A Canadian family abroad for humanitarian work
As a teenager, Lindsay’s imagination was sparked by reading a novel that mentioned Mercy Ships. From that moment on, her curiosity was piqued and she kept in mind the idea of one day going onboard. In 2013, as a young single nurse, she dared the experience for the first time. She fondly remembers her experience saying: “I was deeply impacted seeing the physical healing, but even more so by the opportunity to show the love of Christ.
Many of our patients had been rejected by people within their society, and we had the chance to look them in the eyes, give them a hug, and tell them with our words and actions that their lives are valuable. This experience had a special place in my heart in the years that followed and it played a big role in bringing our family to the ship.” In 2022, Lindsay, her husband Stefan and their two daughters joined the Africa Mercy to live a meaningful adventure that takes them to the very depths of themselves.
A Deep Commitment
Lindsay explains that their two-year commitment to serve on board is a step of faith. They both want to be where they can be most useful and can grow as a family, where God wants them. This commitment required a lot of preparation beforehand to accompany their children in this transition and to prepare their hearts and minds for a new reality in the midst of a pandemic.
Stefan is a counselor in the chaplaincy department; his role is to ensure the emotional and spiritual well-being of the crew. Having completed his Masters of Arts in Counselling, Stefan felt called to serve in the pastoral field. On board, he offers pastoral care to volunteers who are learning to navigate a new context of service and new experiences calling upon their skills as well as all their inner resources; emotional and spiritual. His position requires a great deal of empathy and resilience as he too is “in the same boat” as his fellow volunteers, having to navigate his own and his family’s adaptation.
“Mercy Ships is a unique environment that brings new learning and different opportunities. It’s an opportunity to enter into a different depth of commitment, a different approach to problem solving, to question what perseverance is and the spirituality that comes with it.”
He says he is encouraged as much by the affirmation of his work by his fellow chaplains as he is when volunteers gain a greater capacity to continue their service, learn to reframe their circumstances, and grow in the challenges they face to develop their personal growth.
A Gift of Great Value
Lindsay has the great task of accompanying her two daughters in the daily life onboard. Evie is in grade 1 and spends a big part of her days in class while Abby goes to preschool in the morning and stays with her mother in the afternoon. She too has to accompany and walk with her children in this experience. Lindsay recounts that a fellow volunteer took time to express their gratitude for the impact of Stefan’s work as well as for the presence of their family onboard. This simple gesture was an important encouragement to her, a reminder that their presence is a gift gratefully received by their community; a representation of the call to love courageously in the image of Jesus.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16
Unwrapping a Special Gift
One of the challenges for volunteers who join the community on board is the adjustment to being constantly with people. This constant contact is both a gift and a challenge for young and old. In all this activity, Lindsay and Stefan mention that they have to be the guardians of their children’s development. While most children welcome the multiple opportunities to play with their friends on board, they must also intentionally develop their individuality and have family time to cultivate this aspect of their development.
Lindsay likes to imagine the ways that living in this unique environment will shape her daughters development. Being around adults as well as children who live out their faith by caring, serving and loving their neighbors is a gift that can be unwrapped over several years to see the lasting impact on the inner lives of her little ones.
The Gift of Empathy
Beyond their daily learning, Evie and Abby have had many meaningful encounters, including the opportunity to play with patients on Deck 7, the meeting place for patients and volunteers on the hospital ship. Following a meeting with patients, Evelyn was inspired to pray for those she met. We can’t fully know what she experienced, but her mother saw the fruit of that meeting through her desire to pray for them publicly. Her spontaneous response to pray and turn to hope showed how her heart was touched. Isn’t it a valuable gift to develop empathy, to care for the fate of others who cross our path trusting God will care for them?
On this journey, the Kliewer family continues to learn by constantly balancing the challenges they face, the moments of rejuvenation needed, the tasks to fulfil and their family needs, wishing to remain faithful to God’s calling to be of serving Mercy Ships’ community.
Christmas in Transition
As the Christmas season approach, the Kliewer family and about 120 volunteers onboard the Africa Mercy are preparing to move to the Global Mercy. This transition, too, will require them to tap into their coping skills while preparing their hearts to join a community eager to welcome them. This transition will free our admiral ship, the Africa Mercy, to move to a shipyard for major maintenance and refit to enable service for the next 10 years and even more. The festivities aboard the Global Mercy are sure to be special for the crew, making for a holiday season wrapped in generosity, hope and love.
While the Kliewers may not be able to enjoy a Christmas at home, they will have the chance to experience a moment that will live on in family memories, much in the spirit of the first Christmas when a family’s arrival in an unfamiliar and foreign place was also the beginning of a great story.