I’ve been serving voluntarily with Mercy Ships for 16 months now, and have had the privilege of working and living alongside people from many different countries. I am genuinely humbled when I consider that this ship is staffed by professionals who have chosen to leave their homes, countries, families, friends, possessions, jobs and salaries in order to do their everyday job out of love and empathy for the people of Western and Central Africa. I have been asked how my particular role on the ship is, in itself, a ministry.
There are times that, beyond the obvious differences of living on board a ship in West Africa, I have felt that the job I am doing day in and day out is very similar to the job that I did back home in the UK for nine years. I plan and teach lessons, mark and grade work, attend staff meetings and take part in professional development training sessions. However, this is really where the similarity abruptly stops. As I walk from my classroom door en-route to my cabin I will encounter patients on their way up to our open air deck (Deck 7). As I watch them pass by me on the stairs with their plaster casts, bandages, k-wires, catheters and crutches, I am reminded that this is a place where incredible victories are continuously being won within the hospital deck, but they are enabled by the actions of those on the remaining seven decks every single day!
I often think of 1 Corinthians 12 when I consider the various roles on this ship and the way in which they function together to allow the medical work of Mercy Ships to take place. We are many parts but we are one body working towards a common goal. It is an honour and a privilege to know that as I teach the Kindergarten children to read and write, their parents are able to serve in other roles. Seeing this body of believers working together, I am in no doubt that my role is a ministry in itself.
It really is hard to believe that I have been on board the Africa Mercy (AFM) for six months now! Sailing through the Atlantic Ocean (from Gran Canaria to Cameroon) was an incredible experience. The Mercy Ships Academy school year began on the third day of the sail so it was a busy time but there was also lots of opportunity to rest and spend time with the Lord – I formed a habit of hanging my hammock up on one of the decks and staring out at the endless ocean before me. Occasionally the captain would give an announcement throughout the ship to let the crew know that we had dolphin or whale visitors – my solitude was quickly gone as people rushed onto the decks but it was definitely worth it!
Once we docked in the port town of Douala, the ship became a flurry of busyness as the crew set about preparing to transform the ship back into a fully-functioning floating hospital. Within only a few weeks, the hospital was open to its first Cameroonian patients (who had been screened in advance by the Mercy Ships Advance Team alongside their Cameroonian medical counterparts).
I have to admit that no amount of video footage could have prepared me for the reality of coming face to face with these patients. It is an incredibly humbling experience to live out life on a day to day basis alongside people who have such extreme physical challenges, especially seeing the level of poverty within which these challenges are faced. Despite this though, they show such a determination and resilience – by the time they arrive at the dock to first embark on the ship, they have already endured so much.
It is within this context that I can say with sincerity how thankful I am for your continued prayers and support as my home church.
Earlier this month I joined the voluntary Christian organisation ‘Mercy Ships’ where I will be living and working on the worlds largest charitable floating hospital. This ship brings free life-changing medical care to some of the world’s poorest people and is almost entirely staffed by volunteers. My role on board the ship will be ‘Kindergarten Teacher’ within the Mercy Ships Academy. The Academy serves approximately 50-60 children of the Africa Mercy crew. Having a school on board the ship means that families are able to serve within the hospital (and elsewhere on the ship) on a longer-term basis.
On 10th June, I travelled to the International Operations Center (IOC) in Lindale, Texas to begin the Mercy Ships ‘On Boarding’ program, a month long training program to prepare new crew and staff for their time of service with Mercy Ships. On 18th July, the On Boarding class will then fly together from Texas to join the ship in the Canary Islands where it is in dry dock for maintenance. The ship will depart the Canary Islands during the next week to set sail for my first African port – Cameroon. The school year will begin during this voyage!
- Thanks for the smooth transition process so far in moving out of my home and putting things into storage.
- That the journey from Texas to the ship, would run smoothly and all baggage would arrive with me.
- That I would quickly settle into my new job role and home and have a sense of God’s peace and presence around me.