The Africa Mercy

Today, a major tool in accomplishing our mission is the Africa Mercy. Acquired in 1999, the Droning Ingrid was converted from a Danish rail ferry to the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship. Sponsored by corporate and individual donors, the customised Africa Mercy, with six operating theatres and a 78 bed ward, effectively doubles the annual capacity of her predecessors.

The ship has meeting spaces, as well as berths, for an average crew of 450. The 474 berths include 26 family cabins, 25 couples/2berth cabins, with the balance consisting of 1, 2, 3, and 4-berth cabins.

The hospital is divided into quadrants: supply services, six operating theatres, recovery/intensive care, and low-dependency wards. Surgical capacity is expected to exceed 7,000 surgical interventions in a year: cataract removal/lens implant, tumor removal, cleft lip and palate reconstruction, orthopaedics, and obstretic fistula repair. The hospital contains a CT scan, X-Ray and laboratory services, and a Nikon Coolscope which allows remote diagnosis. These diagnoses are transmitted, along with all other data and telephone calls, via an onboard satellite communication system.

The Africa Mercy is equipped with effective safety and security features. This includes an automatic sprinkler system, a smoke detector system that pinpoints the exact location of the source of any potential fire, and machinery spaces covered by CO2 gas flooding and “Hi-Fog” systems. Security guards man the gangway 24 hours a day with metal detectors and other screening devices. Closed-circuit television monitors the vessel while critical spaces such as the bridge and engine room are “restricted access” at all times.

Ship-based teams engage communities in a wide range of programs that increase health and well being. These programs include dental clinics, medical clinics, community health education, HIV/AIDS intervention, water and sanitation projects (including well digging), construction, agriculture, and micro-enterprise programs.
How it all began
In 1978, a team lead by Don and Deyon Stephens, began the process of finding a suitable vessel to fulfill the dream of a hospital ship serving the world's poor. After surveying many ships, the Anastasis (ex Victoria) was selected as the most suitable for the objectives laid out in the feasibility study.  The deposit was made at the signing of the contract on July 7, 1978.  The purchase for $1 million was completed on October 5 through loans, primarily from a Swiss bank.
Don and Deyon began recruiting crew to staff the ship and raising funds to bring the Mercy Ship into compliance with international standards.  Four years were required (one in Venice, Italy and three in Elefsina, Greece) to lay the foundation for future service and pass sea trials with Lloyds Registry as a "100".

Ongoing efforts resulted in the transformation of the passenger ship into a hospital ship.  With the addition of three operating theatres and a 40-bed ward, the vessel became an 11,701 tonne floating hospital, carrying a volunteer crew of 350 from all over the world. In 1982, the vessel sailed as the newly christened Anastasis – the first Mercy Ship. Since then, various ships in the Mercy Ships fleet have served in more than 150 ports in developing nations around the world. Following the model of Jesus, Mercy Ships believes the nature and character of a loving God must be demonstrated visibly, as well as proclaimed verbally.  After serving for almost 30 years, the Anastasis was retired in 2007.

From the beginning, Don Stephens has served as Founder/President of Mercy Ships. Don holds a bachelors degree in religious studies from Bethany College, Santa Cruz, California. Deyon, a registered nurse, serves as the Vice President for Missions Development and oversees the Ships Watchmen program.  Married in 1966, Don and Deyon have four grown children and became grandparents in 2002.

Don Stephens has received the Two Hungers Award and the Religious Heritage Award. He is also a Paul Harris Fellow through Rotary. Conversant in German and French, Don lectures internationally and is the author of three books including the 2005 release, Ships of Mercy, published by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK and Thomas Nelson in the USA. His other works include Trial by Trial and Mandate for Mercy.

Don is the voice behind the Mercy Minute, a daily radio broadcast aired internationally on over 720 radio stations. Don and Deyon often speak at seminars and conferences worldwide and appear as radio and television guests.