Two Columbia County residents will board a hospital ship to South Africa this month and drop all plans at home as they work with Mercy Ships, "a global charity serving all faiths" to provide "hope and healing to the poor."
Matt Jones and Kylee Robinette, both of Harlem, will board Anastasis, one of three hospital fleets operated by Mercy Ships. Mercy Ships, founded in 1978 as an outreach of Youth with a Mission, owns three ships. Two, the Anastasis and Africa Mercy, are in service. The third, Caribbean Mercy, is currently undergoing repairs in Mobile, Ala. Anastasis, along with Africa Mercy, is considered one of the largest non-governmental hospital ships in the world.
Matt Jones and Kylee Robinette, both of Harlem, will volunteer on board Anastasis, one of three hospital fleets operated by Mercy Ships.
Photo by Jim Blaylock/Morris News Service
While Mr. Jones and Miss Robinette bring no medical skills to the table, the two will provide additional services needed on deck. Mr. Jones will use his background in wood and steel construction to help in the engine room on board while Miss Robinette will lead small groups in spiritual and practical guidance. They will join more than 1,500 short-term Mercy Ship volunteers from 40 nations.
"To operate the ship, it requires many people of all walks of life," said Mr. Jones, 25. "The ship has a post office, a photography and writing department, deck department, engineering department, cook staff, reception department. It is like a small community; there is a task for anyone in a specific job field."
Anastasis, according to Mercy Ships' Web site, is 522 feet long and contains three fully-equipped operating rooms, a dental clinic, a laboratory, an X-ray unit and a 1,500-ton cargo capacity.
Miss Robinette has previously volunteered with Mercy Ships and participated in a discipleship training school, Seque, last fall. During the six months she was in Seque, Miss Robinette, 23, took part in bible lecture, lived with a host family in Benin, West Africa, and helped move an orphanage of 109 children into a new home with running water and electricity.
"It's not what I hope to gain, but give to others," said Miss Robinette, who has given up a fully-paid college education by committing two years to Mercy Ships. "I hope to always hear God and do what he asks to help others spiritually and physically."
Mr. Jones, who went to Texas for an orientation at the Mercy Ships International Operations Center, interviewed for a spot aboard Anastasis. He was asked to spend a month in Mobile, Ala., and help aboard one of the ships.
"They told me they thought I was a good fit for Mercy Ships," said Mr. Jones, who departs Aug. 3 for at least two months and possibly two years aboard the ship. "When I went to Mobile, I did not know what I was getting into, but when I left after the month, I realized that I had gained a huge family and that while the people on board were grateful for what I was doing, they were more grateful for me sharing my life with them and the love of Jesus. They cared about me as a person and not for what I can do or what I have, but about me. I look around and think of how blessed I am and what I have, but really I am no better a person than someone from Africa or Central America. I was just born in America, the land of freedom and prosperity, and I am thankful for that, but I am no better than anyone else."
After repeated calls from Mercy Ships asking him to continue his service, Mr. Jones knew he would drop what he was doing and follow the path that God had prepared for him.
"I felt like God was telling me to go and help out, so I have quit my job and I am off to South Africa," said Mr. Jones, who worked for Augusta Special Events, Inc., and JSF Design and Detailing.
Miss Robinette knew she would volunteer for Mercy Ships after touring the Caribbean Mercy in August 2003.
"When I went and toured the ship, I knew that this was my destiny," she said. "I feel that this is what I was created to do for God's Kingdom. Through my faithfulness of going and working with Mercy Ships, God can work through me to touch and speak to many people. I just want to live as Christ today and everyday after."