Valentine’s Day is approaching and love is in the air…
There is also something in the water at Mercy Ships! Since 1978 the fleet of ships have often been called the “Love Boats” one, because the ships provide free life changing medical care to thousands of people and two, many of our volunteers have found a person onboard to one day call their husband or wife. Over 350 documented couples have met and married as a result of their time onboard a “love boat,” 40+ of these couples (or at least one half) are Canadian!
A life-long partner is not something most go looking for when they sign up to serve with Mercy Ships, but as it has been said, to come upon love without seeking it is the only way to find it.
Heather and Marcus Christ, from Saint John New Brunswick (and Germany), are the 132nd couple to have met onboard, and have been married 18 years.
“The moment we remember meeting was in mid-1994; the ship had sent me to Germany to help at Humedica for part of the summer while construction on the Anastasis was completed in Philadelphia. Marcus was standing at the airport arrivals with a sign saying ‘Mercy Ships’ on it, and drove me from Munich to Kaufbeuren that day. We went on our first ‘date’ that night” Heather recalls.
Steve and Julia Kehler, from Victoria, British Columbia are the 200th couple, married now for 10 years.
“Funny how things bring life your way” Steve recalls, “I wanted to go on an adventure, and had only been to the ocean once. I thought, what was one of the crazier things I could do? Jump on a ship to Africa!”
“I worked at reception, I remember seeing him walk by quite often and I was curious who he was. One evening I was in the lounge with some friends, Sonny walked by strumming a guitar and I called him over to hang out with us. We bonded instantly” Tabitha tells us.
For Sonny, it may have been love at first sight…
“I saw Tabby when I walked by reception, I was grumpy because a garbage bag burst on me, I remember looking up and seeing her smiling at me” says Sonny.
“I definitely did not anticipate meeting someone, but am extremely happy I did!” exclaims Tabitha. “I on the other hand had a feeling I might meet someone” says Sonny.
The two got married in the summer of 2014 and now live in Australia together! In addition to finding a life-long partner, the Tabitha and Sonny have experienced a great personal change since their service.
“It gave me a direction for my future, and I am now looking at pursuing optometry or ophthalmology” explains Tabitha.
“It’s hard to find the right words, but Mercy Ships gave me an internal peace that I did not have before” says Sonny.
The latest Canadians to tie the knot are Derek Wiens from Elmira, Ontario and Alice Powell from Saanich, British Columbia. Derek met his wife Elisabeth, from Norway onboard while volunteering with the charity in Madagascar, the two got married in the Nordic country in the summer of 2015.
Alice, who lived onboard the Africa Mercy for three years met her husband Teko in Togo, West Africa, they said their nuptials in September and have since returned to Canada and are living on Vancouver Island.
Mercy Ships is definitely not running a match-making business on the side, but the experience does introduce volunteers to like-minded, single, men and women who share the same values and purpose of wanting to give their love and help people. This love often comes full circle and has resulted in many finding a life-long partner.
“I think for everyone who has had this experience, 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago, it never leaves us, we will always carry a little bit of it with us, never forgetting” says Steve.
And that is a wonderful thing to share with your husband or wife.
Happy Valentine’s Day!