We Made It!!!!

After leaving Tulsa 3 months ago and making stops in Lindale, TX, Winterton, South Africa, and Durban , South Africa, we have finally made it to Toamasina, Madagascar!

It almost seemed like we would never make it after having so many delays, but God is faithful.  He called us here, and He was faithful to get us here.

Captain John had to very skillfully and carefully orchestrate the crew in backing the Africa Mercy into the port.  Think you’re pretty slick backing into that parking spot at Walmart?  You should try a 500 ft, 16,572 ton, 8-deck hospital ship!

We also can now say we have completed our first sail.  It was quite the experience!

Things we disliked about the sail:

  1. Seasickness:   Even when I wasn’t nauseated, I just felt like sleeping.  At it’s best, it’s like being gently rocked to sleep.  At it’s worst, it’s like walking down the hall and someone decides to just randomly fling you into the wall.
  2. Securing the cabin:  While Jamie, understandably, wanted to make our cabin look and feel “homey” from the beginning, we had to tie down all loose items.  It gets a little cumbersome tying bedroom doors open (alternatives are to keep them closed at all times or let them continuously swing to and fro and bang into walls and slam fingers), securing cabinet doors shut, tying the refrigerator door, and then figuring out how to get back into these things when you need to.
  3. Being woken up in the middle of the night by various items that we thought were secure.  Random things would make noises or even just decide to fall onto the floor and continue to bang around until dealt with.

Things we liked about the sail:

  1. We got to see whales!
  2. Sitting outside and enjoying the breeze.
  3. The talent show and piano concert put on by our very own crew!

Needless to say, we’re pretty pumped!  Thank you to all those who have made this adventure possible with your generosity and prayers.  Now the work begins!

Surgery is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.  Please pray as we prepare the hospital this week.

Sailing!  Photo credit: David Forrest

Sailing! Photo credit: David Forrest

Approaching the port.  Photo credit: Kristi Oloffson

Approaching the port. Photo credit: Kristi Oloffson

Home for the next 9 months.  Photo credit: Mercy Ships

Home for the next 9 months. Photo credit: Mercy Ships


Can't wait to drive one of these Defenders.  It's no Jeep, but I'm sure it'll do!

Can’t wait to drive one of these Defenders. It’s no Jeep, but I’m sure it’ll do!



Hannah started school

Hannah started school this week!  She has had a great week and even had homework!  She kept saying “do you need to sign this, mom?”  She has watched me sign many things from bro & sis and was excited to have something of her own signed!  Have we mentioned how awesome their academy is?  The first day, she said “MY principal came to play with me!”   

bye mom!


working on her homework. our walls are metal, so a magnet sticks to everything!


working very hard!!



We have had more delays since we last posted, and it can be frustrating. If I even tried to describe the reasons for our delay, you wouldn’t believe it.   I described in a previous post some of the reasons it is important that we get to Madagascar.  Sailing is so much rockier than I anticipated.  They have to secure everything, which makes it impossible to have the hospital set up until we arrive in Madagascar.

Think for a second about your most frustrating experience with health care.  Whether it be not being able to get an appointment, waiting forever at the office, not having insurance cover a needed treatment, or worse… much worse.  Not getting the treatment needed or the treatment not working.  Health care is stressful, even when it goes well.  

Now imagine having NO healthcare.  And having your baby have a tumor the size of a cantaloupe on his face.  You have no where to go, and if you did, you certainly don’t have insurance to cover a dime of it.  Then, one day you are given hope.  You walk many miles with your child (have you walked with a tired child anywhere?) to pursue this hope.  They tell you they THINK they can help, but you have to come back to see the surgeon in 5 weeks.  So you wait, and count the sun going up and down to make sure you get there on the right day, and you walk again with your child.  If you are lucky enough to have a job, you have to not work during this time and there is no such thing as PTO or sick days.  But you finally have hope for your baby.  You get there and there is no white ship, no doctors.  Did the people just lie to you, is this a cruel joke?  And the people at the port say they are late, and not sure when or if the white ship will come.  Hope, crushed.

Knowing this may be the reality for many patients, my heart is breaking.  Mercy Ships exists to follow the 2000 year old model of Jesus bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.   But now, for those people their hope is crushed.  But, we, helpless on this ship, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty who was and is and is to come.”  I’m sure my non christian friends think this is ludicrous.  I stand in tears asking God why wouldn’t he just help us arrive and take away the delays?  Maybe he wants us to provide hope and healing to people along the way, along these delays.  But what about those people waiting in Madagascar?  I can keep going and going.  But, then I breathe.  And remember he knows better than I.  I remember a little boy that I love dearly.  Not sure if I have shared the details of this story, but it is what I go back to when my faith shakes.

