This morning I spoke to the crew of the Logos Hope. Some 400 students from forty-five different nations have come on board to give at least two years of their lives to serving Jesus. It’s part of the ministry of Operation Mobilization. The ship is in immaculate shape, though it is nearly forty-five years old (twice the life span of a typical ocean-going vessel). At any given moment, some are on the deck doing repairs, cleaning things up in the galley, running a shift in the bookstore, or off on a ministry day assignment to help with humanitarian needs. Over time, the ship visits ports on nearly every continent.
No one is paid. From the captain of the ship down to our son, everyone raises his/her support. The man who directs things from the bridge is calm and unassuming. A retired Naval officer, he gives occasional stretches to leaving home, coming on board, and navigating the ship through dangerous shoals and distant ports. He feels the weight of watching over the safety of an international community. Like himself, other captains feel the gap.
Looking around at lunch, you realize it is an odd mix. Today I sat with a young man from Papua New Guinea. He too must raise his support, but it has not been easy. He grew up on the streets, having lost his parents, and learned to survive by dealing drugs. Finding the resources to keep going has been a stretch, and he tells me some of his support comes from those who worked with him on the street. Last night I visited with a retired engineer and his wife, who is a retired attorney, and together they make occasionally trips to come on board and recruit any guests who just might also choose to devote some of their years to serving Jesus. Move around, and you will meet people from just about every place in the world. Many are in transition, enlarging their lives and preparing for their next assignment.
The magnitude of the ministry is astounding. We are now in Trinidad-Tobago, where the ship will eventually sail on to every major Caribbean port in 2017. Last year, the Logos Hope traveled to African ports, reaching nearly 840,000 Africans. People stream on board, for the ship is the largest floating book fair in the world, providing books that otherwise would not be available (books on every imaginable subject, from Disney books for kids to first aid resources to business tools to Bibles). Hopefully, Under an Open Heaven will soon grace their shelves!
Yesterday the ship was docked next to a large Holland/American cruise ship. The two ships could not be more different. Here on the Logos Hope, quarters are cramped, showers are timed, and the food is tolerable. There are no lavish dance parties or glass bottom boat reef tours for the adventuresome. Most are either on shift or in between. If you listen , you tend to hear a profound joy and a deep fulfillment that comes from sharing the gospel and advancing the kingdom. The background on most decks is a steady mix of laughter, singing , praying, or sharing stories. No doubt there are stretches of loneliness, hard times, and misunderstandings. It would be unfair to romanticize all of this. But it is an impressive experience.
It’s timely I have just finished Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Some of the stories here would fit in her book. It’s not that there is an absence of intellect and skills, but what is particularly present (and what Duckworth counts as really important) is a spirit of endurance. People yield to serve wherever they are placed and wherever there is need.
Still, at some point, they will have to do what any who succeed must do—find their next chapter. Duckworth would say that we all must find our passion, develop a disciplined routine, practice day by day by day until it becomes automatic, and press on to do it with increased excellence. This is what she calls grit. People with tenacity are resolved to make a better tomorrow. They have a sense of profound purpose.
That’s part of the joy of being on this ship for a few days. Fortitude is in the air. This is grit training. No one is asking why he or she exists. No one is obsessed with impressing one another with one’s skills. Each one has connected his/her work with a purpose beyond oneself. And together, they have developed one gritty culture.