1. The Ship

Sprawled on top of a mountain of goods in the back of a large truck of indeterminate age, eight or ten young men made half-hearted attempts to while away the long hours. A couple of them, stretched out on sleeping bags near the open back door, were struggling to focus on the contents of books propped up in front of them — a task complicated by the lamentable condition of the roads. Less ambitious or less disciplined members of the party lounged lazily and engaged in desultory conversation working up to spirited enthusiasm punctuated with bursts of laughter which lapsed gradually into periods of silence. Two men, snoring, were oblivious to everything: they had been on driving and navigating duty throughout much of the previous night.

The group had set out from England a couple of weeks earlier in high spirits which they were determined to main­tain, but seemingly endless days spent on the long road to India had taken their toll. The roughest leg of the journey had started as they reached eastern Turkey at the onset of winter and made their way along snow-covered roads swept by strong and bitterly cold winds. Further east they had emerged from the snow to find a barren wilderness of mountains, hills, rocks and little else. The road, such as it was, could hardly be distinguished from the rest of the land­scape in places. Tiny villages offered welcome breaks from the monotony of travel; as bodies unfolded and descended from the truck, limbs were stretched and the travellers swarmed into a local teahouse or cleared out a good pro­portion of the contents of a tiny bakery, primitive and dirty but emanating the irresistible aroma of freshly-baked bread. The newly-purchased loaves would be carried back to the truck and liberally spread with peanut butter and jam or covered with cheese, and another meal would be under way.

The travellers were part of a small convoy carrying workers with Operation Mobilisation (OM), an interna­tional mission that recruited young people for short-term evangelistic outreach, mainly in Europe and Asia. Many university and Bible College students used their holiday time to go out on small teams to distribute Christian litera­ture and talk personally with anyone who would listen. Some young people even set aside a year or two to work with OM.

Among the travellers in one of the trucks was a thin, wiry American with an air of suppressed nervous energy. He was George Verwer, director of OM, who in 1957 at the age of nineteen, had initiated the evangelistic outreach by talking two fellow students from Maryville College in the United States into going with him to Mexico during their summer holidays. Their mission outreach was repeated in subsequent holidays, the number of participants increasing each time. By the time of this trip to India in the early sixties, the work had grown into a more established mission organization with several hundred workers year-round and many, many more during holidays.

In the truck, George shifted his body, trying to find a more comfortable position while his thoughts moved ahead to India where the action would begin. What a waste of time this trip is, he complained to himself impatiently. Three, four weeks, maybe even more, with nothing to do but lie around while people in India were suffering and dying without knowing the good news that God loved them.

If only we could fly to India and cut out this long trip, he thought wistfully. But of course, that was out of the question. There was no money for such things. And even if there had been, the money would be better spent on Bibles and Christian literature. No, flying could not even be considered. The weeks of time wasted in travel were inevitable.

What we need is a ship, he thought and smiled to himself. Suddenly he snapped to full mental alertness. A ship! Think what we could do with a ship! The trip to India might take longer — it probably would — but the time wouldn’t be wasted! They could hold training sessions for new workers. They could stop in a port and let the workers go ashore to practise what they had learned. Then they could sail on, get more training and stop again. A floating Bible school! And think of all the supplies they could transport to India! The Christian literature! Tons of it!

George’s excitement grew. Literature was his great passion.

That was the beginning of an idea that fired the imagina­tion of OM leaders some time later in England and finally resulted in the purchase of a 2319-ton ship which was christened Logos. (The story of this ship is told in The Logos Story.) After its first long voyage in 1971 with around one hundred and fifty workers on board, however, the ship was not used to transport people or goods to India, although it did become a base for training Christian workers and for going ashore to put that training to use. Beyond the training aspect, it was used in ways that George had never imagined, as daily hundreds and even thousands of visitors streamed aboard to purchase books from the unique floating book­shop or to attend various meetings open to the public. Well-attended receptions were held for government offi­cials, foreign diplomats, military officers and other influen­tial people outside the sphere of influence of most missionaries and local Christian workers. Personal friend­ships were forged between Logos people and individuals living ashore. Whereas a hundred Christian workers enter­ing a city might become lost in the crowd, the ship pro­vided a high profile that attracted the interest of the local populace and was welcomed by them. God had given OM a powerful vehicle for ministry.

That was one side of the story — the great blessings. The other side was the problems, pains, stresses, uncertainties and failures that came along with the blessings. The burden fell most heavily on George Verwer. That’s why he reacted as he did when a British marine engineer meeting him at an OM conference in 1972 exclaimed enthusiastically, 'Hey, George, we’re praying for another ship. Did you know that?’ and went on to tell of a small prayer band of half a dozen people who met to pray especially that God would provide a second ship to expand the ministry of Logos.

Taken aback, George was silent for a moment before re­sponding huskily, 'You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve never even seen Logos. You have no idea of all the tears and heartbreak that have gone into it.’

George was definitely not ready to go through it all again.

But others in OM, seeing what God was doing with Logos, began to think about what could be accomplished if OM had two ships instead of just one. Enthusiasm for the prospect continued growing until even George himself was caught up in it. But he was not yet ready to relinquish his resistance.

'One of the problems I see,’ he pointed out, 'is the lead­ership needed. Who is going to carry the responsibility for a second ship if we get it?’

No one had an answer to that.

In the meantime, an OM team led by Dale Rhoton was ministering to Christians behind the Iron Curtain. Dale, an American, had accompanied George on his first evangelis­tic trip to Mexico and had worked with him in the subse­quent development of OM. Like George, Dale was slim and fairly tall, but in temperament he was totally opposite. Whereas George was a fireball burning with energy and sparking out ideas fast and furiously, Dale was a phlegmatic who carefully considered each prospective move. He was slow to offer an opinion, but when he did, it had substance. Close friends, he and George offered a valuable counterbal­ance to each other.

After working for several years in the Middle East, Dale had moved with his family to Austria in 1968 gathering around him a small team to smuggle tens of thousands of Bibles and other Christian books to Christians living in com­munist eastern Europe. Although he found the work chal­lenging and immensely satisfying, by 1973 he was beginning to sense that he had worked himself out of a job. The team he had assembled was functioning so well that his leadership was no longer needed. It was time to move on.

