We have entered a weird world of transition this past month. One of our On Boarding class leaders called it a “vacation with God!” They said that we should take advantage of this specific time and be intentional and learn more about God and living in community before we get to the ship.
Just to give you a bit of background information. There is going to be a brand new ship joining the Mercy Ships fleet. This is the first time in Mercy Ship's history that they have a ship that was built specifically for the purpose of being a hospital ship instead of renovating a previously operated ferry or cruise ship. This ship is named the Global Mercy and she was built in China and just delivered to Antwerp Belgium in September, where she will continue to be outfitted and will then join the Africa Mercy ship in Senegal in 2022.
We are all very excited... but what does this mean for the current crew members who are arriving on the ship in the next couple weeks and months?
This means that we will be setting the Ship Culture for the next couple years. Previously there were people coming and going on the ship and there were always alumni members present, who stayed on the ship. However with the interruption of COVID, there are substantially fewer alumni members that were able to stay on the ship or return to the ship.
In essence, this means a fresh start to the crew and the culture on the ship and not just for one ship, but for the Africa Mercy and the Global Mercy ship.
In my opinion this is very similar to the Israelites leaving Egypt and learning from Moses how to start their own Jewish culture and community in the desert under God's new laws and commandments.
Or like the early church of Acts, gathering people from all different walks of life both Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, Romans and non-Roman citizens, to create a new way of living and new unified community.
We are a collection of people from 50 different countries and from potentially 3,000 different denominations, from different walks of life and from developed and developing nations.
Now a lot of people have asked me what specifically will we be learning during these weeks in Texas during the On Boarding classes.
Some of you may have already seen on Facebook and Instagram, Ryan's Basic Training classes where he learned about fire, water and ship safety during the first week.
Then during the following weeks we have covered:
One major aspect was learning to create a culture that portrays the Vision and Mission statement of Mercy Ships which is to
Love and Serve Others
Be People of Integrity
Be People of excellence in all we say and do
Living in Community
We are going to be living in community on the ship and we need to keep in mind that we as a community were meant to complete one another and build up one another and encourage each other, instead of competing with one another.
It challenged my thinking because I am so used to individualism and competition for jobs and opportunities in the Western world. In other parts of the world, this concept comes more naturally because their culture is more about putting the community first before the individual.
I think what has truly been amazing to see, is the diversity and variety of people from all different ages, walks of life, occupations, countries and different denominations and the "give and take" that occurs in order to understand and love each other. The phrase that is often thrown around here is, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different” and that is always something to keep in mind whenever we think, “oh, that’s so weird!” or “why would anyone do it that way?”
We are also learning that living in a community of faith sometimes means we don't get our own way or we don't always have to be correct.
We learned that God doesn’t call us to create unity but to maintain it, through loving actions and choosing to show grace and forgiveness to others and by being "not be easily offended." By also learning that there is a lot of grace out there, and that we just have to ask for it.
Often living in Community means learning how to be vulnerable and exposing our perceived weaknesses so that we can become dependent upon others to help us and in exchange, we strengthen one another. We were not meant to live in isolation as exhibited this past year by COVID.
Another topic we discussed was, "Who is God" and who or what is my identity as a child of God versus my identity within conditional things such occupation, finances or culture.
Then we reviewed how to learn to hear God, our shepherd's voice better because God cares for us, provides for us and guides us in the right direction. Which may seem pretty basic to people who have been following Jesus for many years but it is still always pertinent to remind ourselves of the basics of God's love and care for us.
Which included examining who God is:
Apparently this verse is mentioned 28 times throughout the Bible. We watched a good Bible Project Video about all the different characteristics of God described in these verses. If you want to watch it yourself, here is a link to watch the Bible Project's Exodus 34.
I also loved how Mercy Ships desires to be the vehicle that points people to Jesus, not positioning themselves as the provider of the "hope and healing" but rather pointing people to the Great healer and Great provider of hope, Jesus.
