Ever since I was in my teens, I’ve been enamoured by the idea of serving on board the Doulos.
If you’ve not heard of the Doulos, it was built in 1914, only two years after the Titanic, and has survived as the World’s Oldest active ocean-faring passenger ship till it finally stopped sailing in 2009. That’s almost a hundred years, wow.
What the Doulos had been doing since 1977 was to function as a floating bookshop with some 3000 English titles including children’s books, parenting books, cookery books, novels and Bibles, all at subsidised rates. The 350 or so volunteers on board also help in community projects such as building toilets, painting schools, when they are docked.
Reading Jiamin’s experience of being on the ship for 6 years, was like living a bit of that life vicariously. Most of the book was deeply thought-provoking, and quite a few times, the desperate state of humanity in some nations made me cry.
Egypt, Sudan, Sri Lanka… the poverty, the depravity characteristic of ports, juxtaposed against the simple joy of the locals, innocence of the little ones, all made very real through her chapters.
I had three friends who recently went on a 2-year stint on the Logos Hope, sister ship to the Doulos. So reading the book also brought to life the day to day nitty-gritty of what my friends were going through. And how unmistakably challenging it can be working at close quarters with others, even if (sometimes especially if, given the unrealistic expectations harboured) we share the same faith.
Her stark honesty, and unforgiving assessment of her own failings, was also a good reminder to me to reflect more upon my actions and motives, on a daily basis.
Recently another friend mentioned that her husband was thinking of bringing their little family (they have a 3 year old and another on the way) onto the Logos Hope for a 2-year stint, which got me dreaming again. Perhaps a 2-month stint for my little family? It would be one of the most meaningful things to do, bringing good news to the nations, and giving concrete help to areas that need it most, small though each contribution may be.