But where? That was the question which occupied his thoughts as he tried to conjure up in his mind the various possibilities and evaluate them.

'I can imagine us fitting into just about any area of OM ministry,’ his wife assured him. 'Except the ship ministry. That’s definitely out.’

Eight months of waitressing work aboard a small cruise ship to earn money for university had made her fully aware of the intense pressures of living and working with a lot of people in a confined space. It was not an experience she wished to repeat nor to subject her family to.

By the time of the annual conference for OM workers held in September in England, Dale was no closer to a deci­sion about his next move. Near the end of the conference George asked him to fly out to Logos in India for a couple of weeks. The ship would soon be sailing into the Per­sian/ Arabian Gulf and those on board needed orientation for the Muslim world.

One evening shortly after Dale had left for India while his family remained at the conference, a Logos worker gave a report to the conferees and showed slides. This is not ship life as I know it, Dale’s wife realized as she watched and lis­tened spellbound. Why this is exciting, breath-taking! God is obviously at work!

Meanwhile, Dale arrived in Bombay tired from the long flight and the inevitable jet lag. On his first morning in India he woke with an almost mystical sense that something im­portant was going to happen that day.

Strange, he thought, I’ve never felt anything quite like this be­fore.

Later that day he went for a boat ride with one of the Logos leaders who began to relate enthusiastically some of the things God had been doing through the ship. Suddenly it was as if a bright light flashed on in Dale’s mind.

This is it! he thought. The ship is the place where God wants us!

When he returned home a couple of weeks later, he brought up the subject rather diffidently, remembering his wife’s strongly expressed aversion to the idea of ship life. To his amazement, she nodded and agreed calmly,'Yes, I think God may want us there.’

God had put his man in place.

When OM leaders met to discuss business in September of the following year, 1974, Dale’s decision was a major factor in their agreeing that the time to purchase a second ship had arrived. George Miley, an American who had been director of Logos for three years, would assume the oversight of both ships. Dale would work with George and eventually become director of the new ship.

The search for a ship was on. A Christian broker in Great Britain heard about it and offered his services. Every re­motely possible ship was brought to the attention of Mike Poynor, OM’s expert on marine affairs. Ship drawings were pored over and promising ships visited, but all were too big, too expensive or simply unsuitable for the type of ministry.

In 1977 word came about Franca C. Built in the United States in 1914, she had started her career as a cargo ship named Medina and had later been rebuilt into a passenger ship, rechristened Roma. Eventually she was upgraded to a cruise ship after purchase by Costa Lines in Italy.

Mike Poynor, along with another veteran Logos worker and a German married couple, drove to Italy to inspect the ship.

As they turned a corner in Venice and headed towards the port area, they spotted a pristine white passenger liner, a giant vessel boasting three funnels.

'Oh!’ exclaimed the woman excitedly, 'What a beautiful ship! Isn’t God wonderful to give us such a lovely ship?’

Mike Poynor, a bit more down to earth, looked beyond the great luxury liner to a smaller scrubby-looking vessel listing strongly to port. Pointing it out, he remarked dryly, 'That one’s more typical of an OM ship.’

It was Franca C.

The group didn’t have time to dwell on the subject. Their appointment with the owners was at 11 am and they were running late because they had been held up by traffic. It was already 10:30 and they still needed to park their car on the mainland and take a boat over to the old city. The pressure of time grew as they located a car park and found themselves at the end of a long line of cars waiting to enter. After a very brief discussion, Mike hopped out of the car and dashed off to get a boat so that he, at least, would be on time. The others followed later.

Their initial impressions gleaned from a tour of the ship were positive.

As deliberation continued in the coming weeks, Mike was offered an opportunity to sail on one of Franca C’s regular cruises to the Greek Islands.

'Why don’t you take your wife with you?’ suggested some of the OM workers. 'You could give her a little holiday and do your work at the same time.’

'Humph,’ grunted Mike, a large, dedicated Texan and a man of few words, 'Rex Worth would be more useful. ’

So it was Rex, a British engineer, who went. This was business after all, not pleasure. Instead of drinking in the beauty of the Greek islands, the two men spent their time exploring the engine room and other sites of technical importance on the ship. A vast amount of work would be needed they could see, but their overall impression was favourable.

On their recommendation OM leaders decided to pur­chase the ship.

On the morning of 28 October, 1977, Franca C sailed for the last time into her home port of Genoa. On board for a final inspection as a basis for negotiating a price were Mike and Rex, along with Stan Thomson, a British marine elec­trician of considerable experience, Jonathan Stewart, who had been captain on Logos, and Ebbo Buurma, a big burly Dutchman who would be chief steward.

As the ship neared the pier, the OM delegation spotted their boss, George Miley, on the quayside waving wildly. With him was a German businessman, chairman of the board of directors for the company which would become legal owners of the ship.

A couple of hours later in the office of Costa Lines the negotiations began. Costa Lines was asking just under $900,000. The OM delegation countered with a bid of $700,000. Back and forth they went, bidding and counter bidding, discussing what items could be removed by the sellers to bring down the price. Soon after lunch they reached an agreement on $770,000 and discussion moved on to other important details.

A contract was drawn up and signed on 13 November and the a deposit of $77,000 was paid. Another six weeks would be needed to take care of formalities stipulated in the contract. But finally on 29 December an OM delegation met with Costa representatives to pay the remainder of the purchase price and claim possession of the ship. There was another expense at this time, one that had been foreseen but not calculated up to this point. In taking possession of the ship, OM needed to pay for whatever fuel and 'lube’ oil remained on board. And that led to an embarrassing situation.

The OM account contained enough to cover the cost of the ship and almost all the fuel. Almost all. The OM men went through their pockets pulling out all the cash they had on them and laying it on the table. They were still $300 short.

'Forget the $300,’ responded the Costa representatives magnanimously.

'Oh, no,’ answered Ebbo as he pulled out his personal Eurocheque book and began to write a cheque. With a flourish he signed his name and handed it over. 'Now we have paid to the last penny,’ he announced proudly.

