Mercy Ships is a hospital ship that provides free lifesaving surgeries and more for people where medical care is nearly non-existent. It was founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens. Mercy Ships has outfitted and operated four hospital ships to serve developing nations since 1978. Mercy Ships was originally part of the YWAM (Youth with a Mission) family of Christian ministries, but in 2003 Mercy Ships became a standalone organization. The organization takes retired ocean liners and ferries and transforms them into floating hospitals. Mercy Ships treats all patients free of charge, and without regard to their religion, race or gender. The current Mercy Ship, Africa Mercy, made its maiden voyage in 2007 traveling to Monrovia, Liberia, from England and has voyaged from there. Mercy Ships have provide humanitarian aid in places including Togo, Sierra Leone, Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Benin, Cameroon, and Guinea.
Mercy Ships is an international charity operating the largest non-governmental hospital ships in the world. Mercy Ships provide humanitarian aid including free health care, community development projects, community health education, mental health programs, agriculture projects, and palliative care for terminally ill patients.
Mercy Ships has operated in more than 57 developing nations and 18 developed nations around the world, and their current focus is on the countries of Africa.
The organization has its International Support Center (ISC) in Garden Valley, Texas. Mercy Ships also has 16 national resource offices in countries that include Spain, Britain, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia,France, Korea, Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway.
Mercy Ships president and founder, Don Stephens, was inspired by the international hospital ship SS Hope. Stephens’ research showed that 95 of the 100 largest cities in the world were port cities. Therefore, a hospital ship could deliver healthcare very efficiently to large numbers of people. The birth of Stephens’ disabled son, John Paul, also inspired him to move forward with his vision of a floating hospital. A visit with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, further deepened his commitment to serving the world’s neediest people.