It’s almost 10 years since OM’s mission ship, the MV Doulos, was in Australia. But later this year the ship - which, having been built two years after the Titanic, is the world’s oldest ocean-going passenger ship - will return to the land downunder in late July for a three month visit aimed at raising awareness about the work it’s involved in.

“The purpose of the visit is to raise missionary awareness among the church’s young people: to let them know that the day of mission is not over; that they don’t just have to go on three week short-term missions but they can go longer,” says Sam Scott, director of recruitment and training at OM Australia.

MV DOULOS: Since it was purchased in 1977, more than 20 million vistitors have been aboard the ship for tours, programs or to visit the floating book fair. 

“They didn’t require a degree or a diploma or anything else,” says Sam Scott of OM. “They required readiness, they required a love for the Lord, they required you to be a member of a church and just a desire to serve the Lord and they took us from there.”

“We want to...preach the Gospel and raise awareness of OM throughout Australia because a lot of people have heard of the Doulos but they don’t know that the parent organisation is OM.”

OM (the acronym stands for Operation Mobilisation), celebrated it’s 50th anniversary last year. 

The organisation was founded by American George Verwer, an American from New Jersey. Mr Verwer, who gave his life to God at a Billy Graham crusade, initially went to Mexico to minister with a group of friends before, after graduating in 1960, heading with his friends to Spain share the Gospel and distribute Christian literature. It was out of that work that OM - which is based in the city of Carlisle, in the UK - was born.

OM these days operates in more than 110 countries around the world - from Costa Rica in Central America to Nepal in Southern Asia and Albania in Europe. It has 5,400 missionaries who work in these countries as well as on board it’s three ships - the Doulos, the Logos II, and the Logos Hope.

Mr Scott, who has spent two stints aboard the ships - including in 1988 when he was aboard the original Logos as it sank, says that one of the things that attracted him to OM as a 21-year-old was “the lack of bureaucracy and the lack of hassle”.

“They didn’t require a degree or a diploma or anything else,” he says. “They required readiness, they required a love for the Lord, they required you to be a member of a church and just a desire to serve the Lord and they took us from there.”

Mr Scott says that while OM is typically seen as offering opportunities for short-term mission, increasingly people are opting for longer term stints of more than two years. 

And while OM has traditionally been a Western organisation, increasingly its missionaries were coming from the east and global south. 

Around 145 Australian missionaries are working with OM, including about 30 based in Australia and around 115 based overseas or on the ships.

Having grown up in a “missionary-minded” church in Ireland, Mr Scott - a butcher by trade - says he came into contact with OM after deciding he wanted to do more with his life than cut beef.

He spend two stints on OM’s ships. The first was in the late Eighties when he spent 15 months aboard the Logos - initially in the ship’s galley where his skills as a butcher were put to good use - before it ran aground at Cape Horn in January 1988.

“Thankfully it wasn’t in a very exposed place - we just ran over a reef. We were rescued by the Chilean navy - they had four vessels down there very quickly and got us out.

It wasn’t until 13 years later - having gone to Bible college and spent two years in Brazil as a missionary - that he returned to working aboard the ships, spending four years on the Logos II, from 2001 to 2005.

These days Mr Scott’s role involves recruiting people in Australia to serve with OM, including on board the ships. He’s also involved in the preparations ahead of the Doulos’ visit later this year, its first since 1999.

The ship, which normally travels in the Eastern hemisphere between Ireland and Tonga and which is named for a Greek word found in the New Testament which means a servant or bondsman and carries the connotation of being devoted to another with disregard for one's own interests, has a crew of 350 on board. 

Purchased in 1977, it's since visited more than 500 ports in more than 100 countries. More than 20 million people have been on board, many to see the "floating book fair" it contains. 

Mr Scott says it’s expected that around 2,500 a day will visit the ship when it’s docked at cities including Brisbane, Sydney, Geelong, Albany and Fremantle. As well as talking with those who venture aboard, crew members will also be sent out in teams to help out at churches or missions in the area around the ports.

Meanwhile, while Mr Scott describes being involved in such things as the relief effort that was undertaken in Grenada in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 as a highlight of his time aboard the OM ships, he says that he appreciated just having the chance to observe “the outworking of Christian teaching and values in a community that gives itself to God”.

“I watched many young people draw close to Jesus as they fasted many of the trappings of Western culture such as TV soaps and questionable movies,” he says. “We watched as people realised that they didn’t need these things and (that), in fact, they were were detrimental to their spiritual well-being.”

“People found themselves willingly being accountable to their peers and growing together in their faith. Many of them today are still in Christian service around the world.”

DOULOS TOUR DATES:
Brisbane: 31st July to 17th August
Sydney: 21st August to 8th September
Geelong: 11th to 29th September 
Albany: 4th to 8th October
Fremantle: 10th to 28th October 

www.doulosdownunder.org.au