As the OM men left the office, the Costa lawyer invited them for a cup of coffee at one of Genoa’s many coffee houses. While they were drinking their coffee, the lawyer asked curiously, 'Tell me, Mr. Miley, did you have the money for the ship when you signed the contract back in November?’

George looked at him. 'No,’ he admitted after a brief hesitation as he thought back over the many financial gifts that had poured in during the past month, 'no, we didn’t have the money when we signed the contract.’

'I knew it! I knew it!’ exclaimed the lawyer.

2. A New Name and a New Start

 With the transference of ownership, Franca C surrendered her name. For months long-term OMers, as OM workers were often called, had been submitting ideas for a new name, such as Morning Star, Light, Messenger, Friendship, Charis, Doulos. Each suggestion was weighed and discussed until a majority of opinions gravitated toward the name Doulos.

The word Doulos best expressed what the ship ministry was all about, they decided. A Greek word appearing many times in the New Testament, it meant slave or servant. The apostle Paul called himself a doulos of the Lord Jesus Christ. Writing to the Corinthian church, he said, 'For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants [doulous: variant grammatical form of doulos] for Jesus’ sake.’

That was what OMers wanted: to be utterly committed to serving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master and, in doing this, to become servants of the people to whom they would preach Christ. They wanted a name that would remind them that they were not going forth to distribute largesse grandiosely or to pro claim pompously all the answers to life’s problems. They were going out to learn and to serve.

They had a unique model. The Lord Jesus Christ himself set aside all the glory, wealth, comfort and privileges of his position in heaven and, in the words of the apostle Paul, 'made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant [doulou], being made in human likeness.’

And so the 'new’ OM ship became Doulos, and her peo­ple committed themselves to serving. Not superficially as paid servants who could leave any time something dis­pleased them, but deeply committed as slaves to their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

As they went out with this attitude, they were to dis­cover something astonishing, incredible, awesome. They may have viewed themselves as slaves, but Jesus received them as friends. It was just as he had said to his disciples in the Gospel of John, 'I no longer call you servants [doulous], because a servant [doulos] does not know his master’s busi­ness. I have called you friends. . . .’

As they went out to serve, they discovered that their Master shared in their elation. He put a comforting arm around them when they were in pain. When they floun­dered, he came to their aid. He accepted them for what they were while seeing in them what they could become. He involved them in the things that lay close to his heart. He met them as friends.

Servants and friends. That would be the story of Doulos repeated again and again in an ever-changing array of situa­tions. And so Doulos came into being. And douloi [plural form] came aboard to overhaul her engine and do a lot of other work necessary before the ship could be given the safety certificates required for sailing. A dozen men had already been living and working on the ship before the purchase was completed. Afterwards more came. Director George Miley wrote in a report of those first two months:

Then people started coming. From the USA, from Canada, from Great Britain, from Switzerland, from Germany, from other places they came. We knew some were coming. Others just came. Some had never been on ships before. Some had been at sea for years. Some we had been count­ing on all along. Many others we did not even know about when we signed the contract of purchase. Soon we had thirty-five people on board. Then it jumped to fifty. Before we knew it we were eighty. And before we finally sailed from Genoa, we were around 150 people — more on the maiden voyage than we had ever had on Logos!

One of those who came was a friend of Chief Engineer Rex Worth. He was from Switzerland and spoke little English but certainly had a will to work. Rex went to the engine room early one morning at 6:00 and there was Rudi, faith­fully working.

'Rudi,’ exclaimed Rex in surprise, 'have you been here all night?’

'Yes,’ he said and went on to explain, 'I can’t preach. I can’t teach. But I can serve the Lord with my lathe.’

Another person who came — and ended up staying for years as chief engineer — was a Dane named Johannes Thomsen. According to another doulos, 'He came aboard, showed his face and disappeared into the engine room, where he has been ever since.’ Once he was asked to say something about himself in group devotions.

'If I worked as badly as I talk,’ he replied, 'you wouldn’t need me on this ship.’

And with that he disappeared into the engine room again.

Mike Poynor, who had been heavily involved in finding the ship and inspecting her, moved aboard with his wife and four daughters, two of whom were six-week-old twins. His wife, Carol Ann, gives an idea of what family life involved at that time:

When we moved on there was no water. A hose from ashore was run up to the galley where I used to go every morning to get a bucket of water. I’d heat it in a kettle and give the twins a bath in a little plastic basin.

It was freezing cold on the ship since there was no heat. When you slept on a bunk that was along the ship’s side, you froze. And as you were breathing, the moisture in the room would condense along the steel side of the ship.

We had to send all the laundry ashore and pay by the piece, but having all these tiny bits of clothes for the babies got a bit expensive, so I washed them by hand and tried to dry them on the ship.

After the babies were washed and fed and put to bed, Vera Buurma [another mother on board] and I would start cleaning the ship. Our first job was to unplug all the toilets. The watchmen who’d been staying on the ship [in a little hut temporarily erected on the poop deck] would come in and use a toilet until it blocked up from not being flushed and then move on to use another one till it too blocked up. Vera’s and my first job was carrying around buckets of wa­ter to pour down the toilets because there was no running water to flush them. That was because the ship was 'dead’ and not generating any power.

Vera, her Dutch co-worker, recalls the laundry system:

All our laundry went on shore. We saw quite often a wool­len shirt come back small. I remember one evening a man appeared for supper wearing a shrunken woollen shirt which would now fit a child. It was hilarious.

Chief Engineer Rex Worth brought his wife, Ros, and their one-year-old daughter to the ship a few weeks later when the ship was in dry dock. Ros was given a key to the ladies’ toilets on the other side of the dock, about two hun­dred yards away. Each day she would bundle up her baby in a blanket, walk down the gangway and around the dry dock through the bitter cold to unlock the ladies’ toilets, where there was hot running water. She would bathe the baby, wrap her up and return to the ship.

'It didn’t seem strange then,’ she explained later. 'It seemed the most natural thing to do. We coped with all sorts of things. It was exciting to be working with a new project.’