Our boy, we call him brother.   He was our foster son for 2 years, and will always be a part of our family, along with his older sister.  He not only faced a great deal of trauma, but also had autism.  His life was hard, and consistency was the only thing I knew he needed.  I honestly knew nothing else about autism.  DHS had told me, he would be going back to his bio mom shortly after some paperwork was completed.  So, as school started I asked the school system to allow the children to go to the school where bio mom lived.  In my mind, this would allow the kids to have some sort of consistency when they transitioned back to bio mom.  Are you following?  

The school principal agreed to let sister into her school, but because of brother’s IEP and funding, he had to go to school in my district until he transitioned to bio mom’s house.  WHAT?  This was absurd to me.  If anyone needed consistency, it was brother.  He needed his routine like he needed water to drink.  I was angry at that principal, I even said things I regret to her.  I was angry at God.  He could have made her accept him.  Ugh, my blood boils even typing this, remembering how mad I was.

They did go back to bio mom after brother attended a school in my district for a couple months.  Then, he had to transition… again.  Then, he came back to us several times.  As I think about ALL the transitions he made, I can’t believe he did as well as he did.  I remember texting friends, “I’m going to get the kids again.”  Fast forward a year, they were still with us.  Are you following?  I promise it’s worth it.   

Brother and sister had made a ton of progress, but we knew we weren’t their forever family, and the courts had decided to move towards terminating bio mom’s rights.  I wasn’t going to give up on them and kept praying God would bring their forever parents.  The caseworker told me if I didn’t put them in the shelter he wouldn’t be on a priority list, and he would probably be put in a group home.  Ummm, no. Not an option.  

Finally, one day my good friend, Lori, said her daughter’s teacher, (who specializes in autism) was interested in adopting.  She and her husband just stopped by to meet us.  She looked at brother and recognized him!  Where from?  That school that I kicked and screamed about him attending.  God was right there all along.  Because the teacher had a previous relationship with brother, their process was much faster.  AND, during that same time Mercy Ships had emailed Brian to see if he could come in November and if I could come with him, that there was a possibility they would need an anesthesia supervisor.  If brother had not attended that school, I would have still had 5 kids and not been able to go with Brian in November.  Does that make any sense?

So, as I think about those patients waiting in Madagascar, not knowing if they will get their surgery, I stand knowing God is right there with them, even when our white ship isn’t.  God, you are almighty.  You can heal them with or without a ship and I ask you to show up to those patients waiting, to their families standing beside them.  To the team who has worked countless hours to schedule surgeries that will now be changed.  And, please God, continue to show up in brother’s life.  Comfort and carry him, his sister, and his new mom and dad.  Thank you, Father.



Happy 7th birthday Maya Papaya

Our sweet Maya turned 7 today. She loves deeply and teaches me about people over tasks everyday. She is going to learn how to conquer her fears before I do and I am so proud of how she has grown this past year. She will offer to take her brother’s consequences and calmly talk Hannah out of a fit. She is not a fan of long car rides or boat rides. She is sensitive and feels things more than anyone else in our family. She is strategic and thinks things through in detail.  She is stylish. She is the only first grader on Mercy Ships right now. She has an amazing teacher and classroom just for her this year. And she is worth it! 

Today on her birthday, she had friends come by, got some cool presents from her bro and sis, worshipped on the bow of the ship in the ocean, did gymnastics in the “international lounge” as the ship rocked, had the bell rung in the dining room for everyone to sing to her and gathered with everyone for ice cream after dinner.  Our training group got together to celebrate her, but instead of singing, she wanted a hug from each person. So thankful for this fierce, deep 7 year old. 


Hannah’s Sea Legs

Short post, but wanted to show you all how quickly Hannah adjusted to sailing. First video is right after we started around lunch. Second video is after dinner. 

Thanks for all your prayers for us and the ship’s repairs. Please pray for our sea legs. Although Hannah found hers, the rest of us are still looking for ours!   

We are sailors!!

So we set sail today. “i will sail my vessel till the river runs dry, like a bird upon the wind these waters are my sky!”  we’ve been singing that all day. It is so much more rocky than I envisioned! But fun too. Big kids were in school so that’s why most the pics are of Hannah.   We also saw whales on our way out of Durban!!



As we drove up to the ship my eyes flooded with tears. So many times this thought of living on this ship with our family crossed our minds the past years. It was hidden in our hearts, but I never thought it would be reality. As we drove up to our new reality I couldn’t help but overflow with gratitude that God carried us here. Our friend was playing “Good Good Father” on the radio in the bus at the time  and I agree, He is a good, good Father. And my prayer is that I will come to realize it more and more quickly when we weather storms. What a journey so far and we haven’t even left yet!

Praying today:

Our friends’ little boy, Charlie had a bone marrow transplant on Tues. we are praying his body accepts the new cells and He is healed.

My sister- in- law’s dad was diagnosed with lymphoma. Praying for healing for him and comfort for Meredith.

Annabell and Adriel’s little sisters need a forever home. We are praying God brings the right family for them.

Our team is still working and that we will be able to sail soon.