28 February 2017

AFM youth retreat!

"It was great until the jellyfish came."  That was Eli's response when I asked him about the youth retreat that he went on last weekend.  

The youth leaders (who are REMARKABLE) organized an overnight campout for the youth of the AFM.  They ventured a not very far distance away to a place called "El Dorado Beach" and braved a night away with a group of 6th-12th grade students.  (all photos thanks to Jenny!)

Here are some of Eli's thoughts on it all (I asked questions, he talked, I typed...and asked more questions):

After we left the ship we went straight to the place we were staying and set up our tents. Throughout the weekend we had a lot of free time to play on the beach and swim in the ocean.  The youth leaders had organized some games and we swam a lot.

What was the retreat speaker like? 
There was a guy named Justin (black shirt and grey shorts in the picture above) with us on the retreat – he’s from the US and is living here in Benin with his wife, Rachel.  They work at an orphanage a couple of hours away called Arbre de vie.  Justin talked to us a few times about hope. 

Did anything in particular stand out to you about hope?
The main thing I learned about hope is that we don’t always get what we want but we can still trust that God will provide for us.

What was your favorite part? 
The bonfire was probably my favorite part.  We had s’mores and we had fun being together.  We sat around the campfire and worshipped…and then we ended up singing fun songs.   Yes, I like the bonfire…and breakfast..and lunch…and having my shirt off most of the weekend...and sleeping at a table.

You slept at a table? Why did you sleep at a table? 
Because I didn’t want to sleep in the tent because my friend Mark was already in our tent and the tents weren’t really big enough for 2…unless you’re really snuggling and I wasn’t willing to do that.  So I fell asleep in a chair, at a table.  I woke up when the sun was rising and it got bright – probably about 7.
Any other thoughts? 
We had one of our Gurkas with us, Dil.  He stayed up all night. 

We had toast and egg casserole for breakfast.  Then we had more free time.  I swam out to the platform in the water – that’s when the jelly fish showed up.  It was really annoying and difficult to swim back to the shore. Nobody got stung...but I didn't like it. At all.  

After swimming back we had one more session and some lunch and then it was time to pack up and head back to the ship. 

Were you glad to be back on the ship? 
Yes...but I wish the retreat could have been longer – I was really enjoying myself.  I was glad to be back because there aren’t jellyfish on the ship…though there are some in the water just outside the ship.  But that’s ok because I don’t swim in that water.  

There ya have it.  A sixth grader's take on the AFM Youth Retreat!  

And now, a word about/for the youth leaders:
We can't say THANK YOU enough to the youth leaders on the ship.  These ladies and gentlemen volunteer on top of their volunteering...they give of their free time to invest in the youth...they are certainly role models and tremendous examples to the youth - and really to all the rest of the crew as well. 
Ryan, Ruben, Tyler, Keverly, Anna and Jenny - Thank you.  Thank you for investing in Eli...and in our family as a whole - by investing in him you are investing in all of us!  Thank you for being willing to share life with our students and for investing in them with your time,energy, efforts, prayers, care and love.  You are amazing individuals - and a FABULOUS TEAM.  Nick and I would be more than happy if our kids' lives ended up looking something like any of yours -- young adults loving and serving God.  Young adults investing in those coming up behind them.  Young adults who know how to love, laugh, dance and enjoy snacks (among other things).  

Surely there will be more to come.   

21 February 2017


Saw these 2 pictures on Facebook yesterday.  I couldn't help but notice the transformation on Maurinho's face is as significant as the transformation of his legs. 

Hope and healing are about so much more than the physical changes that are made possible by your generosity and God's work on this vessel. I'm so very thankful that our God cares about the whole person...not just transformed legs...but also transformed hearts, minds and smiles.

Surely there will be more to come.

02 February 2017

Sweet Miracle

Just look at this treasure.  Her name is Miracle and she was born with a windswept leg.  She's 3 years old and has been a patient here on the Africa Mercy these past few months. 

I did an impromptu interview in the laundry room with Justine, my friend and one of the ship's photographers.  Justine said that Miracle is such a sweet and spunky little girl.  They started calling her "little peanut" - because she's tiny and little like a peanut!  Justine said Miracle tends to suck on her fingers when she's nervous and that it was fun to watch this little peanut come out of her shell. 

Thought you might like to see a bit of Miracle's journey through these pictures.  (The progression of hair styles is one of my favorite parts!)  Many thanks to our amazing Comms team for taking so many wonderful pictures and making them available for the crew to use!  
Our faithful Father, through the work of skilled surgeons, nurses and physical therapists, has made straight what was crooked...and now there's a beautiful little girl who can run and play and climb trees with all the rest of the kiddos.  A miracle for Miracle. A miracle for all of us to get to see God's hope and healing in such a real and tangible way.  

Surely there will be more to come.