That was life on the ship until Doulos came out of dry dock at the end of January and the ship’s generators were fi­nally ready to be started up. Power was restored to the ship and life became slightly easier.

One place on the ship was relatively warm and cosy all along. That was the engineers’ mess, which served as din­ing-room for all on board. A cable from ashore brought in electricity and heat emanated from an electric stove on which the cook prepared the meals. The mess became the 'living-room’ of the ship. Each morning prayers were held there, including prayers for the day’s activities.

The venue for devotions changed, however, when George Miley moved aboard in January.

"Let’s do things now the way we plan to do them later,’ he urged, "instead of forming lax habits which will have to be unlearned.’

Accordingly, devotions and prayer meetings were moved to the auditorium, known as the main lounge. Thirty or thirty-five workers filed in, huddled around in a room large enough to seat five hundred and shivered miser­ably in the cold. Soon, however, the rows began to fill up as more and more workers arrived.

Like many of the workers on board, Rex Worth liked to spend time alone with God before starting his day’s activi­ties. One morning he read from the book of Ezra in the Old Testament about the Jews returning home from exile and rebuilding their temple. As Rex read, he was impressed with a principle he saw there. In doing God’s work, whatever was necessary would be provided as it was needed.

Rex got so excited and caught up in his own personal de­votions that he lost track of time. Suddenly he realized he would be late for group devotions. He closed his Bible and dashed down to join the others who had already started their meeting. At the first opportunity, he eagerly jumped up to share what he had read that morning.

Everyone started to laugh.

Rex looked around perplexed. "Well, I don’t think it’s funny,’ he finally said defensively. "This is what God said to me.’

"Yeah, we know,’ someone enlightened him, "but we’ve already heard your message. The electrician has just given it.’

Oh,’ said Rex weakly and sat down.

Prayer was an integral part of all that was going on. In the early Logos days tension had developed between the engi­neers and deck-hands. Determined not to allow that to hap­pen on Doulos, leaders decided that every evening when work was finished (at 10 pm!), the two departments would get together to discuss the day’s work and pray about it.

Prayer was not just a spiritual discipline exercised by the group; it was also a very personal thing. Stan Thomson, as chief electrician, had been busy getting the electrical system in order. Late one afternoon a fault developed in the emer­gency lighting system. It couldn’t have happened at a much worse time. The safety surveyor was due the next morning to inspect the electrical system and give the safety certificate required.

Stan and his team of five electricians searched deter­minedly for the source of the fault that was tripping the circuit-breaker and blacking out an entire section of the emergency lighting. They investigated everything they could think of, but in vain. They couldn’t find the fault.

Supper time came and everyone else went to the dining-room, but Stan was too occupied with his problem. I’ve tried everything! he told himself in frustration. I just can’t think what to do. The fault could be in hundreds of different locations.

Suddenly he realized that he hadn’t prayed about the matter. He had relegated it to the realm of practical matters to be solved by his own wisdom. And that was wrong, he concluded.

Finding an empty cabin, he went in and prayed, "Lord Jesus, your word tells me that you are the creator of all things — seen and unseen. That includes the structures of mass, the very atoms of air we’re breathing and even this fault I’m looking for. Lord, you know all things. You know the trouble this is causing me. Could you please help me find out where the problem is?’

He narrates what happened after that:

I didn’t feel anything, but it was amazing how in a way I was guided. I left the cabin, walked up the port side of the ship and crossed over to the starboard side to walk aft again. I went down to a lower deck and on to the end of the passageway. There I ducked into a cabin to get a bunkbed ladder, which I carried out into the alleyway and climbed up to the last fluorescent light fitting, also containing the DC emergency lighting. As I dismantled this, I found at the back a big black mark. A short circuit had burned the cable off. Within fifteen minutes the fault was rectified. When the surveyor came in the morning, everything was working perfectly.

A short time after dry-dock, Doulos people held a reception for the dry-dock workers and showed them what had been done with Logos and what was intended for Doulos. Everyone in the port area knew how much the Doulos dry-dock bill had been. They knew that the crew and staff had been praying for the money. At the reception the head of the dockworkers’ union spontaneously took off his hat and passed it around; dockworkers put in money to help pay the bill. They were almost as excited as the Doulos workers when shortly afterward some stock that had been given to the ship ministry was sold, bringing in the remain­ing $80,000 needed.

All told, the cost of overhauling the ship to pass surveys cost around $100,000. The Costa company, when they had been contemplating keeping the ship, had budgeted $300,000 for the job. When the Costa engineer in charge of the technical aspect of the company’s ships heard about the amount Doulos had paid, he jokingly said he’d get into trou­ble because he had predicted it would cost so much.

Then he turned serious and asked, 'Do you pray for ev­erything?’

'Oh, yes,’ Carol Ann Poynor assured him. 'The children are praying now for snow. ’

'Snow? But it never snows in Genoa,’ protested the man. The next day he couldn’t come to the ship as planned be­cause of the snow.

The Costa engineering superintendent proved very helpful with various suppliers and manufacturers in getting the spares needed for Doulos. When a large quantity of spares for the main engine were obtained from the Fiat company that had made the engine, the Fiat manager be­gan to get a bit nervous. He called up the Costa engineer­ing superintendent and said, 'These people are ordering a lot of spares. Do you think they will be able to pay for them?’

The superintendent’s answer was, 'If they pray, they pay.’

Doulos people did both. On 28 February, 1978, they sailed to Bremen with all bills paid.

In Genoa work had been concentrated on bringing the ship up to the standard necessary to pass safety surveys and obtain safety certificates. In Bremen the focus was on reno­vating and equipping the ship for ministry. Two of the ma­jor items on the agenda were building a roof over the book exhibition which would be located on the top deck aft and putting in a lift where the swimming pool was currently lo­cated, so that books could be transported easily to and from the storage holds several decks below.

Mike Poynor was responsible for this work. He drew up the plans and did a great deal of the actual work himself. Rex Worth relates a couple of incidents that showed God’s hand in it all:

Mike had designed the elevator. The cage was all done and the shaft was ready. He was puzzling out how we could build the machinery to get the thing to run up and down. We were all in his cabin talking about it when there was a knock on the door. The man standing there said, 'Excuse me for disturbing you, but I’ve been an elevator manufac­turer for the last twenty-four years. I wondered if you needed any help with your elevator machinery.’

