Sailing into Penang, Malaysia I though to myself “This will be my last port of call with Logos Hope”. It is a sobering thought. What will I make of this port? Who’s life will I impact? How will I make the days count. Friendships are a priority for me – spending as much quality time with good friends as I can. I have passed on my leadership role to another talented young man named Greg so now I can spend my work time making sure I do the best job possible, and making sure he has everything that he needs to carry on when I am gone. I am excited to meet Chinese, Indian and Malay people in Malaysia and listen to their stories and share mine. I am already enjoying the abundance of cheap Malaysian food. I plan to finish this race well, say goodbye on good terms, enjoy my time and look forward to being home.
This week I was able to visit a Malaysian church that felt just like home – moreso than the Sunday Service on board Logos Hope. Whilst we went there to share about the ship, for me it was a great time of refreshment, rest and good teaching. We were in a big group, and whilst I remained in the main service, Ruth and a number of others taught the different Sunday School classes.
I am excited about the next few weeks in Malaysia finishing my time well. I thank God for an amazing time on board and a bright future.
Whilst you our I might consider traveling for a short distance to see something exciting – people from Andrha Pradesh in India (and indeed people from other states) travel great distances in the hope of seeing this ship. After browsing our large selection of books, visitors are curious about how we live on board and what is on the other decks of the ship. Whilst we’d love to take people on a tour of our home – the numbers are simply too great, so we created the ‘open ship’ program.
After visiting the book fair, visitors come into one of our big conference rooms where they find many displays of the different aspects of life on the ship. There are stands for European, South-East Asian and Latino culture, Deck and Engine, Cleaning and Catering department stands and things like face-painting and drawing. Best of all in the wide open space visitors have the opportunity to talk with friendly crew members and ask them about their life on board.
My job was to direct people in and out of the conference room and for a while to tell people about the deck and engine work on board. I had many photos taken with adults and children and generally just answered ‘what is your name?’ and ‘what country?’ but I could chat breifly with two people about why I am a volunteer on the ship and they were very thankful for the opportunity.
On a day where the crowds were huge and somewhat overwhelming for us, God gave us the opportunity to connect with a few and to bless the many who come on board through our smiling faces and our willing hearts. I could not have continued to wish people well and to smile if not for God’s help, but he loves the people of India so much that he used me to show it.
Standing up in front of fourty sunday school kids, singing a song while turning around and sticking out my tongue – man that was a new expereince. For the last two sundays I have visited a church in Sri Lanka and a church in India. In both churches our small group of ship’s crew were able to encourage the Sunday School kids with a programme of around one hour.
We taught them songs in english, did a ship quiz, told a story from the bible and had time to sit with them and answer questions. God has been taking me on a journey of learning to interact with and encourage younger children – and in trusting Him I am slowly learning.
“i just wish i could remember the words to Waltzing Matilda” i thought to myself. I was in the house of the pastor of a church in rural India and since they were not so fluent in English we had begun to exchange cultural songs. This week I had the opportunity to visit many churches in Kerela, India, to present the ship, give my testimony, and give messages of encouragement. After each service we were invited to share a meal with the pastors of each church. Each family put on a banquet of Indian food for us, which I absolutely loved. After the meal we would have fellowship together. As I stumbled my way through the verses of Waltzing Matilda the smiles on their faces told me I had connected with them.
Then came the real treat. Their two daughters performed for us a song in the local language (Malayalam) and they even danced as well. The tune was stuck in my head for many days. When we were finished we spent some time to pray with the family. It was very difficult to say goodbye as we had had such a great time with them. It is true indeed that wherever you go you have a family in the Lord.
Middle eastern culture is all about relationships, not work or deadlines. If you had an appointment but an old friend stopped in to visit, then you would not tell your friend to come back another time – you would make him some tea and some food and enjoy his company. Then when he decides on his own to leave (though you insist he stay) you can go about your appointment, though this may be several hours later. So it’s a good thing I don’t have a great deal of appointments or events to manage right now. Rather I have spent a lot of time in the international cafe meeting local people and getting to know what life in North Africa is like. One thing I realised is that I can easily sit in the cafe and go about reading a book or having a drink and within moments someone will start a conversation with me, which is fantastic since I love to meet local people but I’m such an introvert! Among the many wonderful people I met this week was a captain in the Navy! Wow.
Another special opportunity I had was to be a part of ‘Open Ship Day’ where we have cultural exhibits from all different parts of the world. The first stand I was placed at was the European stand where many of the cultural items were from Germany and Holland – such as clogs, windmills and hats – and a Swiss horn. I think with my Dutch and English heritage I can pass off as European long enough to start a conversation with someone and say ‘actually, I’m from Australia’ which in many cases was more interesting!
I also got to be on the Sub-Saharan African stand (now I can’t pull that one off but I have been there) and the deck and engine stand with all the big ship tools. It was really fun showing people a little bit of life in other countries and on a ship and that somehow in all this diversity we still have harmony and love.
