A Journey in Hope

by Oli Dawson

Oli is serving on Doulos Hope in short-term mission.

I graduated from university during the Covid pandemic in 2021, when my plans were changed by a last-minute cancellation for my year abroad. I was supposed to go to Hong Kong for my final year but instead had to opt for an early graduation. This left me without a next step but also space for the Lord to call me to the ship’s ministry. Joining Logos Hope in Tema, Ghana, I embarked upon an incredible journey, filled with lessons in faith, mission, culture and life.

I began my time on board working in the bookfair department. This enabled me to be involved in the heart of the ship’s ministry where all of the visitors come. Ample possibilities came daily to engage in fruitful conversation with people from all around the world. At the end of each working day, the team would share their most positive encounters with people. It was a highly encouraging time and really great to see the fruit of the ministry directly. Working in the bookfair was also the best way to learn about all of the different cultures we were being immersed in. For this I am truly grateful; it has widened my perspective and understanding of the immeasurable variety of cultures and ways of life in the world.

After six months, I had the chance to switch to the deck department, which is responsible for the operations, navigation, safety and security of the vessel. This role opened my eyes to a completely different side of the ministry, a very practical, albeit indirect contribution, to the mission vision of the ship. It was in the deck department where I most experienced the love and family feel of the community. The deck team was so loving and invested significantly in growing one another spiritually and practically. While I learned an incredible number of new skills and gained lots of knowledge, I also saw the importance of each and every department behind the scenes, and how each plays a vital contribution to the turning of the cogs, in the highly effective and impactful wheel that is the ship’s ministry.

Ministry Highlights

There is also much ministry that takes place in addition to the bookfair, and it was a blessing and a highlight to be involved with this work. Once a week we had the opportunity to go onshore into the local communities and get involved. This looked different every time but one of my most memorable experiences took place in Liberia, West Africa. I had the chance to visit Monrovia Central Prison and spend a whole day connecting with the inmates. The craziest part was that we were told to go straight in and walk around the courtyards – I must admit I was a little on edge at first! Nevertheless, we quickly felt at ease and were able to have some incredible conversations, hearing their stories and struggles and sharing ours, as well as the hope that we have in Christ. We were even able to hold a service in their chapel, where my ears were introduced to an entirely new level of sound when the prisoners led the worship time – amazing!

Another ministry highlight came through sports, specifically football. I have always had a love for the sport, and it is clearly a highly effective way of connecting deeply with people, irrespective of culture, religion, or anything else. The joy felt after a good game is something special and we were able to share so much hope through these football matches.

One of my highlights throughout my time on Logos Hope was visiting Basra, Iraq. It was an historic visit for the ship’s ministry as none of the vessels had ever managed to visit the country before. The people were overwhelmingly friendly and excited to host us; it felt as if the whole nation was welcoming us with open arms. We were truly spoiled on this visit with the authorities hosting us on several tours into other areas of the country. We met some of the locals living in rural areas and dived into the rich history of life in Iraq. blessed to captain the Logos Hope football team against an Iraqi team in a professional stadium with all the ship’s crew there to support us – I will never forget that experience!

we quickly felt at ease and were able to have some incredible conversations, hearing their stories and struggles and sharing ours, as well as the hope that we have in Christ.

Changing Course

Coming up to a year and a half on board, I began thinking about my final months and how I could best spend them. Different opportunities were available, thanks to the versatility of life on board, yet I wasn’t clear minded about any specific change, nor about remaining in my current position. I really sought the Lord’s Word in this time and He answered. An unexpected opportunity arose immediately to transfer to the Doulos Hope, the organisation’s newly acquired vessel, and join the advance preparations team. This was a big and tough decision, as it meant leaving my life on Logos Hope behind and extending my commitment beyond my initial two years. The clarity of the Lord’s guidance through it all gave me all the assurance I needed that it was the right way forward. Therefore, after around 17 months on Logos Hope I transferred over to Doulos Hope, in Southeast Asia, for a new adventure. It was an exciting new chapter, one which would challenge me in many different ways. I was handed my first assignment and flew off to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Lineup Life

The advance preparations teams are effectively the project managers for the ship’s visit to any given port. They handle all of the legal permissions that go with bringing a ship into a country, as well as all of the ministry that will take place there, and many other associated responsibilities. Advance preparation is better known on board as lineup. Life on lineup certainly differs from that on board. The advance teams work roughly two months ahead of the ship schedule. Team sizes are normally of two or three people so, as you spend two months together, day in and day out, you certainly build very strong bonds. However, it also comes with its challenges particularly feeling lonely and distant from the comfort of the community on board. These were challenges I hadn’t anticipated so much, compared to those that came more directly with the work, for which I felt well prepared. Nevertheless, times like this can be a major opportunity for growth, and I believe I was able to grow in my relationship with the Lord significantly, perhaps due to the heightened dependency I had on Him. Regarding the work side of lineup life, I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of demands, such as public speaking, negotiations, official interactions, networking, planning and many others too.

My favourite part of being in this role has been the level of insight I have been able to draw from the greater picture of the ship’s ministry and how it works toward achieving its vision of wanting to ‘see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.’ I am so grateful for gaining a greater understanding of the details and strategies that the ships take to achieve this. There are 3 billion people in the world who have never heard the true gospel. So, while the task is huge, it is constantly encouraging to see how the Lord blesses this ministry and enables it to continue.

Pray

Please pray for the Lord to grant me discernment over deciding my next steps. My end of commitment is closing in slowly and I need to consider what will follow after the end of my time with the ships comes. There are numerous ways to go of course, as well as several major considerations to balance. Yet most importantly, I want to be obedient to God’s plan for my life. Pray that I may hear His guidance as these changes approach. Pray for the teams serving with OM’s ships. Pray that the millions of people who visit the ships will hear the gospel and become followers of Jesus.

www.om.org/eng/ships/get-on-board
www.echoesinternational.org.uk/get-involved/thinking-of-getting-involved

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