Every other Tuesday we have a massive, bright white ship pull up alongside us. This is the day you don’t want to go to the market. You don’t want to take public transport. You don’t want to be mistaken for a passenger on that ship.

The Costa neoRomantica is here.

They dock next to us bright and early. Passengers pile out and walk toward rows of buses waiting to take them somewhere exciting.

They’ve just come from another port in Madagascar and this evening will head to the nearby islands of Mauritius and Seychelles. This route is listed as “The Indian Ocean, heaven by the sea” on their website.

This cruise ship has the same destination as a hospital ship looking for the forgotten poor. I think we might have different mission statements.

I’ve been on 3 cruises and loved them. They were all wonderful with my honeymoon cruise topping them all as epic. Party all day and night with my new husband, visit the most beautiful tropical islands in the Caribbean: this was the life of luxury.

Cruise life revolves around game shows, concerts, dance and comedy performances, drinks, pool time and excursions. Those 9 days revolved around us. The universe is spinning around my hips. You do what you want, when you want and, when you’re done, you can go sleep in your freshly cleaned room or eat at the 24-hour buffet.

That world collided with this world on the Africa Mercy.

Costa musicians
A phenomenal performance
for the crew members

This week they volunteered some of their entertainment for our patients and our crew members. It was fun, but the collision was coming. They brought out “Michael Jackson” and he started to dance. “Great! I love Michael and his moves.” But then the impersonator started taking off his clothes.

Gee whiz, I was starting to blush a little! That’s what limited TV and modest dress codes will do to you. Our media liaisons intercepted that one quickly and it abruptly ended.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to explain to the patients how a naked man fit in with our model of following Jesus. Sadly, they didn’t have anything else planned and I felt like the patients deserved better than an unorganized song and dance routine.

Who knows what happened there? My guess is a combination of poor communication, lack of organization, and maybe a dose of “they’ll like anything we do.” It was awkward, but I don’t blame them. They are so far removed from poverty and we can’t expect their standards to match ours.

We are on a ship serving to the poorest of the poor something they could never even dream of receiving.

This was a tiny collision that was over and done within moments. However, it revealed the difference between us and them: they are serving on a cruise ship, and we are serving on a battleship.

This illustrates my experience this week with two very different ships.

It’s the difference between serving others because they might be Jesus in disguise and because it makes you feel good or pays the bills.

It’s why we don’t fight 2-minute showers and why we deal with paper-thin walls on the Africa Mercy. It’s why we pay monthly crew fees to Mercy Ships instead of earning a salary with benefits. It’s why people dedicate their lives to the mission of this ship and the only person from the Costa Cruises I’ve ever seen on the news was the pathetically negligent captain of the Costa Concordia that sank in 2012.

When I look for a cruise ship to sail on, I look for whether the entertainment will be enjoyable or whether there is a 24-hour buffet. I’m not really interested in building relationships with anyone on board besides the ones I chose to come with me. I don’t need to contribute to the community in any way because no one seemingly needs anything other than tips.

When I’m looking to join a battleship my questions might sound more like this:

Is the ship on a clear and noble mission?
Does the captain submit to a higher authority?
Are crew members equipped to succeed?
Are they able to contribute in significant ways?
And are they honored for their efforts?


This Youtube video by IgniterMedia asks these questions and uses cruise ships and battleships to reveal what our motivation is when looking for a new church.

These questions can help us focus our mission in life, in community, in small groups and in friendships by revealing our motivation.

Those on a battleship say, “I’ll fight for this friendship even when it’s hard,” or, “I’ll pray for this patient even when it looks like we’re losing.” On a battleship, there is a tight community looking out for each other that know the value of teamwork. A battleship demands every crew member to serve.

A cruise ships delivers fun at each port. A battleship delivers hope and healing. When we let both into port, we risk a collision. We don’t know how bad it might be.

After Tuesday’s close call with an impending strip tease, I was so glad I was part of a battleship. I felt stirrings of envy in my belly when I first saw those beautiful Italian crew members with their perfect uniforms and perfectly styled hair. But the envy died down instantly as I remembered the difference I’m making in the lives of hundreds of patients. I’m living a life so full of joy and abundance that many days I feel I could pop.

I signed up for sacrifice, and yet I’m still in the same exotic port as those Italian cruisers.

I’m making a difference alongside dozens of strong, sacrificial men and women we are looking into the eyes of Jesus daily. We are holding hands, and offering hope to people that would never have complained.

I’m so proud to be a part of this battleship!

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