Aug 25, 2011

This post is dedicated to all who insist that religion poisons everything

For all those who insist that religion poisons everything The Sunday Times Magazine (21st August 2011) carried the following article;

The first Mercy ship was launched in 1982 by Texan Christians Don and Deyon Stephens, who transformed Victoria, a retired ocean-going liner, into a state-of-the-art clinic. The charity has since sent four ships – all but one retired – into some of the worst trouble zones, including Haiti, Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

The idea behind the project is simple: to create ‘islands’ of care off the coast of some of the world’s most desperately poor countries – beyond the reach of corrupt officials looking to plunder equipment.

The ship depends entirely on volunteers, with a rotating core of 1,000 crew and 2,000 volunteers from more than 40 nations, including surgeons, dentists, nurses, mechanics and school teachers, all of whom pay up to £300 a month for the privilege of living and working on board. The charity has a strong Christian ethos – at the ship’s entrance you encounter a framed prayer, Isaiah 60:18: ‘No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.’

Dr Gary Parker, the chief medical officer works 70- to 80-hour week and has no house, no car, no life savings and no pension.

I don’t do this for the praise and gratitude of others. I care for these patients because they have value.

‘In this job, I have to prefer others above myself and I do.’

Parker has seen local children mutilated by rebels, and other outcast because of such disfiguring but treatable conditions as cleft palates. He is a world expert on head and facial injuries caused by war.

Of the people on this boat, 90% are committed followers of Christ. Perhaps 10% aren’t, but most of the surgery we carry out here in Sierra Leone is on Muslim patients. Our core values are Christian but we are not here to proselytise. We are here to save lives.’

On his office wall is a small oil painting of a surgeon at work with Jesus standing over his shoulder, his hand guiding the doctor’s.

We are rescuing them from the curse of the night. Allowing them to walk in the light, giving them their face and their humanity back.’

This video link from Mercy Ships own website contains an account of the visit of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone to the ship along with a speech of thanks from the President for the work of Mercy Ships.


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