Lessons of Mercy

Dr Emil Sherif with local dortor George and a patient

Dr Sherif Emil reflects on what impacted has him most, after many years of volunteering with Mercy Ships. It may surprise you!

Dr Emil Sherif  (left) with local doctor George and a patient

“These last three days in Rotterdam at the Mercy Ships Founders Weekend have been truly among the most memorable and most momentous in years. We celebrated the launch of the Global Mercy, Mercy Ships’ newest vessel, which has now superseded the Africa Mercy to become the largest civilian hospital ship in the world. Unlike the Africa Mercy, which was converted from a rail ferry to a hospital ship, the Global Mercy was built as a floating hospital. In addition to six state-of-the-art operating rooms, modern wards, and an intensive care unit that will all serve patients better, it also comes with a simulation lab, an auditorium, classrooms and multiple other facilities that will enhance education and capacity building. It will join the Africa Mercy to double the impact of Mercy Ships in attending to the health needs of the poorest of the poor in Africa, and allow us to serve both coasts of the continent at the same time.

The celebration of the new ship was larger than life, with Her Royal Highness Princess Anne presiding over the launch ceremony and declaring her patronage of Mercy Ships, and Andrea Bocelli performing a private concert for the crew and visitors. But these high-profile events were not the ones that had the greatest impact on me.

At a time when the world once again witnesses viciousness, cruelty, and human suffering through the war in Ukraine, standing in front of the Global Mercy was a feeling that I found impossible to describe in words. This amazing ship! Not built for royals or the wealthy or the important or the connected or the vocal. But built for the least among us, for the forgotten among us, for the rejected among us. Built to continue the 2000-year model of Jesus to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor. And to bring this hope and healing through heart  — the heart of a crew that offers unconditional love to multitudes whose language they may not speak, whose culture they may not understand, whose faith they may not practice. It was a true blessing and privilege to be called upon to give the keynote address at the event on Friday night. And my title was very simple – HEART!

Dr. Sherif Emil during a surgery with a local mentee surgeon.

One of the most moving moments came at the very beginning of the events when Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships, shared how Mercy Ships came to be. Don and his wife, Deyon, lived in Colorado, nowhere near a port or body of water. Yet, he had a vision for hospital ships that would take medical care to those who need it most in Africa. He told us of his early meeting with Mother Teresa, and the three questions she asked him.

Why were you born?

Where is your pain?

What would you like to do about it?

Don and Deyon had a young child with special needs, and they were inspired to take their services to those with great need. The idea of Mercy Ships was born. Don faced one hurdle after another, but he never allowed his dream to quit. As he says in the video, many decades ago, God took a huge risk. Almost 50 years later, Mercy Ships has grown from operating its first small vessel to operating the two largest civilian hospital ships in the world. A vision fulfilled.

There were so many lessons these last three days – faith, love, hope, healing, resilience, persistence, trust, vision. But the most important lesson was a lesson of mercy. The world can only be changed one act of kindness at a time. And if we ask ourselves the questions Mother Teresa asked Don almost half a century ago, we can in fact lead purpose-driven lives and channel any pain in our lives into mercy – mercy that touches our hearts and those of others. We are all capable of showing mercy, be it through a small helping hand to a neighbor or building a hospital ship. Mercy Ships will always be there to remind us of the power of MERCY.”

Thank you, Dr Sherif, you are a blessing!

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships