|When visions die, God can move things His way.
In 1978, Fountain found himself part of YWAM based in the Netherlands, and on a train heading to Venice with five other YWAM leaders. They were on a mission to check out an Italian passenger liner named m/v Victoria that was for sale for the scrap metal price: one million US dollars. The short-term vision was to use the ship for an outreach during the World Cup football. The longer term plan was for the ship to circumnavigate Africa annually, calling in at ports to offer relief aid and engage in evangelism.
Don Stephens took on the leadership of the project. The vessel would take four years – including being towed to Athens for renovation – before being ready to sail. That is how YWAM Mercy Ships finally began in 1982 with the vessel renamed m/v Anastasis – meaning ‘resurrection’ – after a lot of trial and error. The ‘trial’ was literal. While the ship was in Greece, Stephens and two others were charged with proselytism after a young Greek became a believer. They were sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, later suspended under international pressure.
The Anastasis, converted into a hospital ship, was later joined by two smaller ships, m/v Island Mercy and m/v Caribbean Mercy. Shortly after the new millennium began, Mercy Ships became its own independent organization. Today it operates two ships, m/v Africa Mercy (replacing the Anastasis in 2007) and m/v Global Mercy (2021).
Yet ships have continued to be part of YWAM’s story too, with smaller vessels able to negotiate coastlands, rivers and lakes, as well as deep-sea yachts and mobile dental clinics. Today the fleet has grown to 28 vessels operating on all oceans and continents in close relationship with land-based YWAM centres. The YWAM Maritime Academy trains the crew for the 28 vessels.
Source: Jeff Fountain