The Face of Love in Action: Mercy Ships
By Jenna Quentin
Desiring to follow the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships state their vision of “seeking to become the face of love in action, bringing hope and healing to the poor.” Started in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships began with a converted Italian cruise liner, renamed the Anastasis. Since then, Mercy Ships have served in seventy countries directly helping more than two and a half million people. At this time, the fleet consists of a sole ship, Africa Mercy, serving this year in Togo, West Africa. Originally a Danish rail ferry, Africa Mercy now has six operating rooms, an intensive care and ward bed space for up to seventy-eight patients.
Mercy Ships provides free medical services, which would often be simple procedures in more developed places, such as cataract removal/lens implant and tumor removal. However, in these poverty-stricken countries, small tumors can become huge, deforming and life-threatening. Mercy Ships also takes special care of conditions that exclude their patients from society, such as cleft lip and palate reconstruction and obstetric fistula repair. Because Mercy Ships is dedicated to getting to the heart of things, teams are sent onshore to work in dental clinics, community health education, HIV/AIDS intervention, water and sanitation projects, construction, agriculture, and micro-enterprise projects.
Mercy Ships is supported by individual donors, as well as corporate partners, like Johnson & Johnson, Starbucks, Bausch & Lomb, who give gifts-in-kind and cash donations. The crew of Africa Mercy are volunteers from over thirty countries, including all kinds of jobs from surgeons to agriculturalists to auto mechanics. Using these professional volunteers, who pay their own living expenses while onboard, allows Mercy Ships to maximize their donor support and gives people a passionate individual to personally support.
“I was happy to learn about an extraordinary group of people from around the world who exemplify a unique expression of compassion and service to humankind. These people set an unusual standard. Unlike the norm, they pay to work. Sponsored by others they leave home to serve the extreme poor in Africa and around the world.” Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa (www.mercyships.org)
You can follow Mercy Ships’ amazing patient stories on their website (www.mercyships.org), on Facebook and on Twitter. You can be of help by creating interest in these social medias and also in your local church. Volunteers are eligible at eighteen years-old. There is a two-week information class available at the International Operations Center in Garden Valley, Texas. Mercy Ships provides short-term missions opportunities with organized teams, composed of volunteers from one sponsoring location and open teams of individuals or families. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website listed above.
Photo credits to Debra Bell