MERCY

Back in the year 2000 I had been retired for five years, and needed to renew my license to sail as a captain. I had spent many years qualifying for this credential, and did not like the prospect of losing it. There were a number of problems that I encountered. The United States had signed a convention called STCW, or standards of watch-keeping regulations that required me to re-certify by taking courses in a number of areas related to operating ships. This included automatic radar plotting, advanced marine fire-fighting, bridge resource management, person in charge of medical care, and GMDSS, a course in how to operate the radio in case of an emergency, now that radio operators were no longer required on ocean going ships. All of these courses required both time and money. I did not want to spend these resources on a piece of paper to hang over the mantle, I would need to actually use the license if I went to all that trouble and expense. That is when I read about Mercy Ships.

Mercy Ships is a global faith-based non-governmental organization that operates hospital ships that serve the poorest countries of the world. They have all volunteer crews, including the doctors and nurses and all of the medical personnel required to operate a modern hospital aboard ship. They were founded by Don Stephens back in the late 1970's and currently operate only one ship, the Africa Mercy that serves West Africa, including the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The Africa Mercy has six operating rooms, five wards, and a crew of about 450 people from about 35 different countries.

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I called checked out Mercy Ships at www.mercyships.org and felt that they were the answer to my sailing problem. Their headquarters were only a three hour drive from my home, and after a visit with them I was working as a Chief Officer of the Caribbean Mercy a month later. I sailed on her as a relief Captain, and later on the Africa Mercy as a relief Chief Officer and Relief Captain. While on board we are a walking blood bank. We can't store blood, and call for crew with the right blood type when it is needed. I am B+, which is a popular type in West Africa. When a little girl named Cherine was having a surgery, they called me to donate. A few days later I met Cherine and her mom out on deck, and mom told me through an interpreter that now I was her daddy. That was fine with me as long as I did not have to put her through college!

Me with Cherine and her Mom on the Africa Mercy

Me with Cherine and her Mom on the Africa Mercy