We also delved into learning about Servant Leadership and what that looks like especially since the class was composed of mainly managerial positions and long term crew who will be in charge of setting the tone and culture of the ship.
We learned that servant leadership can mean being visible in a way that lifts others up instead of just becoming invisible. This idea comes from an abundance model rather than a scarcity model of the fear of becoming invisible.
We discussed how servant leaders might come to the ship with ideas of how they want to contribute their talents and abilities but may have to adapt and assess the community needs. This means that if you arrive on the ship as a surgeon and there is an overstaffing of surgeons, but a shortage of kitchen or housekeeping staff, that you may have to help volunteer in a kitchen or housekeeping role instead, which might be a humbling experience but is necessary for fulfilling the community's needs.
Some people have asked me "Why are you going to the ship now during COVID? What if you don’t get to do actual nursing?"
My response: "I’m okay with that. God has called me for such as time as this and I am willing to do whatever God instructs me to do." Whether that means learning to be a barista at the Starbucks on the ship or the cashier at the ship shop (true story).
God is not a God who wastes time. He always has a purpose for every event and opportunity in our lives.
There have been people in our On boarding class who have told stories of how upon looking back upon on their lives, they can see God's hand leading the events and experiences of their life to this specific timeline of being on the Africa Mercy or Global Mercy ship.
We have a great and powerful God who can orchestrate anything!!
Success and Failure
We discussed how we all come with good intentions to help others but sometimes that doesn't happen quite the way we planned or expected. We discussed, "what does success look like" within the spiritual realm and this quote really spoke to me,
We have to ask ourselves, are we doing what God has called me to be doing and am I following God’s will for my life.
This was another great quote:
Full Armour of God
We have been learning how God wants us to put on the full armour of God and for me as a passive Canadian, I struggled with the militaristic idea of putting on armour. Instead, I had to picture a different analogy of putting on winter gear or winter clothing to protect myself from the "cold winter enemy." Not sure if this analogy will work for others or if it only works for me.
Another concept that really struck me was a greater understanding of poverty. Initially, I had thought of poverty as only the absence of financial, economic or health care resources. However we learned that poverty is defined as the absence of Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, wholeness, completeness, nothing missing, nothing lacking. Shalom is a way of being that centers around a harmonious ecosystem rooted in relationship with God, self, others and creation. Jesus intended for us to live life to the fullest (1 John 10:10) instead of living in poverty separated from his Shalom which leads to the flourishing of the whole community and the individuals within, together with all creation.
We learned about the importance of self care.
We learned about the DISC profile and our strength and weaknesses within those different type of personality profiles. And how that is a start to understanding each other, but not an excuse to avoid intentionally getting to know the other person.
We learned about the steps of transition that we as families and individuals are going through during this process of going aboard Mercy Ships. This was something I hadn’t really given all that much thought to amidst all the planning and preparation.
Third Culture Kids
And for our children, there is a term for them called Third Culture Kids because they will no longer be part of their passport culture where they came from and they won’t necessarily have the culture of the country that we are docked at for 10 months either. Instead, the kids will adapt to the diverse culture of the ship life.
We also talked about grieving and the process of grieving.
This was very difficult for me because I’m not very comfortable sitting in my emotions. I like to solve them and move on for fear that if I sit down and grieve all the losses that we have experienced that I will never recover. I love how they taught that grief is an indicator that we have invested and learned to love deeply, which for me, turned grief from a negative emotion into a positive response.
We had to read 2 books before Onboarding classes began:
Foreign to Familiar
The Old Testament Template, both were great starting books for discussions. Both were completely different topics and both great reads for anyone interested.
This is just a quick summary of what we learned. At the end we had to do a quick 2 minute presentation summarizing what we learned over the weeks. There were a lot of very talented presentations. Some people wrote songs, rapped or wrote short stories.
Now Go and Be Intentional with your learning and growing!