Dreaming of the sea

June 14, 2007


A couple of days ago I received an email from a former ship-mate from Mercy Ships. It was the usual mass-mailout, what-are-we-up-to now and look what Mercy Ships is doing kind of email but for once it caught my attention. Mercy Ships newest and largest ship, the Africa Mercy, has just undertaken its maiden voyage and arrived in Africa, and this email contained photos, and links to a BBC report and photographic tour of this ship, and a new song released just for Mercy Ships.

As I browsed I started getting a bit nostalgic. I remember the things I loved about the ships. Sunsets at sea. The throb of the engine and gentle rocking of the ship as I settled to sleep in my cosy little bunk. The thrill of arrival in a new port, waking to a new view out my porthole, walking off the ship to explore a new city, a new country. The feeling of actually doing something positive for the world.

And then I realised why I have been so unsettled lately. I have spent 4 of the past6 years studying development. I have spent countless hours reading and thinking about poverty, social justice and religion. And far from being more prepared for work with the poor, I feel discouraged and somewhat stymied.  I have spent too long critiquing what is happening and the problems caused by  well-meaning volunteers and development professionals and don’t feel I can “do” anything much that would help.  I miss the innocent enthusiasm with which I set out to “save the world” years ago, and I miss the secure and easy answers that my Christianity gave me at that time.  It has all been replaced with cynicism and doubt.  Maybe our Pentecostal pastor was right 5 years ago when he cautioned my husband against university studies.  To much knowledge and thinking can be a dangerous thing, especially for religious belief and idealism!

I still believe the Mercy Ships ideals are good, and I definitely believe there is a place  for the ships in medical relief work, but given the changes in me I’m not sure I could ever fit back in there.  Add to that the negative memories and the aspects of ship life I would rather not remember I guess I’m going to have to stick to following their progress online, and dreaming about the sea.

3 Responses to “Dreaming of the sea”

  1. benjaminady Says:

    sharon–wow. thankyou for sharing. I so identify with a lot of what you are saying. But I still think uni studies are going to help for me in the long run. It will help prevent me from hurting people in the ways in which I was hurt. I hope. =)

    Yeah–I miss the sea too. There’s a reason waterfront property is alwasy the most expensive. More evidence for the theory of evolution–the way we as a species are drawn so nostalgically and powerfully to the water–as if we remembered it somehow.

  2. […] kinds of thoughts are why despite what I wrote in a very recent post, I am actually seriously thinking about more study.  I might be completely mad but I am […]

  3. Sharon Says:

    Thanks for commenting Benjamin.
    I didn’t meant to imply study is a bad thing, I was feeling a little blue the day I wrote that- and trying to be a little tongue-in cheek. The reality is I may well end up doing more study. I just can’t see myself going back to an organisation like Mercy Ships.

    Good on you (good for you?? whats the American equivalent?) for studying, and congrats- I saw on your blog you did well. You make a good point about preventing hurt. Most of the damage I saw done during my “missions” experiences was through very well-meaning but misguided or naive people. In fact that issue came up in my Masters thesis and is one I would like to pursue further.

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