According to Mercy Ships, five billion people lack access to safe surgery. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from treatable causes, and one child in eight will die before age 5.
In 1978 Don and Deyon Stephens founded Mercy Ships in Switzerland. Don says that “A devastating hurricane, meeting Mother Teresa and the birth of his special needs son drove an idea that would bring hope and healing to the world’s poorest people.”
First idea for a ship that would travel to countries without medical faculties and help came to Don at 19. His youth group saw a hurricane that came through the Bahamas when they were there. He heard someone praying for a ship that could come in and provide the care needed after such a tragedy. Later when he and his wife had a son born with special needs, he was reminded of that prayer and how many with such problems had no way to go for help. Finally, visitng with Mother Teresa she encouraged him to follow the dream God had first planted when he was a teenager.
The first Mercy Ship was a Italian cruise liner built in 1953 and called the Victoria. Converted into a mobile hospital it was renamed Anastasis. The Stephens lived on the first ship with their family for the first ten years of operation. The ship was retired in 2007 and replaced by Africa Mercy.
According to Mercy Ships “It is estimated 16.9 million people die globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. 32% of all global deaths are a result of the lack of access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.”
Mercy Ships until this year had one ship to reach out to the poorer nations with medical care. However, they have added a second ship, Global Mercy. Building the ship began in 2017 and was just completed last year. The ship passed all the testing to prove it sea worthy and will officially began serving the needy in March of this year. This ship has six operating rooms, 200 beds, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics and eye and dental clinics.
These ships not only provide needed medial care, but they also work to train local nurses and doctors to continue the care when they are gone. Since over 50% of the world’s population live nears a coast, the ships are the perfect way to bring this much needed health care.
The doctors and nurses who serve on Mercy Ships do so without any compensation.
Since its founding in 1978 Mercy Ships “has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.”
There are many amazing stories of lives that have been changed because of the work of Mercy Ships.
To read some of these stories – and see more of the work of Mercy Ships, visit their website: