessel and her crew!

To God be the Glory.  He is so worthy.

Surely there will be more to come. 

19 October 2015

Pictures from MSA Picture Day!

Our entire school! Mercy Ships Academy 2015-2016
The Lovely & Courageous Caroline, age 9, grade 4 (purposefully first since the middle one hardly ever gets to be first)
How we all actually feel about picture day. 
The Kind & Thoughtful Eli, age 10, Grade 5 (well done, Justine, in getting him to smile)
The ever adorable & giggly Emma, age 5, Kindergarten

Miss Remy with Grades 4 and 5;
6 students + 1 teacher from 5 different countries
Miss Remy has mad jumping skillz...just one of her many, many talents.  Another talent?  Keeping her area neat and tidy.  She's one special lady.  

Miss Katie & her 2 girls; an All-American class;
3 of the sweetest individuals on the entire ship.
The few, the proud: MSA Teachers.  So much excellence, experience, awesomeness and love on display in this picture.  

If you know our childrens' middle names you are more than welcome to create your own portfolio of pictures...print as many wallet sized photos as your heart desires (and any other size).  You can even create your own package - custom made to suit all of your Cash Kid School Picture needs...(the Facebook conversations about School Picture Packages and the point of wallet-sized photos has amused me).

Story time:
On the morning of Picture Day I happened to see the kids and teachers walking along the dock to the back of the ship where the pictures would be taken.  As I watched from our cabin window, the elementary classes each came out - lined up nice and neat, walking calmly with books under their arms (our teachers think of everything - even something for them to do while they wait for their turn in front of the camera!).  And then the Junior High and High School students came out...not quite so neat and orderly - but neat and orderly enough.  Some were carrying and/or riding the vehicles that can be seen in the pictures.  AND THEN I saw something I hope I never ever forget (I am so so sad that I didn't get a video...or even a picture).  I saw our science teacher, Mr. MacGregor (who happened to be wearing his lab coat as he so often does)(he wears it well!) riding along on one of the tricycles.  But the even better part?  Ms. Robinson - our most tenured teacher - was running behind him, pushing him.  The lab coat was flapping in the wind and both had looks of utter JOY on their faces.  What delight!!  What a beautiful reminder to enjoy life, to make the most of every opportunity, to be silly sometimes, to laugh...

We are so very blessed - so very blessed - day after day by the Academy here on the Africa Mercy.

Surely there will be more to come.