Category Archives: Travel

Post 36. Intense.


After working in every department girls could work in, I signed up for four months of Intensive Training.  The ship was in Chile.

It was so intense.  We had daily, weekly and monthly goals.  We read through the Bible from cover to cover, memorised long portions of scripture, read through lots of required reading books and listened to many messages which were on cassette tapes in the library.  

We got up to jog at 5 am every day preparing for a 25 km run and a 20 km walk.   That was interesting when we were at sea; running along the deck with waves splashing all around us, stopping to throw up then off again.  It was a test of endurance. 

Wherever we went we were either reading or mumbling memory verses under our breath.  On top of that there were certain hours we had to work.  We didn’t sleep much. 

The three day fast was a challenge.  The ship was docked and we were put into teams. There was a small church building where we stayed and prayed for three days.  Now THAT was intense.  We were only allowed to have water.  There were many manifestations of bad character but we walked back onto the ship thinner and better people. 

There was also a three day “faith trip”.   We left the ship with as many books as we could carry, no money and a change of clothes. When we met people we could answer their questions but not solicit anything in anyway.  If we sold books, we could use that money to buy food; if we didn’t, too bad.    

I had NEVER had to ask God for food.  I struggled.  My pride really got in the way.  The other girls seemed to be fine with it but I just couldn’t do it.  We had no food for the first day and a half and we all came to the conclusion that I was the Jonah.  They urged and encouraged me to just humble myself and ask God.  I was so hungry that I did.  That afternoon while walking around the small town, we met a lady who asked us what we were doing.  There was no hinting or soliciting in our reply.  She invited us to her house for dinner.  It was a HUGE house and the table was groaning with food.  

We ate, drank and were VERY merry.

Post 35. Stop panicking. Please


I also had a stint in the cleaning department.  The least desired department for obvious reasons. I was determined to enjoy it and by any means, not look like Sadie the cleaning lady.

Every day there were carpets to vacuum and toilets to clean. There were also vacated cabins to clean out.  Our greatest dread was the single guy’s cabins.  After two years without a mummy some of them really let themselves go.  When we opened the cabin door we were hit with a gorgeous fragrance of smelly socks, kimchi and ammonia.  Better to put a match to it, I thought.

We shone windows, portholes, public toilets and emptied rubbish bins from the offices.  We really got around.  The other dreaded job was cleaning the engineer’s toilets.  The smell and seasickness were never a good combination.

The poop deck was where the nursery was.  There was a cute little room with toys and books and an enclosed area with a jungle gym for them to play in.   When my cleaning stint was up I was asked to work there with the toddlers.  I was in my element.  It was amazing how much communication went on.  There we were, from all over the world, speaking different languages yet somehow able to understand each other.  A hug here and a smile there seemed to make up for all the words we didn’t have.

One of my favourite things to do was to spend time with the couples and their kids.  I did a lot of babysitting.  An American couple had twins and I was asked me to be their nanny.  I jumped at the chance.  I loved those little boys.

The twins.

I walked around the ship with their heads on my hands and their bodies tucked under my arms.  That way they could see my face and I could talk to them as we walked along.

It was a challenge when they needed their nappies changed at the same time.  One day, they were lying on the bed, screaming their heads off.   I kept saying “I’m here, I’m here.  Don’t panic.  I know what you need and I know what I am doing.”

As I said that, God showed me how often I had been like that with Him.  I was anxious about my future, finances and many other things.  All the while, He was standing over me. He knew exactly what He was doing.  There was no need to panic.

Post 34. Charlie


The programme was full; early morning devotions, studies, talking to people on the street, conferences to attend, weekends away with local families, minimum work hours and exercise.  There wasn’t much time to sit around. 

The dining room was a good place to get to know our shipmates.   After discussing the weather we went on to the food.  It wasn’t amazing, but not even the greatest chef could have come up with more than 100 ways to cook “Suzi-Wan.”  In one of the ports, some very generous people donated 1000’s of tins of bean sprout/noodle/vegetable meals.  We had it in many forms.  Mainly disguised, but we weren’t fooled.   We found it in everything. 

I really tried hard not to complain.  Some people never stopped.  Once when I was helping to serve at the tables, one of the big grumblers really got to me.   I looked at him in the eyes, with my serving spoon full of Suzi-Wan and warned him that if he kept complaining I would pour it all over his head.  That was the end of that.  He knew I was serious. 

“Charlie” was the name of the ship’s small second hand clothing shop.  It was right next to the key-cutting, shoe-fixing workshop where the cute Kiwi guy worked.  I worked there for a couple of months and loved sorting through the rubbish to find treasure.  I was ruthless. 

Church groups did collections and boxes were delivered to the ship.   I had heard stories about missionaries being sent second-hand tea bags but I never believed it until I opened some of those boxes.; worse than used tea-bags were used toothbrushes.  

Us O.M.ers weren’t known for our sense of fashion for a few reasons.   

1. We were all there for a minimum of 2 years; clothes wear out. 

2. We were given $20 a month, if it was there; it often wasn’t.

3. When it was, we could buy a few treats; like souvenirs or junk food; we got fatter.  

4. We couldn’t save it because the currency changed with every country we sailed to and there was very little we could buy for $20; Charlie was free.

