40. Mercy Ships 40 years

‘God took a huge risk’ – that’s the way Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships, describes the beginning of a story that has touched millions of the world’s poorest people. Watch the video spanning 40 years of healing’


A devastating hurricane, meeting Mother Teresa and the birth of a special needs son drove a God-given dream that would inspire bringing hope and healing to the world’s poorest people. Since 1978 Don and Deyon Stephens have been joined by thousands of huge-hearted volunteers from across the globe. They have quite simply made mercy happen for thousands of people in extreme poverty who had no other hope.

To date, the Mercy Ships crew have provided more than 100,000 free surgergical procedures in developing nations. 2019/2020 the Africa Mercy is docked in Senegal, West Africa where she will remain for 10 months. The volunteer crew are performing surgeries, mentoring local health care professionals, wrapping the broken in love and acceptance, and praying for all those who in their care. Together the impact is transformational.

Don launched Mercy Ships – a floating hospital for the poor – in Switzerland in 1978. National offices opened around the world to get – and keep – the ship afloat with donations and volunteers. New Zealand came on board in 1982 supporting the first Mercy Ship Anastasis during its year of Pacific field work – and Kiwis have been involved ever since.

Around 40 volunteers from New Zealand serve on board the Mercy Ship every year in medical, maritime and operational roles every year, while thousands of others sponsor surgeries and health care programmes. The New Zealand office raises funds, recruits volunteers and brings the current ship, Africa Mercy to the attention of Kiwis.