For at least the next two years, Nick and Dianna Cash and their three young children will be living on a ship docked in an African port. To do so, they are selling or giving away everything they own.
The house is already gone. The cars will be soon. The Columbus family will be taking enough clothes for seven days, which they will wear until they wear out. The family will take some towels and sheets in addition to a few sentimental items and toys.
Nick and Dianna will be employed on the ship but will not be paid a penny and will have to purchase their food, supplies and insurance as well as cover all travel expenses.
Nick calls the chance to do this, to work for Mercy Ships, "an amazing opportunity."
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Both he and Dianna feel good about their sacrifice because they believe this is what they have been called to do.
"God has been telling us that this is what is next in our lives," Dianna said. "We want to be where God wants us."
Mercy Ships is a global charity that has been operating hospital ships in developing nations since 1978, providing physical and emotional services to the poor.
Most of the free medical services provided, including surgeries, take place on the ship. There are vision and dental clinics on shore as well as places for long term recovery.
There is no proselytizing but Nick said the environment is definitely Christian. Patients, he said, know the services offered come in the name of Jesus. No preaching is needed.
"The people see God's love," Dianna said.
Nick is 32. Dianna is 31. The two have been married 10 years having met at Shorter College in Rome, Ga., where both majored in religious studies. They have one son, Eli, who is 7 years old and two daughters, Caroline, 5, and Emma, 2.
Both Nick and Dianna have been employed by Teen Advisors for the past 10 years. During the last five years, he has served as executive director here and she as office manager.
"They are great jobs," Dianna said. "Hard to leave."
But, leave they will.
The Cash family will take off from Columbus on June 8 for a Mercy Ships campus in Garden Valley, Texas where Nick will receive five weeks of training as a general manager in human resources. Dianna is not yet sure what role she will play on the ship. Both will likely volunteer in clinics when they are not doing their assigned administrative duties.
They will leave this country July 15 flying to Ghana by way of London then on Aug. 2 will be on the ship in Guinea.
Nick said 450 people from approximately 30 nations will be living on the ship.
"There will be 23 families," he said. School is provided for every child including some advanced placement courses. The cabin the Cash family will live in has two small bedrooms. Eli will have one and the girls will be in the other. Nick and Dianna will sleep on a futon in the living area.
There is a main dining hall on the ship as well as a cafe. There are areas for recreational activities. Everyone will have access to computers and television.
The weather is practically always hot even during the rainy season, Dianna has been told. They look forward to touring the countryside.
The couple signed a two-year contract but figure to be on board for double that.
Some people might question taking the young children.
"I am so excited for them," Dianna said. "They will be surrounded by people who are sacrificing for others. This is a great country but people are spoiled."
She said this uncluttered life is a good way of breaking up some of that selfishness.
She said it is wonderful to be around a program that has as its goal bringing hope and healing to the world's poor.
As for getting rid of so many belongings, it has not been as difficult as the couple thought it would be. "God is telling us that our identity and security is not our stuff," Dianna said.
They first heard about Mercy Ships from friends who were considering making the move but have not done so yet. Nick And Dianna learned about Mercy Ships and it peaked their interest. They kept trying to close the door on making the move but could not. "We felt this stirring," Nick said.
People have been supportive of their decision. "We are surrounded by love," Nick said.
The couple will need an annual budget of $41,000 and they have about $35,000 raised now. They are continuing to seek pledges of funds for this year and next.
"I figure we have about 85 percent of the goal," Nick said. "I believe people will support us in this important mission."
People who wish to do so can go to CashCrewShip.blogspot.com.
Nick figures the family will make it back home for a visit once a year perhaps during the month when the ship must be inspected.
He thinks it will be quite an adventure for his family. As for Caroline, she figures living on the ship will be "fun."