Interview: Onboard the MV Doulos

Aug 22, 2007 04:56 AM EDT

HONG KONG - The floating charity vessel, MV Doulos, will make its last visit to Hong Kong, Sept. 11 thru Oct. 7, before its scheduled retirement in 2010.

In its 29-years service to a German-based charity organization, the Doulos has logged 500 port-of-calls per year and hosted more than 18 million visitors. The crew of the ship remain well-known for their service and assistance to people residing in developing nations.

The Maltese-flagged ship derives its name from the Greek-word for "servant" and has stopped in over 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East as well as many island-nations.

Having been afloat for the last 93 years, the ship is now listed under the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest active seafaring passenger ship. It also contains the world’s largest library at sea with 6,000 books in its collection.

The Doulos was first commissioned as a U.S.-flagged freighter under the name “Medina” in 1914 – two years after the SS Titanic was built.

The ship was later commandeered by the United States Coast Guard in WWII, turned into passenger ship “SS Roma” in 1948, and converted to Italian luxury-liner “MV Franca C” in 1952-70.

In 1977, the German charity-group Gute Bücher für Alle (Good Books For All), purchased the ship and renamed it the MV Doulos. Since then, the Doulos works in partnership with other vessels including the MV Logos II and the MV Logos Hope, which joined the fleet in 2002.

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On Aug. 17, 2007, a reporter from Gospel Herald interviewed Stefanie Schlotze, project coordinator and spokeswoman aboard the MV Doulos:

The Doulos will soon stop in Hong Kong. Has the ship stopped in Hong Kong before?

Yes, the Doulos has visited Hong Kong before. This coming September and October will be our 8th visit to Hong Kong:

Other times, when the Doulos visited Hong Kong, were on:

Sep 22-Oct 17, 1988

Apr 18-May 28, 1991

Apr 9-21, 1992

May 4-8, 1992

Oct 11-12, 1992

Sep 26-Oct 15, 1996

Apr 27-May 8, 2000

Why is the Doulos going to retire?

The Doulos will retire due to a change to [international] maritime regulations. The date [for retirement] is not confirmed yet, but it looks like it will be in 2009 or 2010.

How was your experience working on the Doulos? Will you care to share a short testimony of your experience?

Before I came to the Doulos, I didn't have much experience in sharing the Good News. Even to share my testimony with someone was something new for me. On the ship I had the opportunity to learn different ways of how to share my experiences with God to other people.

I discovered that I like to use drama to communicate. On the ship, I joined the drama team and developed my creative skills. I had many opportunities to be involved in events where we performed different dramas to underline the message of the gospel.

How has the Doulos’ crew spread the gospel successfully in their service at sea? Is the strategy that Doulos uses practical for reaching out to people in Hong Kong?

The Doulos does not have a specific strategy for spreading the Gospel.

Our aim is to work, at every port-of-call, with local churches and to join them in the ministry they do. If they are doing door-to-door ministry, we will join them in this. If the churches do open air event, we can join them in this.


I think this is the strength of Doulos. The crew is willing to adjust to the local situation, and is open to learning new things. For many onboard, the time on the Doulos is very much a training experience – so it is for me, too.

The purpose of Doulos is to bring knowledge, help and hope to the people of this world. Knowledge we bring – through the onboard book fair and conferences.

In some countries our focus is more on bringing help through practical involvement in community projects. When the ship visited Sri Lanka in Dec. 2005, just one year after the big tsunami hit many island nations, the Doulos’ crew was involved in building playgrounds in affected areas.

In Oct. 2006, the Doulos visited Cambodia for the first time. We supported some of the schools, which had very limited resources such as books and drawing material.


Through the book fair, the onboard programs, the practical help and the teams we send out into the community, we bring hope to the people. And very often, this will open doors for us to share the love of God with the people we meet.

The Doulos has visited made numerous stops in Asia. What are some of the places she has visited while in Asia? What impacts has she made to those places?

In the last year the Doulos visited Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan. Right now, the ship is visiting South Korea.

In all the ports, we worked with the local churches and Christian organizations. Every day, small teams from the Doulos were sent out to join local believers in the ministry they do.


In Keelung – the last of three ports the Doulos visited in Taiwan during April and May this year – a thousand visitors came onboard to browse through our book fair. A special kids program was offered to Sunday schools [students] who came onboard. In one hour the children were introduced to different countries the Doulos had visited before. They learned about the life situation of children in other countries – who live on the street, don't have enough food to eat or can't go to school. In the end they joined together to pray for the children of the world.


It has come to our attention that you will work with the Hong Kong-branch of Operation Mobilisation. How is OM Hong Kong going to prepare for your arrival?

OM Hong Kong and the Doulos crew are working together as one team for the ship's preparations.

The application process has been finalized, and local volunteers will join the Doulos crew for two weeks and will work alongside them in one of the departments. They will have many opportunities to make friends onboard with people from all over the world and also to local visitors!


How can Christians in Hong Kong help Operation Mobilisation and the Doulos?

Prayers!

And, OM has many opportunities for Christians to join short-term mission trips for a first-time exposure to missions.

We also would like to encourage the local churches in Hong Kong to take more part in cross-cultural missions and to support interested believers in taking steps towards this goal.

We need financial support. While the ship will be in port we have a program, when OM will introduce more about our ministry works around the world. It is an ideal opportunity for believers to find out more how they can support OM.

Please go to www.omhk.org for more information.

editor's note: Gospel Herald reporter Claudia Cheng translated this article.