Tag Archives: ship life

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 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.