It was the same again when Mike designed and virtually built by himself the roof over the book exhibition. When the roof was finished, a big truck came alongside the ship with all sorts of equipment. In the truck was a Christian roof expert who’d come to help make the roof watertight.

Adults were not the only ones working. Some of the half dozen older children were workers too, outside school hours. Or perhaps entrepreneurs would be a better word. They went up on the top deck where the swimming pool was being removed and collected bits of tile. They added bits of metal slag that had fallen from various welding jobs. In the Poynor cabin, which had previously belonged to the purser, they turned up a trove of Costa ash trays, postcards and so forth. With all these treasures, the children set up a little stand inside the foyer of the ship and sold their wares to German visitors. With an eye for publicity, they stationed the Poynor twins in their 'Jolly Jumper’ swing hanging from hooks in the deckhead above. People would stop to look at the bouncing babies and fall prey to the sales pitch of the young vendors. The profit was then invested in a Ger­man toy-range called Playmobil.

Hospitality played a large role during that time in Bre­men. Busloads of Christians would come from all over the country to see the ship and to hear about its proposed min­istry. Doulos people not involved in practical work were kept busy entertaining them in cabins, showing them around and preparing meetings for them.

At Easter time three hundred visitors came down from Sweden for the weekend. At the same time a number of German ladies came with eggs to be coloured for Easter. Doulos children were mobilized, along with several moth­ers. Six hundred eggs were boiled in the galley and carried down to the mess, where the children coloured them and then rubbed them with bacon in the traditional German way. On Easter Sunday everyone, including the three hun­dred Swedish guests, received an Easter egg.

Not everyone who came to the ship in Bremen was a vis­itor. Many came as volunteers to help out with practical work in any way they could. One of these was an older German woman. Doulos people were not sure just how they could use her.

"What kind of work have you done?' she was asked.

"Oh, I’ve worked in a laundry.’

"In a laundry? Now that’s interesting. In our laundry here on the ship we have a big ironing machine that no one knows how to use. . . .’

The woman knew exactly how it should be used.

"She came in and commanded us around like a drill ser­geant,’ Carol Ann Poynor remembers. "She taught us how to do the tablecloths and napkins. Made sure we turned them up the right way. It was very good.’

With the steady flow of visitors, it was extremely helpful to be able to keep on hand a freshly ironed supply of the ta­ble linens that had come with the ship when it was bought. And it was a new experience for the ship people who had served previously on Logos. As Carol Ann commented, "We’d never had even paper napkins on our ship because we had felt that was wasteful of money. It was rather excit­ing to have cloth ones now.’

The alterations on Doulos, the purchase of equipment and supplies all cost money. German friends took much of this on as their own special project. At a conference one weekend Chief Steward Ebbo Buurma was at the coffee bar serving some guests when a lady handed him an envelope.

"Here,’ she told him, "this is for Doulos.'

Ebbo thanked her heartily, stuffed the envelope into his breastpocket and kept working. And forgot about the gift.

Much later in the day as he was talking with a good friend who was a produce seller in Bremen, he suddenly remem­bered the envelope. He drew it out of his pocket and opened it. There lay 10,000 DM (Deutchmarks worth ap­proximately $5,500 US).

'Oh, look,’ exclaimed Ebbo excitedly to his friend, 'God is answering prayer! ’

God continued to answer prayer as the German friend said, 'Oh, that’s wonderful! Here’s another 5,000 DM to add to it.’

Doulos people never learned the identity of the lady who gave the 10,000 DM so they were never able to get back to 'her and thank her. But they were confident that God knew.

When the time in Bremen came to an end after three months, a special commissioning service was held in co-operation with a local church that was very closely linked with the ship. Doulos then sailed off for ministry, first to a port in France, then on to Spain and Portugal.

Dale Rhoton with his family joined Doulos in Bilbao, Spain. In Malaga he got his first taste of directorship when George went away for a couple of weeks or so. Before George left, he asked Dale to go for a walk with him on shore to discuss ship business. As they set out, Dale recalled an occurrence on his first visit to Logos when he had also talked with George about the ship ministry. As he was leaving George’s office at that time, he had asked casually, 'Got any particular needs you’d like me to pray about?’

'Well, as a matter of fact, there are three things we need before we sail in three days,’ George replied matter-of- factly. 'Our captain is leaving and we don’t know who we can get to replace him. Then our doctor has already gone and we can’t sail without a doctor. Finally, we can’t leave port until we’ve paid our bills here and frankly, we don’t have anywhere near enough money.’

Dale gulped and said weakly, 'Sure, I’ll pray for that.’ He paused a moment and, in spite of himself, blurted out, 'And you’re going to sail in three days?’

'Right,’ said George.

Three days later Logos sailed, with captain and doctor on board and all bills paid.

That had been several years earlier. And now George was going away and Dale would have to deal with any problems that arose on Doulos.

'So in a few days we sail to London,’ Dale remarked to get the conversation moving. 'What sort of things need to be taken care of before then?’

'Well, Dale,’ drawled George in his soft Virginian ac­cent, 'you need three things: a captain, a doctor and money to pay the bills. . . .’

'It seems the ship ministry hasn’t changed much in the last decade,’ commented Dale.

'No, but God hasn’t either,’ replied George.

Doulos too set sail on schedule for London.

That was in Spain. Carol Ann Poynor has some memo­ries of Great Britain, which followed Spain and Portugal in the itinerary:

I remember the first ladies’ conference. The lounge was ab­solutely packed with ladies. I was introduced to speak. As I stood up in front and looked out at all the people, I began to cry. That’s all I could do. Just cry out of thankfulness that we had this ship, that we had space and didn’t have to turn people away like we had done so often on Logos [a much smaller ship].

In Scotland I can remember sharing about discipline in a conference. I talked about disciplining children and about self-discipline. I told the ladies I was toilet-training my twins right then and I realized it wasn’t so much their prob­lem as it was my problem to be disciplined.

