What are we here for again?

I’m trying to avoid starting off this blog with ‘it has been too long since I’ve written anything new,’ but that seems near impossible. Often, a blog serves as a way to write stuff off my chest: frustrations, worries…things that I find difficult to understand.

Tonight I had dinner with Josh, Jeremiah and Murrey (a small part of our guys’ group). We do this every Monday night—it’s a fixture of the week. We get our food from the dining room and than meet in mid-ships lounge. We ask each other how it goes, how our days have been…and then it starts: the endless complaints about this ship. Of course it’s me who leads it all with my Dutch roots. If complaining were a paid profession, the Dutchies would be billionaires. I’m exaggerating a bit…we also find things to appreciate. But Josh mentioned something that boggled my mind.

He said that we all came to this ship, this mission, with an ideal. We were psyched about getting here, and everything seemed perfect. But after a year or so, the excitement begins to make room for criticism, frustration and complaints. We distract ourselves with the politics and rules that come with this nautical life. This not only influences our moods, but it also blurs our vision. I ask myself this question every now and then: what was the reason for my coming here? Why do I choose to test good friendships back home? Why did I choose to leave my family for a long period of time? It feels like somebody is shaking me, waking me up…

I’m here because of that other person: that person who may not have any friends left; that person who doesn’t have a job; that person who never dreamed that anybody else cared. Nobody promised me it would be easy. Sometimes it feels like the excitement is gone; sometimes it doesn’t feel cool enough to help somebody else. Sometimes it stops being glamorous in our now-experienced eyes. Sometimes our blog posts no longer get the ‘likes’ on facebook that we’ve hoped for.


Mirjam and I have been talking about it last week. She asked me what made me thrilled about all of this—why I want to be here. There is nothing that I want more than to touch other people’s hearts with the stories that they tell. I want to speak up for those who are being neglected, sometimes even by their own communities. I want to wake people up with photos of people that matter as much as their friends and family. I’m probably not the most competent marketing guy around. I’m a nurse with an average degree who’s trying to become a better photographer. But I am driven, even obsessed, with the need to bring these obscured people into the public eye—I’m obsessed with getting people to notice them; to recognize that they share a common humanity with them. I want to make a trending topic out of this organisation. I don’t care if it’s the Mercy Ships that does that or it’s MSF or MAF or the UN or WHO. We’re all responsible for it. I’m ok with people criticising the way organisations work, but don’t blame people for trying to look after their fellow man, for caring for others and sharing their love and abilities with humanity. Please tell me whenever you criticise something that you push further to find out what you can do to make it better.

At this moment we’re working on a project that’s still in its beginning phase. Of course, I can’t tell you about it yet—that is what we call a spoiler. I do hope I can promise you that within 10 weeks, we’ll be giving you goose bumps. It won’t be the perfect climax or music that gets you, but it will be the patients we introduce: people like you and me, only who may not have a lease or a car; who don’t go out for dinner; people who probably had a bowl of rice for Christmas while many of us were eating turkey or something exotic and decadent. I hope this project will get as many “likes” on Facebook as when I posted that funny picture of the crab.


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