18 August 2016

Arriving in Benin - Containers of Hope and Healing

We arrived in Benin this morning!  

Arriving into a new country is tremendously significant.  It's very nearly overwhelming to try and wrap one's mind around what exactly it is that we're pulling into the port to do. It's quite emotional....quite powerful...quite humbling...quite a reminder of how very much we need God and how we can do nothing without Him. 

We were standing up on Deck 8 this morning around 9 as the ship was maneuvered so very carefully into her berth, and I said to my friend Michelle, "Ships do this every day...coming in and out of ports....but this is so much more significant..."  She's a wise, brilliant one.  She replied (in her beautiful South African accent), "We aren't here for a quick stop to offload containers filled with goods.  We're here for months because we need to offload hope and healing."

We have containers of hope and healing to share with God's beloved people of Benin.  In fact, we are the containers.  
Truth on the wall outside of the Preschool Classroom of the Academy 
The kids have been studying Benin 
Benin looks like a turkey leg...or a key...depends on which map you're looking at. 
The Benin flag was raised on the ship this morning as we entered Beninoise waters
The Advance Team awaiting our arrival this morning
Sidling up to the dock
A view from the dock
And what's more overwhelming than pulling into a new berth space and seeing in person the tangible results of prayers and dreams and hundreds of hours of hard work? What's more overwhelming than knowing you're pulling into the ship parking space that will be your home for the next ten months?  What's more overwhelming than thinking about what it really means to unload hope and healing?

What's more overwhelming is the fact that God has been bringing hope and healing to Benin long before we arrived...and He'll continue to bring hope and healing after we're gone -- but for this sweet season, we have the honor and privilege of joining in with Him in bringing hope and healing to the people of Benin.

Surely there will be more to come.

07 August 2016

End of the School Year: Character On Display

In the whirlwind of the end of the school year (the week of May 22-26) and leaving the ship for our summer in Georgia (Friday, May 27) and then being with friends and family in various locations over the summer, I haven't taken the chance to post one of our favorite Mercy Ships Academy Traditions from this year.  Until now...

As in previous years (click on these links if you have time and are interested in reading more from 2015  2014 and 2013), we gathered in the International Lounge on the morning of the last day of school to commemorate and celebrate the end of the school year. As in years past, the teachers called up each student and read out words of Life, Truth and Affirmation -  a character trait and a special verse for each one.

Now, we certainly don't have anything against academic achievements being celebrated - but there is something remarkably significant about students being recognized and applauded for their character.  

It is with grateful hearts for the character God is developing in our children that we share the traits and verses that their teachers gave them.

Eli -- Understanding and Loyalty
Written by Ms. Remy: "Eli has been a loyal classmate and student this past year.  Eli is someone that his peers can count on.  He is patient and shows great self-control in challenging situations.  He has a deep desire to be kind and generous to those around him.  He is a loyal friend, always willing to lend a hand.  Eli has the ability to observe and understand situations and issues that occur in and outside the classroom.  His understanding can often help being the solution to a problem.  What a wonderful way to honour and glorify our Lord.."

Eli's verses -- Psalm 119:30-35
"I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.  I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame.  I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.  Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.  Give me understanding so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.  Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight."  

Caroline -- Joyfulness and Obedience
Written by Ms. Remy: "Caroline comes in smiling and, if she gets the opportunity, she would be jumping up and down as well. She enjoys life and gladly shares this joy with her classmates and teacher.  Caroline is not only a girl filled with exuberance, she also has a beautiful obedient heart.  She respects and obeys her teachers and any authority figure set before her.  She wants to learn from them and accepts any feedback with grace. Her joy and obedience bring honour to God."

Caroline's verse -- Joshua 22:5
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you:  to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul." 

Emma -- Joy
Written by Ms. Katie:  "Emma's heart is bursting with joy on a daily basis.  But "daily" does not even describe it accurately - her joy is more on a minute-basis!  She walks in the door with a smile, laughter, enthusiasm and exciting stories to share, and she stays that way all day.  Her enthusiasm knows no bounds - no matter what we learn, discuss or do, Emma is happy and excited.  She sees the joy in absolutely everything.  This joy is deeply rooted in her heart and it finds its way into the hearts and lives of the people around her.  There is no way to not be affected by Emma's radiating joyfulness, and this is a very special gift that God has given her.  What a powerful way to impact people's attitudes and lives.  This is a a rare and beautiful gift.  Never lose your joyful heart, Emma!"  
Emma's verse -- Romans 15:13
"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."
We cannot thank God enough for the Academy and for the teachers that have invested so very much into our childrens' lives.

The new school year starts this coming Tuesday, August 9 (my goal was to post this before the new school year began! #score #2daystospare).  Please join us in praying for the teachers and students as they begin the 2016-2017 school year.  May they each be all that God created them to be - striving for excellence, soaked in grace and truth, looking for Him and to Him at every turn.

Surely there will be more to come.