A Family Volunteers in Africa: A Legacy of Faith

Academy family, the Attwaters, stand for a portrait. © Mercy Ships

For the Attwater family, serving has been an adventure they embarked on in 2021. Chris had heard about Mercy Ships and was convinced that one day he would serve aboard. For Shae, it was a journey of several years. She now sees that little by little, she was preparing for that big departure. This two-year commitment to serve on the Africa Mercy is not just a change of address, but the adoption of a new lifestyle. Living aboard as a family is a big adjustment, and although Shae had prepared for this change, she has discovered day by day the joys and challenges that this choice brings.

‟We prayed a lot for God to open and close doors so that we would clearly know whether to come or not. He led us here and we are following His calling for our lives.” Shae said.

This journey has been eventful and rich in so many ways. They served onboard the Africa Mercy where Chris was the Principal of the Academy and Shae focused her time on serving as Primary Care Giver for their two daughters, Araina and Amayah, and as part-time teacher. The Africa Mercy needing major maintenance and a refit, this would mean a major transition for their volunteer journey too.

The Attwaters with their dear Mercy Ships friends, the Scace family, while they were visiting them in Texas. © Mercy Ships

Hellos and Goodbyes

At the end of 2022, the whole family moved to the Global Mercy, the newest ship of Mercy Ships’ fleet just in time for the Holiday season, which was a good timing to bond with their new ship community. The beginning of the new year was marked by adaptation and adoption; Adaption to a new living space, to new roles and adoption into a new community. One of the challenge and blessing of serving with Mercy Ships is the community. There is a great blessing in building significant friendships and bond with fellow volunteers but also the hard season of saying goodbyes. The Attwater’s are no strangers to that reality. At the beginning of their service, they met an American family on the same path to volunteer and the two families became dear friends. As they went through similar challenges and joys onboard, this friendship deepened and even when the family returned to the USA, they continue to be a significant and important part of the Attwater’s precious journey. For those volunteers that serve onboard Mercy Ships new friends and relationships last through the challenge of distance.

Very Important People

The Attwaters take a tour of the hospital on board the Global Mercy before the first patients arrive. © Mercy Ships

Part of the advantage to moving onboard the largest civilian hospital-ship in the world, is to be invited on a VIP tour of the hospital before the arrival of the first patients ever to be welcomed onboard. Their daughters enjoyed discovering the environment where patients will find a new beginning but also where local health professionals will learn the latest techniques on surgical procedures, wound care and the reality of the floating-hospital. All of this makes it a special environment to grow and learn in. For Araina and Amayah, this rich experience allows them to see the world differently. Shae sees how their extraordinary daily life can build in them a vision of the world marked by mutual aid, fraternity, faith and hope for renewed lives. Despite their youthful age, the girls’ contribution makes them ‘’incredibly special’’ as they also contribute to the mission of Mercy Ships. Not only they are witnesses to the impact of this mission on the patients and the volunteers but also learn to serve their own community just by being there!

Araina and Amayah learning about surgery on their tour of the hospital with their classmates. © Mercy Ships

Building a legacy

On this new ship, both parents have started new roles. Since the Academy on the Global Mercy was already up and running and had a full staff, Chris and Shae are in new roles outside of the Academy for this season. Chris has been serving in various areas from carpentry to transportation to deck and has accepted the position of Transportation and Maintenance Manager on the Global Mercy. Shae is now the Assistant Chaplain and will be supporting our crew onboard. They love being a part of bringing hope and healing to the people of Africa and serving the crew onboard, too! Through this transition, they have shown hearts of service and a deep commitment to the mission of Mercy Ships being willing to serve wherever the needs were and fit their skills. From the Attwater’s perspective, all their time invested while they volunteer with Mercy Ships is a long-term investment in a legacy of love and faith for others to be inspired by, especially their daughters.

If you want to learn more about the first field service of the Global Mercy, click here, or if you want to support the Attwater family’s fundraising efforts, donate here.