Jason's Prayer and News Letter Summer 2002
my maritime misadventures on the mv doulos
A warm welcome from South Africa! We have just returned from a brief communications blackout, so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to reopen the lines. A LOT has happened since I last wrote... so much that I’ll have to leave out half of it! But I will add a bonus page to this particular letter, just because it’s been a bit longer than normal.
FISH OUT OF WATER
After a couple of weeks in East London, South Africa, the ship entered into the dry dock phase. This means that most of the girls leave and spread out throughout the land, doing a month of evangelism or other kinds of ministry. The guys (and a few of the tougher gals) do a 72 hour work week, refurbishing and repairing the ship. It usually needs it, being the oldest ocean-going passenger vessel still afloat. I was only able to be around for 4 days of this time, but it was good to be there for at least that short period. Then, I disappeared from Africa...
BACK TO OLD BLIGHTY
...and headed off home, to England for 4 weeks. There were several reasons for this: 1) I had to pack up properly from my old place and move my stuff into storage 2) I had a lot of Operation World loose ends to tie up 3) I had commitments to the annual WEC Open Day, most particularly regarding the worship. This last responsibility went extremely well. I had some good friends who were also superb musicians in the group, and we had a wonderful time playing and praising God together. The second part (OW) went alright: we were able to finish up a number of things and make decisions about how we would handle the next two years of relative quiet. The first job of clearing up properly didn’t go so well. I left a number of things undone which caused undue strain on others. In addition, British Airways were particularly unsympathetic to my plight and I had to leave behind a lot of things I had counted on being able to take with me. In any case it was an eventful four weeks which passed rather quickly. Before I knew it I was back in Africa...
My first port back was Richards Bay, South Africa. This was in Zululand, home of those renowned African warrior people. We had the honour of having their tribal king officially welcome the ship and speak at the opening ceremony. I was able to visit a traditional Zulu village to observe their way of life, crafts and music and dances. Zulu dancing is quite well known and if you haven’t seen these guys go at it, you’re definitely missing something! Another great African opportunity was the day out I spent with 3 friends from the Faeroe Islands at a game reserve. We saw many of the quintessential African beasts: lions, elephants, rhinos, water buffalo, baboons, wildebeests, warthogs, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras and several others. One of the most exhilarating (and frightening) experiences of my life was to have a full grown elephant stick his trunk down to and into our van! He was close enough to touch, but none of us had a death wish ... these are wild animals, after all. But just to assure you that life on the ship is not all fun and games, this occurred during our annual Sabbath week. Hard work has become the norm once again...
BACK TO DESK JOCKEYING
It was always inevitable. I was bound to be moved from the physical work of the deck department to a place where my experience was more utilised. My new position is called Ministry Coordinator. Effectively, I’m responsible for coordinating the work that goes on OFF of the ships. We send out 10 - 20 teams every Sunday to local churches to teach, encourage and mobilise for missions. We send out about 30+ teams every week for evangelism, and to do Christian work in local communities. This consists of everything from going to schools or orphanages to practical development work, to working with the homeless or AIDS victims, to visiting cell groups and youth groups. We also send out about 3 teams per port to inland destinations for 10-14 days to allow more than just the coastal people to benefit from the servanthood of the Doulos teams. Our advanced preparation teams line up these opportunities – it is my job to ensure that they run as smoothly as possible. For this I have a team of 5 people. If you’re praying for me, then pray for the whole team of us!
The timing of the DOULOS visit to South Africa has coincided with one of the largest evangelism campaigns in Africa history. For 50 days there will be evangelism in 50 cities along the eastern coast of Africa, reaching 50 million people. Pray for a great harvest of souls – but more importantly, pray that the many who respond to the gospel message will be properly discipled by the churches and ministries working here. We are tying our own efforts into this process, as are almost all of the Christian ministries in this part of the world. It is very exciting to see the cooperation and unity in the common cause of building the Kingdom of God. I was able to attend the official launch of Operation Sunrise Africa at the Durban City Hall. It was a very “posh” event full of VIPs and dignitaries. But even as I sat in on this high profile meeting, my mind was drawn back to a meeting that I felt even more privileged to attend...
