Why did you chose to serve on the Mercy Ship?
We were looking for a place to serve together in Africa as a family. With Dan’s medical background, my administrative and teaching background, and the girls as students, Mercy Ships (view the Denver Post article here) was the best fit we found available. We also knew about it because my aunt and uncle had lived on-board a previous ship run by Mercy Ships, The Anastasis, in the 1980s and 1990s.
What were your responsibilities?
Our roles changed during our two and a half years on-board. Dan worked as a pediatric ICU nurse, ancillary services supervisor, quality control manager, dive team leader and emergency team leader. I worked as an administrative assistant for Human Resources and also for the screening team in the Hospital generating reports, keeping track of the paper work associated with each patient, and updating our database with their information. Then in our last semester I taught math to the 6-8th graders in the academy.
How old were your daughters, and how did you handle their education while on the ship?
One of the biggest draws for us was the fact that there is a private Christian school on-board the ship for all crew members’ children. About 50 kids from birth to 18 live on-board with their families and attend nursery through 12th grade in the Mercy Ships Academy. The school was accredited through ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) during our stay which gave us even more confidence in the quality of education they were receiving. Each grade level has its own teacher– a certified educator who volunteers and pays his or her own way to serve in this capacity for two or more years. Our girls were ages 7 and 10 when we moved onto the ship. Savannah’s second grade class at that time had just one student so she doubled the enrollment. By the next fall there were five in her third grade class. Kylie’s fourth grade class was combined with the fifth graders and there were nine in her class from from five different countries.
The rules on-board are that one parent is the dedicated “Primary Caregiver,” meaning our work is done during school hours and we are available to care for our children the other hours of the day. Life on the ship for an elementary student is a dream!
What were some of the highlights of your two and a half year experience?
There are countless moments when we had to ask ourselves, “is this really happening?”
- The diverse experiences we were able to have were so rich and unlike anything we could ever experience in America.
- Sharing the journey of surgery with patients – being able to spend time with them every day while they were in the hospital.
- Living in community with 35-40 other nationalities and all their traditions, celebrations and (of course) foods!
- Traveling to remote beaches, mountains, waterfalls and places we had never HEARD of before
- A worship band comprised of as many nationalities as there are members – seeing the body of Christ work together like it is supposed to
- Being able to be helpful each and every day – teaching adults from developing nations how to use a computer, check email, and create a Facebook account
- The adventures of never knowing what was going to happen when we left the port gate
- Dance parties on the dock with only a verbal invitation, a guitar and a couple of djembe drums required to gather a crowd of a hundred.
- Too many highlights to mention!
When you gave yourselves to others, what lasting benefits did you receive?
Knowing that we have made a difference to that one individual. It’s too much to look at the whole picture of the thousands that die each day and the millions that still need medical help. But if we look at that one right in front of us, knowing that we were a part of something bigger gives an amazing sense of satisfaction.
To read the Bergman’s journals, visit their blogspot.