Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shine Your Light Wed: Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships is an organization that I remember dreaming about serving with back when I was still a teenager.  I used to pore over literature I'd gotten from them, thinking that someday I might volunteer with them.  In fact, one of the ladies in my church had actually returned from serving as a nurse, and her story is what got me interested in the first place.   Mercy Ships actually started back in 1978, when a couple, Don and Deyon Stephens, had a dream of serving the poor around the world, via a hospital ship.  The Anastasis, transformed from a passenger ship into a hospital ship, became the first hospital ship and would be used for 30 years.  When the Anastasis was retired in 2007, the Africa Mercy became the new hospital ship.  The volunteer crew is dedicated to bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.  Don serves as the President of Mercy Ships, while his wife, Deyon, a registered nurse, oversees the Ship's Watchmen program and is the Director of Training.  You might have heard Don on the radio for a daily broadcast called the Mercy Minute.  

Ships that have been used in the service of Mercy Ships but have since been retired or sold include the Anastasis, the Caribbean Mercy, and the Good Samaritan/Island Mercy.  The Africa Mercy is the world's largest charity hospital at 499 foot 16, 572 GRT.  The ship includes 6 state-of-the-art operating rooms, an intensive care unit, and patient beds enough for 78 patients.  It has a berth capacity for 484, and volunteers from over 30 nations currently serve on this ship.

Mercy Ships is involved in helping people with various medical issues.  We sometimes take for granted the medical care we receive here in the United States for seemingly non-serious issues, but in developing countries, these smaller problems can lead into huge problems for patients who cannot get the care they need.  That's where Mercy Ships comes in. They perform free surgeries and provide care for patients suffering with tumors, cleft lip/palate, deformities, congenital abnormalities, burns and leprosy, corneal growths and crossed eyes, blindness, injuries, etc.  
In Africa, they perform surgeries on women who have experience birth injuries, or "fistulas."  Often times, these women die in childbirth because of the obstruction to labor, and if they survive, the child may not.  After birth, they suffer from incontinence, which can lead to rejection by their husbands and villages, without the necessary surgical intervention they need to fix the problem.  Surgical teams with Mercy Ships are able to help these patients recover their lives back, celebrating with them afterwards with a special dress ceremony.  
Mercy Ships also helps to provide dental care to patients.  Not only does Mercy Ships provide medical care, but they seek to help the communities they minister to by providing training to national doctors/nurses, providing medical supplies where they are needed, help to renovate or construct medical facilities, provide community health education (as in hygiene, first aid, prevention of HIV/AIDS, etc.), work with agencies in different communities to help provide agricultural education, help in training people to provide clean water/sanitation, and leadership training.

Mercy Ships has mobilized a disaster response team to Haiti, and there are opportunities to serve there.  
They not only have their own teams on the ground in Haiti through Mercy Teams, but they also are working together with other organizations who are there, as well.  You can actually read more about their Haiti relief efforts on the Mercy Ships Blog.  

Mercy Ships believes in bringing hope and healing to developing nations all around the world.  Its crew takes care of patients, no matter what race, religion, etc.  They seek to give hurting people hope and help them in their time of need.  There are actually three ways that you can get involved.  First of all, you can volunteer.  You don't have to be a medical professional to volunteer.  They accept both medical and non-medical individuals who want to serve.  They need people to help run the ship, to keep the ship clean, to cook, etc.  You can volunteer short-term, or you can serve long-term.  Short-term volunteers can volunteer for a period of 2 weeks to 2 years and are usually involved in service or in specialized medical/technical fields.  Long-term crew usually serve for 2 years to start out and serve in roles that are more ongoing and that require the volunteer to gain more training.  It's up to the volunteer to raise his/her own funds to pay for crew fees, insurance, etc.  The ability of Mercy Ships to be staffed by volunteers really helps, in that funds that are donated can be used more efficiently for the work at hand.  Right now, there are positions open, including Hospital Care Provider, Pediatric Ward Nurse, IT Support Specialists, Ophthalmic Tech, Fourth Engineer, Medical/Lab Technician, Plumber, ICU Nurse, Scheduler/Unit Secretary, Videographer, Finance Officer, Academy Teacher for Grade 2, and many more.

If you can't go and volunteer with Mercy Ships, there are other ways to get involved.  For example, your church can become an Anchor Church, meaning that they are partnering with Mercy Ships.  With this, your church will have an Anchor Church webpage, where the congregation can keep up with what is going on.  They will also have more opportunities to serve, meaning they could adopt a patient, assemble patient admission kits, adopt a crew member or "Ship kid," have opportunity for a missions trip, etc.

There are also Mercy Team opportunities available for people who want to go on a missions trip.  Currently, there are opportunities in West Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

Of course, you can also make a financial contribution to the work of Mercy Ships.  You might even get your place of work involved.  Mercy Ships has many corporate partners, including Starbucks.  You can give a gift towards the work of Mercy Ships, you can support a crew member, or you can even order from the gift catalog.  You can also help the Haiti earthquake victims.  

You can follow Mercy Ships via Facebook and Twitter.  You can also view more photos on Flickr. You can watch many videos from Mercy Ships on Youtube, videos including a tour of the Africa Mercy.

(Photos & Logo used with permission of Mercy Ships.)


The Real Me! February 10, 2010 at 6:49 AM  

I had never heard of Mercy Ships. What a wonderful ministry. I can see why you would have wanted to volunteer. I love hearing about things like this. It's so encouraging.
Blessings to you my friend.

T. Anne February 10, 2010 at 11:03 AM  

What a wonderful way to give to charity! Thanx for the heads up Mel.

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