If you have ever been afraid of the dentist, spending a week in a dental clinic would either be your cure or your worst nightmare. Thankfully for me, I like dentists and I have no problem with the sight of blood. For five days this week I volunteered in a local hospital to work with 4 dentists who are in Africa with Logos Hope. 2 are from the USA, 1 is from the UK and one from Fiji. All treatment and medicine in the hospital is completely free, so people flock to the clinic to have their teeth fixed. Sadly most people need to have a least one tooth extracted, as they are in such a bad state. I had the privilege of working alongside the dentists, providing them with the tools they need for the job. After each dental treatment the dentists take time to pray with the patients before sending them on their way.
While the ship was in Bermuda, my colleagues and I asked for donations for school supplies – pens, notebooks, pencils, erasers etc – for school kids in Africa. Today I had the chance to distribute the gifts that the people of Bermuda had donated. First we shared with the kids where we came from, about the ship, and then the Gospel. They were all very receptive to what we had to say. Then they all lined up and each of us gave them one item of stationary to help them with their studies. We also gave some more tools to the teachers and for each classroom, these included an atlas, a bible, scissor sets, highlighters, a blackboard and wall charts. Though these donations will not last for very long, we hope that we have shown that God loves them and cares for their needs, and that they have listened to the message of hope that we have brought.
No electricity, no running water, mud hits with thatched roofs and two unique languages. This is the church that I visited yesterday morning. The pastor of this church was a truck driver before he was saved, and felt called to pastor a bush church. The church itself was several miles down a crazy dirt road – quite a distance from the city. The people here enjoy a simpler living. They grow produce and sell it at the market at the junction with the highway. The pastor encouraged them saying ‘Think about where you are. You are not in the city, you are far away in the bush, yet God has brought people from all over the world to visit you this morning – he has not forgotten you’. I was introduced as the senior pastor of the group and we were praised as wise white people. I made sure to take some time during my ship presentation to remind them that we are all regular people, and we are from many nations including African nations and we all have the same Holy Spirit inside us. Another in the team shared a message, and yet another shared her testimony. After the service they gave us many gifts of coconuts, cacao, and oranges. It was an amazing experience.
Last night at midnight the Logos Hope – My home – left the last island in the Caribbean on our schedule – Roseau, Dominica. The Caribbean has been my home for 8 months now, though the Logos Hope is where I spend most of my time so every time I walk out the door I experience some culture shock. If I were to use only one word to describe my experience of Caribbean people – I would say alive. Alive in a way that European and even Australian people can be dead. People want to talk to you, to say good morning to you as you pass in the street. People are not afraid to ask you spiritual questions. In this way they are friendly, but in another way they can be rude. Sometimes the staff in the book fair struggled to deal with the demands of insistant customers who asked for discounts, demanded service and rarely smiled or said ‘hello’. Christians here are not afraid to spread the Gospel – and I have learned a little boldness from them. The nations I visited gain their income from tourism, hosting wealthy white tourists on sandy beaches – while their populace often live in abject poverty. The contrast is frightening to me, and it scares me that the tourists don’t see the poverty as they are wisked away from their cruise ships in a taxi to a nice beach.
In the Caribbean I spoke in front of another church body for the first time, handed out gospels on the street for the first time, performed an evangelistic drama for non christians for the first time, told a story to a group of kids for the first time, and started really trying to talk about Jesus one on one with stranges in the cafe. I have become accustomed to introducing myself as Chris from Australia – the land of Crocodiles and Koalas and Kangaroos. I have learned the hard way how to lead a team with love and patience – and discovered in me and weeded out a competitive spirit that doesn’t support the body of Christ.
The Caribbean has been a special time for me, and I will never forget it.
“It will be a new experience” I thought as I cautiously signed my name. Whenever I’ve been stopped on the street by a charity organisation, I’ve tried my best not to be rude – but I do my best to avoid them. Now I would be the one asking people to give.
A month ago, the leader of Corporate Services onboard – the work division comprising of finance, IT, AV, Business services and service desk, a very work orientated department – set us a challenge. We are always so focussed on internal ministry in our jobs that we rarely are directly involved in our Father’s work in this world. He showed us that many school children in West Africa do not have pens and books, and that classrooms have no equipment. We were to put together a stand to facilitate people giving towards packages for school kids, teachers and classrooms.
I was sceptical. It would take away from my work time. It would add extra stress to my team. Yet I convinced myself that this plan was the way of Love, the way of our Father. So I had my team add two screens to the stand – one with a looping DVD of pictures of the dilapidated classrooms and the other for connecting a laptop. But that was only the beginning of the challenge. We were asked to assign time from our team towards running the stand. I would not. I simply encouraged them to sign up themselves. One of my team members put her whole heart into it. She was often there nearly pleading with people to give. I didn’t volunteer.
Many, many people gave. The number of packs for students, teachers and classrooms amazed me and I began to look ahead to walking into those schools and giving out the packages. Another port arrived. I decided I need to assign some team time, so I assigned one person one hour on the schedule (which was filling up) – but I knew I couldn’t ask someone to do something I was not willing to do, so I signed myself up.
I talked with my Father beforehand – asking Him to influence people, rather than me. At first it was scary, asking people if they would like to give. Maybe they would buy one less book for their family. Many passed on the opportunity and I politely allowed them to continue, but many people took the slips to pay at the book fair. Maybe it’s best that they pay for the donation somewhere else – then I don’t know how many people really gave, but I think it was quite a few. I was really encouraged by the experience and would do it again. I really look forward to arriving in port and visiting these schools and seeing the smiling faces.