5. People thought we didn’t have any taste or style; we got the clothes they had been hoarding since World War 2.  

Maybe they wanted to put them on a ship so they would never come back.  

That way they would never have to remember how bad it got. 

Post 33. Strangely safe

The Doulos.

The Doulos.

Ship life was intense and stretching.  It was obvious from day one that I was going to learn a lot about diversity  of   culture.

I shared my first cabin with 3 other girls; an Indian, an American and a Korean. There were some interesting moments.  Cleaning rosters were made and stuck up on the wall.  After a couple of weeks we noticed the Korean girl wasn’t doing her cleaning duties.  We called a cabin meeting and asked her what the problem was.  Her unblinking reply was, “In Korea, younger girls do everything for the older one.  I am the oldest in this cabin.”   Our unblinking reply was, “Well you’re not in Korea.”  Things did improve a bit, but it was hard for her.  There were some who were highly qualified and had to scrub decks and wash 100’s of dishes every day.  For many, being in the kitchen was only for women.  Well, that thinking didn’t last long.

We all had our way of doing things.  The results were often the same. We learnt quickly that our way wasn’t necessarily the best way.

Life was full.  There were different departments and we all had a job.  It didn’t matter what we were before we came onboard.  We worked where we were put and there were no arguments.  If we didn’t get on with someone and asked to be moved, we were made to stay there until we got on.

I started in the Book Exhibition.  It was apparently the place to be.  It was a lot of fun and lots of hard work.  We did inventory, orders, stacked the shelves in different languages and learnt how to deal with all kinds of people.   The plan was to be in South America for 2 years and it was compulsory that we learnt Spanish.

We sailed from one port to the other and every time we set sail, the exhibit had to be covered and tied down.  If the weather was good we were able to set up for the next port while we were sailing.  If it was bad, and we were throwing up, we prayed the books wouldn’t be lost at sea.

There was a HUGE storm on the trip from Jamaica to Mexico; massive waves, lots of sea sickness and many bookshelves that hit the deck.   It was scary having to go up in the howling wind and beating waves to tie the shelves down properly.  It was one of the biggest storms experienced by the Doulos.

There was a lot of sea sickness, but life had to go on.  Michel, our cook from France, kept running between the deck and the kitchen.  He could barely stand, but there were mouths to feed.  Those who managed to get to the dining room for breakfast were served by very pale waiters and waitresses.  What made things worse was that Michel had grabbed the food colouring instead of the vanilla essence.  The porridge was green.

It seemed that some had psychological sea sickness.  Em Namuco was violently ill and had been in his cabin all morning.   It had been announced the previous evening that we were to set sail in the middle of the night.  He was surprised when someone knocked on his cabin door to tell him that the ship hadn’t sailed after all.  We were still firmly moored.

There was danger but a strange absence of fear.  There were nights when everything was calm and we would lie on the deck and look into the crystal clear, starry night.  Everything around us was in pitch darkness.  We were like a tiny cork bobbing on the ocean.  Not another thing in sight.   The only sound was the ship’s engine.

I was very aware of how small I was in an ocean so deep and wide.  There were many times God spoke of His love for me, reminding me that His love was as vast as the ocean I was sailing on.  No matter how high the waves got and no matter how big the storm became, as long as I was in that ocean, I was safe.

Post 32. The Amazon

Belem is between the Toucan and the monkey.

Belem is between the Toucan and the monkey.

I just couldn’t scratch my itchy feet.  I had been at home for 3 years.  I wanted to see the world but didn’t want to travel for travel sake.  There needed to be a mission, something constructive to do at the same time.

Over the months I had made a few enquiries about mission organisations to see where I would fit.  That was when I heard about the Doulos; Operation Mobilisation’s converted ship.  It was the largest floating bookshop in the world.  It was a self contained “town” with schools, hairdresser, dentist, hospital, laundry, bakery, nursery, offices and 250 people from all over the world.

It sounded like a dream come true; to be able to see the world and work at the same time.  I sent in my application knowing it would take a while to hear from them.  Resigning from two jobs, both needing a months notice was a bit risky.  If I resigned and wasn’t accepted on the ship, I would be jobless.  I decided to take the risk.  It paid off and I was off to join the ship in Brazil.

The agent’s response to my resignation was, “What a waste,”  but Wilf and Val were excited.  Dad had been putting money aside in our Post Office accounts and I drew that out.  It was exactly the amount I needed to pay for my ticket from Cape Town to Rio and I had some savings to get me through the first couple of months.

I was beside myself.  I couldn’t wait to get to South America.  The ship would be sailing from Brazil to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico, Florida and then through the Panama Canal and all the way around and back to Brazil.  It would take two years.

I sat on the carpet in our little passage and found my favourite book*.  I knew it off by heart and every photo had been touched over and over again; for years.  I was going to the source of the Amazon River.

I flew into Rio and straight onto Belem with other new recruits.  There was an open jeep waiting for us and we were driven to the ship on some very rough roads.  It was in that jeep that I met Henriette Hugo; a very beautiful French speaking Huguenot from Cape Town.  We were kindred spirits.

As I walked up the gangplank one of the flirty O.M. boys asked me my name.  When I said “Linda” he said, “Oh that means “beautiful” in Spanish. Muy Linda”.  I was flattered, but not there to flirt, so I smiled and was escorted to my little four berth cabin.

*See:  Books and Jazz