This last week we got to hear so many amazing stories from so many amazing people, but one that I wanted to share was a little bit about acquiring the ship that is now the Africa Mercy. At the time they were looking for a new vessal, but had no idea how they were going to pay for a SHIP (not really your everyday purchase). They had prayed and prayed and prayed some more and felt confirmation time and again that God indeed seemed to want them to buy a new ship, but they just had no idea how to fund it…until one a day a lady came to them and told them that she would like to purchase them a new ship. They thought they had heard her wrong or perhaps she just had no idea how much a ship costs, but she had in actuality offered to pay for their next ship!
That was just the beginning. They had decided that for the purpose of a hospital ship, a ferry was probably their best option to reconstruct into a hospital ship. Let me pause and say that when I think of a ferry, I think of the boat that took me out to the statue of liberty, but that’s not what you should be picturing! They were looking at rail ferries, which are much larger. They looked at several different ships along the way and couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for or couldn’t find one at a reasonable price. At one point they were standing on one ship talking and there was this ship sailing by in the background and they kept naming specific things that they wanted on the ferry they imagined they’d buy and then this ferry would sail by and they say, “like that!” and point to some aspect of the ferry sailing by (it seemed to have every aspect they had been talking about). They ended up taking a ferry over to Denmark to look at a few ships and the ferry they were on was the exact ship they had seen sailing by the day before that had been the example of every aspect they were talking about… it was perfect…AND they found out that one of the ships they were going to look at in Denmark was the twin sister of the ferry they were on! They got to the port that night and everything was dark, but they couldn’t wait to see the ships they had come to see. They turned on the head lights of their car and the light flashed across a ship with the name, Dronning Ingrid (which means Queen Ingrid) and they knew they had found their ship. It was the sister of the ferry on which they had just come over!
The whole process of acquiring the ship and then the more strenuous process of reconstructing it to be a hospital ship was characterized by such struggle, but such prayer! At one point they wired six and a half million dollars to pay for the ship the day it was due only to find out just hours before midnight that the money had not been received! Can you imagine the scramble that took place in those last few hours across several countries to find out where that money had gone? It ended up that two numbers in the account had been reversed by the middle man and six and a half million dollars had been placed in some random account! They were told by people watching this whole process that this ship would never sail (reminds me of Noah!). They were wrong.
Today the Africa Mercy (which is what the Dronning Ingrid became…did you know that a ship has to change names when it changes ownership?) has five operating theaters, an intensive care unit, a CT scanner, x-ray, laboratories, a recovery ward, a fleet of land rovers, crew accommodations, a pre-school, elementary school, highschool, a library, a launderette, a small supermarket, a restaurant, a gym, and a cafe.
The Africa Mercy has been so lovingly and painstakingly prayed over and I could have listened to hours and hours more of story after story of miracles that have taken place on and around this ship. Colossians 1:9-12 talks about the kind of prayer and strength that surrounds this ship. It says,“Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.”
The glory strength…that’s what I see in the people who have worked on the Africa Mercy and what I hope to take some part in as well. I get to literally live on a legacy…a legacy of prayer that has been passed down from the people who were there at the beginning and through all the rough and seemingly impossible situations continued to turn to God with every tiny problem. What a privilege that I get to step into her story!