The next day a florist arrived with a big bouquet of roses for me. It was from a lady who was trying to toilet train one child. She thought if I was trying to train two while living on a ship, I needed some encouragement, so I got this beautiful bouquet of roses.

In another port our ship’s washing-machines broke and our laundry was forced to close down. Two older ladies knew that I had small babies. They used to come every day to the ship to pick up the dirty clothes from the twins. The next day they would bring them back washed and dried.

Doulos workers had come to serve and found themselves being served, supported, encouraged, loved.







United Kingdom

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St. Vincent



St. Lucia

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Portugal (Madeira)






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United States



Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico




Netherland Antilles

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United Kingdom

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West Germany




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3. Under Way at Last

As the 1970’s drew to an end, Latin America sat poised for a period of political turmoil and upheaval. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador were under the tight control of dictatorships. During the next decade and a half, all except Cuba would move toward democracy, but the road would not be easy.

The eighties rode in on a crest of economic exuberance with money open-handedly and irresponsibly dispersed. National debts piled up and the inevitable day of reckoning crashed down upon country after country, leaving them reeling from shock.

That decade saw Argentina going to war for the first time in a hundred and twenty years, as she challenged Great Brit­ain for the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and was forced to back down.

These were the startling, defining movements that caught the attention of the world. But another change of even greater significance passed largely unnoticed until its magnitude finally forced acknowledgment. This was the explosive growth of the evangelical church from a tiny de­spised minority in the fifties and sixties to a pervasive pres­ence throughout much of Latin America. In fact, the growth was so rapid that churches faced a crisis of leadership. There were not enough mature trained Christian leaders to keep up with the demand of the new congrega­tions springing up.

As Doulos was obtained and prepared for ministry, most of her people were unaware of the situation in Latin Amer­ica and not much interested. Their eyes were on Asia. That’s where Doulos would be heading.

A small OM team that had been travelling through part of Latin America upset their plans.

'Before we head out to Asia for the next few years, why don’t we first make one short trip to South America just to get an idea of the situation there?’ suggested Bob Clement, leader of the small team.

This suggestion stirred up a storm of controversy. Fin-ances were a major concern; the Atlantic crossing alone would cost a staggering sum. And who knew whether Latin Americans would help to bear the economic burden through purchase of books — extensive purchase of books — and gifts? Who knew whether Latin Americans would even find the ship of interest?

Greater than anxiety about financial disaster or an indifferent reception, however, was the fear that the ship might be too well received, igniting an interest in OM. The OM work had already spread too rapidly and thinly for its own good, leaders felt. It needed to be consolidated and put on a sound footing rather than being extended even more.

After much discussion a decision was reached by con­sensus. Doulos would go to the Caribbean and South America for one brief survey trip. That was all. Absolutely no new OM work would be started in any country in that part of the world.

On 24 October, 1978 Doulos left England for Latin America.

One little detour, however, was too tempting to resist. Doulos could not pass so close to her birthplace without calling in at Newport News, Virginia, or at least as close as she could come to it.

A highlight for the ship in the United States was the visit of an older woman, little known to the world at large but very special to the ship: Mrs. Parramore. On an August day in 1914, as a teenager, she had stood on the quayside of a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, smashed a cham­pagne bottle against the hull of a new ship and christened her Medina. The intervening years had brought changes in name and appearance to both the sponsor and the ship which was now named Doulos, but the two grand old ladies were able to meet again and renew their acquaintance.

Mexico was the next country on the itinerary, with the small commercial port of Tampico and then Veracruz a few miles to the south. Latin America at last! Bubbling with a heady mixture of curiosity and enthusiasm, tempered with perhaps a degree of apprehension, all off-duty crew and staff — and even a few on-duty ones — slipped out one by one onto the decks to line the rails and watch the sliver of land on the horizon grow larger and larger until individual buildings and landmarks became distinguishable. Then be­gan the guessing game which in time would become a familiar one: where would the ship berth? The first clue was a collection of towering cranes and a concentration of

ships, indicating the port area. As Doulos came closer, her company on deck surveyed the possibilities, trying to de­cide upon the most likely berth. When they caught sight of several tiny figures on the pier waving excitedly, they knew they had found the spot. Squinting and straining their eyes, they could eventually identify Bob Clement and the other Doulos people who had gone ahead to Tampico to prepare for the ship’s visit.

No matter how often the ship came into port, for most people there would be an irresistible fascination in watch­ing the ship navigate those last few metres of water, come alongside the quay, tie up and lower the gangway for local officials to mount. Along with this would come the friendly exchange of greetings and news with the advance prepara­tion team standing down on the quayside. Gradually the excitement would fade and people would begin to melt away, going back to work or to other occupations. An hour or two would pass before the ship’s company was finally cleared for going ashore or receiving visitors on board.

A young Indian named Chacko Thomas had the job of co-ordinating conferences on Doulos. Having previously worked on Logos, he had had enough experience with various cultures to give him a fair amount of confidence as he stood before his first Mexican audience. Still, it was with pleasure that he spotted a familiar song on the music sheet provided for the conference. The song was not only familiar but even a favourite of his, one he had often sung with Spanish Christians during the ship’s time in Spain. As he opened his mouth and started to sing in a full, rich tone,

he got his first lesson in Mexican culture: the Mexicans had kept the words but changed the tune! He was to learn that Latin America might share a language with Spain — at least to some degree — but Latin American countries were definitely their own entities with their own cultures, outlooks and ways of doing things.

Among the Mexicans affected by the ship’s visit was a homeless man. Rex Worth tells his story:

On the dockside was a tramp in a terrible state, filthy, with long straggly hair down to his shoulders. Johannes, our first engineer, befriended him (while the rest of us all walked past him), won his confidence, took him on board and fed him. Later Johannes was able to persuade him to have a shower. That was no easy task. The man’s boots hadn’t been off for at least two or three years. Johannes had to get the snips out of the engine room and cut the boots off. The man’s toenails had curled up around inside. Johannes shaved him, cut his hair and gave him a 'new’ suit of clothes from Charlie [our on-ship used clothing 'bou­tique'].

