Nurse Erin Muyres from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, has volunteered multiple times with Mercy Ships. We recently caught up with Erin to ask her a few questions…
What went through your mind when you walked up the Africa Mercy’s gangway for the first time?
It was a dream come true. I couldn’t believe I was finally seeing the ship. I definitely cried seeing the ship for the first time and walking up the gangway. There was a feeling of excitement and expectation for my time on board, knowing God had brought me here for this time and I couldn’t wait to see what He was going to do.
Tell us about your time on the ship, what gave you strength – what took it away?
As a nurse, I got to be in the thick of seeing lives changed. I know sometimes it was hard for people who didn’t work in the hospital to see or to feel the value of their work. But I got to go to work every day and see God’s faithfulness in the patients lives and in the way their faces were transformed. This always gave me strength, no matter what was going on, I could go to work and feel peace and love and confidence in where God brought me. The community also gave me strength. The people you meet from all over the world, coming together for one purpose. You build fast and strong friendships because you literally spend all your time together, from work, to meals, to adventures off ship, to sleeping in a small cabin with 5 other people. You experience your ups and downs together. Sometimes this is a reason for stress or frustration, but it is also a reason for beauty and thankfulness.
Were you ever burned out – why? What helped you to recover?
There were times that I felt burned out or overwhelmed. Many often feel overwhelmed by the burden lack of healthcare creates. We help so many, but we are also unable to help even more. We don’t always get the desired outcome or things don’t go perfectly. It was important to remember that we are helping people and that the work we do is making an incredible difference in the lives of so many. You don’t know how far that difference will carry. It’s normal to feel the ups and downs of ship life. Everyone feels it so it is important to remind yourself it is not just you.
Was there a song/singer/band etc. that got you through your time of service?
I listened to a lot of Bethel while on board. Jesus Culture’s album ‘Let It Echo’ came out during my time on the ship and it was on repeat for months. Specifically, the song ‘Miracles’ perfectly reflected how I saw God during that time. He performs miracles every day on the ship and it was a reminder to look for them.
Did you read a new book on board – what was it?
I read so much on board! You have extra free time with less day to day responsibilities. I’ve read so many books that inspired me. ‘Extreme Medicine’ is about the innovators of health care and how they discovered and changed the face of medicine. “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Paul Farmer is an inspiring story about a doctor who was part of improving care for patients with TB and HIV in Haiti. “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years” also inspired me to live a better story and to make my life the adventure that I want it to be. There is a library on board and there are lots of readers so be prepared for your ‘To Read’ list to get exponentially longer.
How did you celebrate a job well done?
We celebrated all together onboard in various ways, music, games, meals etc…. the wins belong to everyone.
Talk to us about your transition back home. What has been a joy? What has been difficult?
It has been both a joy and difficult. I was on the ship for nearly 2 years so there are good days and bad days. It is so good to be home with family and friends again, to be with people who know you and love you so well. There is so much comfort in being with these people again. But it is also difficult to try and find your place again after being away for so long in such a different environment. Some days it’s so wonderful to be home in a cooler climate, to have space to myself, to be able to eat whenever I want and eat whatever I want. Some days are just overwhelming and there are tears for reasons I don’t even know, and I miss having people everywhere. It is all a part of the journey, God calls us to the Africa Mercy and He calls us home. I have known his faithfulness during my time on the ship and I have known his faithfulness in this transition. Through all the good and the hard, I know this is right and I trust God’s goodness for me here too. I’m still sorting through this transition, so I’ll let you know in a couple months!
What would you tell someone who is thinking to apply to serve with Mercy Ships?
Absolutely do it! Apply! Right now. You will be so glad you did. It is an honour to be a part of the Mercy Ships crew and to love and serve the people of whichever country you serve in. If it feels like a long time to be away, it goes by so so quickly, and you will blink and be back home wondering if it even happened. Two months, two years, whatever you can manage you have to do it.
Share your favorite quote or some words of wisdom with us!
It’s okay to not know what to expect and it may be better that way. It’s going to be nothing like you expected it to be in all the best ways. It’s hard and it’s beautiful. And being able to take that courageous step into the unknown is part of the beauty. We all did it and survived. And now looking back at how little we knew of what we were getting ourselves into, it seems like a lifetime ago. But it’s part of the journey and it’s okay to be nervous about it.
Do you have any Africa Mercy hacks you can share with us?
Magnets are your best friend. The entire ship is magnetic so hanging pictures or decorations in your cabin, using hook magnets to dry your laundry, hanging your towel in the bathroom, hanging IV lines from the ceiling, we use them for everything. Bring a headlamp for night shift! It will make your life so much easier. If you are a coffee lover, there is always coffee in the dining room but it isn’t to everyones liking. Bring some coffee and a small press and you will be so much better at handling the breakfast crowd. At least I was 🙂 Before I got to the AFM, I didn’t know I could send myself stuff on the containers. If you are there for a while, send yourself new toiletries or your heavier favourite items on the container. It will take a little while to get there but you wont have to pay to receive it on the ship. Bring a journal. It’s a great way to process everything you experience, and you have more time to spend reflecting and journaling than you do at home, so even if you aren’t a journaler now, try it out on the ship!