The Christian Broadcasting Network


Mercy Floats

By Laura Bagby Producer --- If you have ever dreamed of hopping on an ocean liner to visit some far off place, you have probably thought of taking a cruise. But have you ever considered combining your love of adventure and travel on the open seas with a mission to save lives?

Mercy Ships did.

The Need is Great:

According to recent World Health Organization estimates...

  • There are about 40 million blind people in the world.
  • Half of those are blind because of cataracts.
  • A majority could see again with the help of state-of-the-art cataract surgery.
  • 1 billion people in the world could see with the addition of a pair of eyeglasses to correct refractal error.
  • 1 billion live in poverty.
  • 1/4 of those have no access to basic health care.

What Mercy Ships Has Done:

  • Performed 8,000 operations on board such as cleft lip and palate, cataract, crossed-eyes, orthopedic and facial reconstruction.
  • Treated more than 200,000 people in village medical clinics.
  • Performed 100,000 dental treatments.
  • Taught local health care workers, who have in turn trained multiplied thousands in primary health care.
  • Provided tens of millions of dollars of medical equipment, hospital supplies, and medicines.
  • Completed more than 250 construction and agriculture projects.


The Caribbean Mercy

Number of People Served on the Caribbean Mercy:
  • Eye Surgeries 2, 153
  • Optical Clinic 19,307
  • Medical Clinic 14,395
  • Dental 3, 582
  • Orthopedic Program 981
  • Audiology Program 584
  • Relief/Development 30,530
  • Training 1, 315

Visit Mercy Ships

Since 1978 Mercy Ships, which is under the YWAM umbrella of ministries, has been taking the love of Jesus Christ to more than 70 port cities across the globe by retrofitting existing ocean vessels to become floating, privately-owned hospitals, bringing free, quality health care to the poor and needy.

Medical specialties include optical procedures, particularly cataract surgeries (which can cost as much as $150.00 without a donation) and crossed eye correction; cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries; dental treatments; orthopedic and facial reconstruction; and tumor removals. Along with medical procedures, Mercy Ships has provided more than $25 million worth of medical equipment, hospital supplies and medicines in developing nations.

Not Just a Medical Mission

The organization also supplies developing countries with clean water by drilling wells, providing water pumps and teaching indigenous peoples about hygiene and sanitation. They build hospitals, clinics, training facilities and basic housing. And they provide agricultural knowledge and tools to help communities become self-sufficient in the production of food.

And, of course, above all, the ministry seeks to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those it touches with the compassion and healing power of God.

The Fleet

Mercy Ships purchases oceangoing vessels that have reached the end of their commercial life at or below scrap price. The ministry then gets another 10 to 15 years usage from each ship once retrofitted.

Currently the organization owns four ships: the Anastasis, which works in the West Coast of Africa and other places; the Island Mercy, which works in the Pacific; the Caribbean Mercy, which visits the Caribbean Basin and Central America; and the newest of the fleet, the Africa Mercy, originally a Danish ferry, which is dedicated to the West Coast of Africa. It was purchased for $6.5 million and is currently being refurbished.

The Staff and Crew

Mercy Ships personnel come from a variety of Christian denominations and represent more than 35 different nationalities. They are both professionals and skilled laborers operating as cooks, carpenters, hospitality personnel, master seamen, medical doctors, dentists, educators, tour guides, administrative personnel, computer experts, housekeepers, and welders. Staff members work onboard or at the various land offices and must raise their own support to be a part of the ministry.

Travel Schedule

Mercy Ships does not tour year-round. In the case of the Caribbean Mercy, the boat generally travels for four months providing medical assistance and then spends three months doing public relations and ship repairs.

An advance team is set up months prior to the boat's arrival to prepare the way for the mission. Traveling with letters of protocol, the boat then arrives at the port of the host country. The ship is welcomed by the president and/or the first lady of the host country shortly after arrival.

The Caribbean Mercy

Recently got a chance to take a tour of the Caribbean Mercy, a 2,265 ton medical and relief ship, which had just come back from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.

We met the ship's captain, Jon Fadely, from Houston, Texas, who has been on board the Caribbean Mercy for seven years. We met the Director of the Caribbean Mercy, Dr. Andrew Clark, a medical doctor from New Zealand, who has worked with the ministry for 10 years.We also met some of the ship's other crew members.

The makeup of the 100-strong volunteer crew is diverse, bringing in both married and single adults from 20 different nationalities. Those aboard have served anywhere from a week to some nine years or more.

Crew living quarters are cozy, sometimes only offering enough room to turn around. Each room is adorned with the name or names of the occupants, family photos and sometimes Bible verses.

A full-time school provides educational assistance to children of long-term crew ranging in age from first grade to high school.

Lives Touched

The Caribbean Mercy's expedition to Guatemala brought medical relief to people like 19-year-old Benigno, who had been blind since age 11 due to cataracts. Coming from a poor family, Benigno had no hope of affording medical treatment until Mercy Ships arrived and offered cataract surgery free of charge.

And then there is Damaris. This 14-year-old girl with a crossed eye also got corrective surgery when the Caribbean Mercy visited. Before surgery, Damaris was so embarrassed by her appearance that she lived a reclusive life. Now she has hope and renewed vision.

Mercy Ships literally impacts the lives of thousands in developing countries. Just ask Ed Schnutenhaus, who has been with the ministry for three and a half years and as crew of the Caribbean Mercy for two years.

"We touch the lives of usually 25- to 30,000 people each time we go on an outreach, one way or the other -- through village clinics, through street evangelism, through coming onboard, through the media, through crew friendship, through crew evangelism," he says.

The Caribbean Mercy is currently on her way to Charleston, South Carolina and then on to Puerto Cortes, Honduras.

Get Involved!

Whether you are interested in joining the crew or investing in this tremendous ministry through your donation dollars, Mercy Ships has a way for you to get involved. Find out more by visiting their Web site @

Additional reporting by Craig von Buseck.
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