The Ark is many things. It is a homeless shelter for 900 people in the worst part of town, a rehabilitation home and an AIDS hospice. It is a halfway house, a church and a discipleship school. It is a family living as the community of God. I attended a Sunday evening service at this place, and the sincerity of the worship was really overwhelming. These people are considered the dregs of society, and yet here was an incredible place where God was radically transforming lives. While I was worshipping with these people, I felt far more privileged amidst these ragged saints than among all the suits and ties of the “cream” of Durban’s Christians. But my privileges did not end there...
A Lonely Shepherd in Lesotho’s Mountains
THE MOUNTAIN KINGDOM
I had the opportunity to go on an Action team to Lesotho. This small mountainous country is completely surrounded by South Africa. Our team of four was utilised in many different ways by the pastor. We preached in prisons and police stations, to illiterate shepherds and in churches (a 5 hour service!). We ministered to children, with youth, with ladies, and to cell groups in our host church.
Lesotho has many believers but few disciples. Pastor Ntsimane’s vision was for discipleship and community evanglism through cell groups. Our last evening in Lesotho we had a meeting with the cell group leaders. Our team shared testimonies about how God had used cell groups to impact our lives and disciple us as believers. They had so many questions, both theological/biblical and nitty gritty practical (not that the two are mutually exclusive), I was starting to lose my voice from answering! We talked by candlenight late into the night, but our team agreed afterward that this was one of the best meetings we had ever been to in our Christian lives.
SAILING THE WINTRY SEAS
Now we are in Port Elisabeth, South Africa, where we will be ministering until the 5th of August. Then we depart for Cape Town. We are sailing in the middle of winter here, and the seas are rough - most of the ship’s company gets seasick on these rough voyages, but I have thus far been spared the nausea and incapacitation. Also, we must not take safety for granted. In fact, along the same course that brought us here from Durban, we heard news that one tanker had foundered and sank and another was in serious trouble. So God was certainly voyaging with us. We have two more of these potentially dangerous voyages:
Port Elizabeth to Cape Town – August 6-8
Cape Town to Namibia – September 2-5
Please pray that the the oldest ocean-going passenger liner still afloat would STAY afloat.
Already we are thinking forward to our West African ministry, which will begin in September and continue on until the spring of next year. However, before that time we have some very pressing needs. First of all, many of the ship’s company will be leaving in September as their 2 year commitment ends. This means we need many new recruits (we are praying for at least 80) to replace those who are leaving. Anyone interested? We are also beginning to consider the more subtle issues of HOW the ship can best minister in West Africa, with its unique cultural, social and spiritual issues.
EVEN FURTHER AHEAD
Of course, my time on the ship will to come to an end at some point. Initially, I was unsure when this would occur. But now I am feeling confirmation that I should stay for a full 2 years (and perhaps a little bit longer). Some question my motives for this – social, touristic, matrimonial, avoidance of responsibilities, etc. But I do feel that it is right to benefit from the full two years of experience on the ship. This time is effectively a training period for me, and I want to be prepared for the rather intimidating expectations of me that loom in the not so distant future.
OTHER GOOD NEWS
Updating you on Operation World. The book is selling very well. In fact, Operation World was recently awarded the Christian Bookseller’s Association Gold Medallion Award for the Missions & Evangelism category. This is the highest honour a Christian book can receive from the publishing industry. We are very happy about this, but mostly, we hope that it enlists many more who will pray for God’s will to be done in the world.
Also, the Operation World worship album was recently released, put together by Keith Getty, an Irish writer/musician who has been an OW enthusiast for years. Several of the songs from this album are on various compilations in the UK worship scene.
Finally, in the bad news category: only a few weeks after leaving England I received a phone call from the BBC, asking me to appear on The Weakest Link. I can’t believe I missed this chance, but I guess God has better things for me here on the ship!
In Christ and for the Harvest,
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