Husband and Wife team, MSNZ Director Graeme Walls, and MSNZ Communications Manager Sharon Walls, are on Leave of Absence for a year serving aboard MV Africa Mercy in Madagascar.
When the Mercy Ship Anastasis toured New Zealand in 1983, Graeme Walls jumped at the opportunity to represent his pastor at a pastor’s conference on board. Graeme wanted to see the ship, he had no idea that Mercy Ships would become such a big part of his life for the next 30 years as his place of employment, his home for a new season , and the place where he would meet his future wife, Sharon and have three children.
“I had no idea that it was going to occupy so much of my life at that stage but I knew something special had happened when I walked through that door.”
After touring the ship, Graeme returned home to reflect on the experience and decided to apply for the ship’s Discipleship Training School (DTS). Graeme offered his services as a teacher aboard the Anastasis, first at the International Christian School (the ship’s academy for the children of families serving on board) and then as an instructor at DTS, where he taught the next generation of Mercy Shippers.
Although Graeme has worked both on ship and on land for the Mercy Ships New Zealand office, he shares that what first attracted him to Mercy Ships was the novelty of the ship. “As we were working in the Pacific Islands and other parts of the world, I saw the desperate need that people had and it was the whole thing and the two ends of helping them with their physical needs and delivering the gospel as well.”
Throughout his over 30 years with Mercy Ships, Graeme has watched the organization evolve into a ministry that offers thousands of specialized surgeries each year, along with mentoring and education programs all while sharing the love of Christ.
“It has evolved a lot and if people came back now that were there when the organization first started they probably wouldn’t recognize it,” says Graeme. “The great thing is you come on board and you see the plaque behind the receptionist that says, ‘we follow the 2,000 year old model of Jesus’ and that hasn’t changed and that’s the essence.”
Graeme noted that what has changed most, particularly in the last few years, is the emphasis on medical capacity building and training local medical people to continue doing that work when the ship leaves. Graeme shares the importance of this work: “When you leave a country, you want to leave something behind, something that is sustainable. Something that is able to carry on before we leave.”
“That’s one of the most important things: as we go, we multiply. We’re not going to be able to do all the surgeries but as we leave we can leave teams behind to continue offering surgeries.”