The man, he learned, had once been an officer in the Mexican navy. When we sailed away, he had a home with a Christian family and a job as a watchman.

When the ship pulled out of Tampico at the end of her three-week stay, her deck railings were again lined with crew and staff, this time waving and shouting messages to their new-found friends standing tearfully on the shore.

The first port in Latin America had been an exhilarating experience, packed full of activity. The ship’s crew and staff had taken part in meetings on board and ashore. They had talked with local people, visited them in their homes, taken part in their church services. It had been an eye-opener to see how Mexicans lived, to experience their culture and to be taken to their hearts in personal friendships.

But now the ship was sailing on and leaving behind . . . what? Friendships that would probably fade with the pas­sage of time? People whose lives had been touched by God in a life-changing way? Or people whose interest in God would diminish when the stimulus of the ship was gone? The tramp on the quayside who’d been given a second chance at life, would he continue in his new relationship with God?

Or Ramon Martinez, head of the dock workers’ union, who could hardly stop talking to his friends about his dis­covery that a person could have his past wiped clean in God’s eyes and be able to know God in a direct, personal way. Had he experienced a real and lasting change in his life or was it just an emotional high that would eventually be dulled by the realities of daily life?

What was real and what was just an emotional flash in the pan, heady but without substance? Those on board Doulos wondered, but there was no way they would ever know, except as news of someone here or there happened to trickle back to them. Local churches had promised to care for individuals who had shown an interest in spiritual things. Would they follow through on their promises?

Some news did trickle through to Veracruz, the next port of call. A local pastor who had come to wave good-bye to Doulos in Tampico had got into conversation with a man standing beside him and discovered that the man was searching for God. There on the quayside as the ship sailed into the distance, this man met God. He too was unable to contain his joy and enthusiasm and within days had led fifteen other people into a similar experience of God.

One of the tiny local churches reported that it had gained twenty-two new members as a result of the Doulos visit, a real boost for this struggling church.

[When Doulos revisited Tampico three years later, a beaming Ramon Martinez was there to meet her and offer his expertise and influence in obtaining fuel and other sup­plies when the crew experienced difficulties. And local Christians informed ship people that four churches had sprung up as a result of that first Doulos visit.]

The events of Tampico, however, were soon forced into the background by the onslaught of new experiences in Veracruz.

'Did you hear there’s a Russian ship in port?’ exclaimed one of the Doulos workers.

Rose Scott, a dark-haired young British woman, looked up eagerly as she heard the question. Immediately she jumped up and sped out on deck to confirm the report. Yes, there was the ship. Excitement swept over her.

Rose’s interest in Russians dated back seven years to a stirring account she had heard a Russian Christian give about life under communism. Rose had become so inter­ested that she had studied Russian without knowing how she would ever use it. Was this now an opportunity?

That evening, with a degree of trepidation, she accom­panied the captain and a couple of other Doulos men to see if they could get aboard the Russian ship. They were well aware of the fact that Russian ships were always strongly guarded by a formidable commissar who made sure no dan­gerous ideological elements crept aboard to contaminate the minds of faithful communist seamen.

To their surprise and delight, Rose and her companions were allowed up the gangway and soon joined by a handful of seamen. At first the Russians kept their distance, simply making polite conversation. Rose countered by talking about Doulos, saying it was a ship for international under­standing and peace. Those were words the Russians under­stood. Their slogans were full of them. One of the mates thawed out enough to let the Doulos visitors at least enter his ship briefly. And that was that.

On their way out, the Doulos visitors met a Russian who volunteered the information that almost all the crew had gone to a concert in the central square of Veracruz. As the Doulos party thanked him, one of them inconspicuously slipped him a Christian leaflet, which he surreptitiously stuck into his pocket.

'Well, let’s go to the square, shall we?’ suggested one of the Doulos people when they were out of earshot.

They found the seamen at the square and the Doulos men were soon in their element passing out Christian leaflets in Russian to the seamen. Rose, however, felt isolated and frustrated. As a woman, she could hardly approach these men and start talking Russian. That would undoubtedly put wrong ideas in their minds. So she prayed, 'Lord, help me find a woman. And please let her be by herself. 'That last item was not as easy as it sounded because Russians always stuck together in groups.

Suddenly Rose spotted her. A woman all alone. Rose walked up to her and started speaking Russian. The woman was startled but apparently pleased. Rose soon discovered she was the ship’s librarian.

'You must come and visit me on the ship,’ the Russian woman said. 'Come tomorrow.’

At that moment a group of six or seven other Russian women descended upon the two, abruptly ending all per­sonal conversation. Still, an invitation to visit had been given and Rose was not going to let that opportunity pass by.

Accordingly, the next afternoon, accompanied by three Doulos men, she presented herself at the gangway.

"What are you doing here?’ demanded the watchman.

'We have an invitation to visit the librarian,’ answered Rose.

'Oh, come on up. She was just looking for you.’

Rose and her party were escorted to the librarian, who graciously gave them a tour of the ship, introducing them to various crewmen here and there. Rose expressed her group’s pleasure and presented individuals with small gifts: a Russian Bible, a New Testament or at least a Christian leaf­let.

'Such a miracle!’ exclaimed Rose later. 'We never even saw the commissar. Yet that evening when we once again returned to the ship, we were refused entrance. “No for­eigners allowed,” they told us.’

For Dale Rhoton, the port of Veracruz holds a special set of memories. George Miley was again away from the ship, leaving Dale in charge. The ship had been sailing with tem­porary deck officers who would come for one voyage only, just long enough to take the ship to the next port. That was hardly an ideal set-up, but at least it worked while the ship was in Europe. Latin America was a different story. Fortu­nately, the ship had a British captain for the next three months and an American first mate who planned to stay long-term. But the second and third mates were returning to the United States when the ship headed south from Mexico.

The captain began to get nervous.

'We have to have mates,’ he reminded Dale. 'Who’s coming to take on the jobs?’

'Well,’ Dale replied, 'there are a couple of possible re­placements: Roger Emtage and George Booth.’

