Mercy Ships: navigating ship life.

When one lives onboard a ship, a private moment is coveted, extra sleep is supreme, and the mode of quiet is overrated…at least in my opine.

ShipCan you imagine how vastly different the Mercy Ships mission of hope and healing would be if God gave Mercy Ships founder, Don Stephens, a vision to use hospital ships to transform lives and serve nations in West Africa one at a time, but the crew stayed in condos on the beach? Would our sensibility to remain focused, energetic, and ethically carry-out our jobs be compromised?

As much as I am challenged by the humility and flexibility ship life forces upon me, the end result is that it keeps everyone aligned with the mission: “We follow the 2000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.” So, now is a good time to bring Jesus into the equation.

cross culturePart of the global allure of serving onboard the Africa Mercy is being part of a community that celebrates unique cultures, and often sub-cultures within those cultures. There are linguistic meetings of the mind around every corner, and each crew member is admirably talented and purposed to serve in their assigned capacity. We are a “God-picked community of good folks.” 

Onboard, we need Jesus in every language and in every culture. If God is not the author of confusion and God owns the cattle on 1,000 hills, then how much more could he give us to sustain ourselves onboard a ship? The problem is not knowing he can give us more, but embracing the challenge to be content no matter your circumstances  (tough one, that one).be content

I have to often remind myself of the power of God, the redemption of Jesus, the Mercy Ships mission, and my purpose therein. I have to constantly remind myself of the fabulous mercy ships website I perused late at night (after night, after night) reading about “ship life” and all the exciting nuances that would come with living in a community of people, some of whom you will be spiritually like-minded and others, you will not. But God is no respecter of persons, so neither do I have a right to be. Right? Onboard the Africa Mercy, we were each “God-picked” for this Senegal season of mission, and yes, some mania too. But it’s okay. Really it is. 

But “man oh, man oh, man oh, man.”

Sometimes, that Jesus thing is hard. Some days, the symbolic “Cross” just can’t overcome there not being a few more cups of java when you need it NOW to make it through your next meeting, and sometimes, every assuring Psalm and New Testament zinger falls short when I am missing home, my daughter’s smile, my mama’s soul food, and my friends. My two older sisters will be peeved if I don’t include them, so: I miss my sisters too (Whew)!homesick

This was a necessary release to circle the block and zoom in on my own behavior. It has allowed me to remind myself that as we have increased the activity of screening patients on the dock, remind yourself of the mission, Penny. Remember your purpose, Penny. Keep your mind on Jesus, Penny.

As hard as it may be (sometimes) ship life onboard the Africa Mercy is far more comfortable and blessed than the impoverished life of those we are serving in Senegal and with that, I’m going to retreat to my own and meditate on those delicate things in life that ship-life sustain me.

Penny Dickerson 2019

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.

3 comments on “Mercy Ships: navigating ship life.

  1. Hi Penny, Glad to see you’re adapting to Community life aboard the ship. All the Best!


  2. I’ve been on a couple of cruises and I remember the cabin quarters were tiny. I can’t imagine having to adapt to living in a small space with others for a whole year! You are handling it with grace by the grace of God!


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