'Oh, Emtage and Booth!’ Irritation crept into the cap­tain’s voice. 'I keep hearing those names. You can forget about them. They’re not going to come. Neither of them. Roger Emtage is sitting for his master’s ticket in Great Brit­ain. It’s his first try. No one gets his master’s on the first try. He has said he’ll stay and try again if he fails. That will take months.

'Then there’s George Booth from South Africa. South Africa! Just talk to men on other ships in port here. They’ll tell you that they never have a South African officer join the ship in Mexico. Why? Because Mexico won’t let a South African into the country. That’s why. You might as well give up on him. Who else have you got in mind?’

'That’s all, I’m afraid,’ admitted Dale reluctantly. 'We’ll have to pray that they both make it.’

'Uh . . . !’ muttered the captain, shaking his head in frus­tration.

But pray they did, the entire ship’s company.

Roger Emtage passed his exam and arranged his flight to Doulos in Veracruz.

George Booth and his family took a giant step of faith and began selling their furniture and other possessions. Late one Sunday night as they returned from church, the phone began to ring. Someone on Doulos asked if George could come in two weeks.

'Well, we could try.’

The Doulos caller explained that George needed to work through an airhne that flew both to South Africa and Mex­ico, suggesting that Varig might be the best one. George should contact the airline which in turn would contact its Mexican office to work out a special dispensation for sea­men to enter the country without a visa in order to join a ship. George followed through as instructed. The next day the Mexican office of Varig telexed back that they had never heard of a ship called Doulos and they knew of no such agent as ours in Veracruz.

Eventually that problem was cleared up after someone on Doulos got to work on it.

George continues the story:

Meanwhile, we were praying and selling our possessions. We worked on a visa for Brazil because we had to stay two nights there en route. When we resigned from our jobs,

the people we were working with said we were crazy. When we started selling all our things and we hadn’t even got permission to enter Mexico, our family and friends thought we were crazy. The permission still hadn’t come through by Thursday, the day before we were supposed to fly. That night we swept out our empty house. We didn’t know what to do with the pan or broom, so we threw them away. Then we went to stay with my in-laws.

On Friday morning I didn’t even bother to phone the Varig office to find out if we had received the permission. I just drove into town to be at the office when it opened at 8:30. As I crossed the square, the lady in the Varig office saw me coming and picked up a white piece of paper. The telex had come through that morning. That afternoon we flew to Mexico even though we still had no visa. All we had was a telex in English saying we were to come. We didn’t know if this was going to be enough or not.

As we neared Mexico City, we began to get nervous. Our connecting flight to Veracruz was the last one of the day. It was due to take off at 9:20 that evening, but at 9:20 we were still in the air over Mexico City.

When we finally landed, there were long fines behind the immigration desk. We were just about to join one when a man ran up to me and said, 'Are you Mr. Booth?’

I said 'Yes.’

He said, 'Come with me.’

So Carolyn and our little one-year-old daughter and I ran behind the man. We were taken to an immigration desk where there was no line. Two men were waiting for us. They never even looked at our passports; they just opened them to blank pages and stamped them. We ran through Customs. They tried to open our suitcases, but our man shouted something at them in Spanish and they simply waved us through. We ran through a gate and handed our suitcases to another man who disappeared with them. Our escort grabbed two boarding passes, gave them to us, pushed us up a flight of stairs and said good-bye. We were­n’t with him more than three minutes. We got up to the top of the stairs, walked down a little corridor and stepped on board a plane. As we stepped inside, they closed the door.

We sat down. I leaned forward and tapped the man in front of me on the shoulder and asked, 'Does this plane go to Veracruz?’

He said, 'Yes.’

We took off and twenty minutes later we were in Veracruz.

A short time later George walked up the gangway of Doulos. And discovered that his first step of faith was noth­ing compared with what lay ahead of him.

The previous captain had planned to stay long-term but had left just the day before, unable to cope with the ship’s unorthodox way of operating. The chief officer was an older man who didn’t have his master’s certificate, so the second officer had just been promoted to master. Roger Emtage had yet to arrive; he came a week later and became second mate. George signed on as first.

Officer uncertainties were only one of the problems. The ship was very old and still obviously in need of a lot of work. Doubts began to swamp George. They weren’t helped by the fact that most of the crew were amateurs with no sea experience at all. However, George decided that in running a ship experience often doesn’t count as much as enthusiasm. There was plenty of that he found, and a will­ingness to work.

Meanwhile the programme of the ship continued. The well-known evangelist Luis Palau held an evangelistic cam­paign in Veracruz in conjunction with the ship’s visit. Normally Mexico at that time did not allow public evange­listic meetings; all religious functions had to take place within church walls. Yet exceptions were somehow made for the Luis Palau meetings ashore and the Doulos confer­ences on board. The two groups worked together, sharing publicity, reaching out to people, telling them of the hope God offers, and guiding them towards local Christians who could give support and encouragement long after Doulos had moved on.

On the ship Em Namuco, an outgoing Filipino, was responsible for a series of family-day programmes. He didn’t know what to expect for the first one, but hoped for an attendance of three hundred, which would fill the main lounge. To his amazement, seven hundred people streamed in, packing every available inch of the room, even after children had been invited to come to the front and sit on the floor. A crowd can be exhilarating, but there can also be too much of a good thing, Em decided. With so many  people in the room, walking into it was like meeting the blast of heat one encountered in the engine room. Overwhelming!

That was only a small part of Em’s worries. The other  Doulos workers who were scheduled to help with the two-hour programme had for one reason or another failed to appear. Em was left alone with the crowd. He impro­vised


Verlag: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG

Tag der Veröffentlichung: 13.05.2014
ISBN: 978-3-7368-1295-6

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Ein Buch aus der Reihe "OM Books" von OM Deutschland. OM arbeitet in mehr als 110 Ländern, motiviert und rüstet Christen aus, Gottes Liebe an Menschen in der ganzen Welt weiter zu geben. OM möchte helfen, Gemeinden zu gründen und zu stärken, besondern in den Gebieten der Welt, in denen Jesus am wenigsten bekannt ist.

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