Alex arrived at his destination and unloaded the box, putting the Bibles on the table outside. He met with Hospitality Center Director Barry Wells, and Barry agreed to ask the patients to gather around for a special announcement.
Some patients who were resting inside peeked their heads out of their bedroom doors wondering what the commotion was about. Within minutes, a long line had formed outside under the large canopy tent. Alex and Barry informed the crowd that they had a treat for them: free Bibles for everyone! One by one, people walked through the line and accepted their new Bible. Within minutes nearly all of them had been given out. Recipients included patients, day volunteers, and patient’s family members.
The commotion and noise quickly ceased as, Bible in hand, each person sat on a bench outside and began thumbing through the pages. Instantly, they realized this wasn’t just any Bible. In the front it contained the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, but toward the back of the book, there was health information. It contained almost fifty pages of basic information about hygiene, malnutrition and diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Emily Odomé, a teenager who resides at the Hospitality Center, had an inquisitive look on her face when she noticed Alex handing out the Bibles. Emily was a plastic surgery patient who came to the ship every-other day for new dressings on her hand where she had surgery. Her curiosity pulled her over to the area where he was distributing them. Happily she got in line and received her very own, shiny new Bible.
“It is nice to have a new Bible,” Emily said, “I used to have one but it was old and torn. This one is very nice. I will definitely use it.”
The Hospitality Center was not the only place that Mercy Ships handed out the Bibles. Mercy Ships was extremely fortunate to receive 1,000 brand new Health for Life (Guide de la Vie) Bibles that were distributed through the Programs office. Programs such as Agriculture, Mercy Ministries, Patient Life, and Mental Health were each given a large amount of Bibles to distribute.
Deb Jacobson, coordinator of the Patient Life Program, distributed Bibles to the patients on the ward. The Patient Life Program is responsible to caring for the emotional, spiritual, and relational needs of the patients. Deb truly appreciated the format of the Life Guide Bibles. “Not only are we providing the Word of God for the patients, we are providing them with materials for education. This is an immensely valuable resource-the combination of Bible and educational material.”
Mercy Ministries distributed Bibles to numerous different schools, churches and organizations in Lome. One teacher at the Ephata School for the Deaf in Lomé was extremely grateful for the Bibles. She said, “This Life Guide Bible is very good especially for teaching our students on hygiene, nutrition and health in general. In addition, they have the Word of God which is also essential for their spiritual growth. Thank you for sending them to us. May God bless you.”
Health for Life is a collaboration between three Dutch organizations: Netherlands International Bible Society in Almere, Ark Mission in Amsterdam, and Mercy Ships Holland in Rotterdam. Health for Life aims to provide people in developing countries with in-depth information for healthy lives, both spiritually and physically. The main goal is to contribute to the reduction of the world-wide HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS has affected at least 40 million people. Eighty percent of the world’s cases of HIV/AIDS are found in Africa. For this reason, Health for Life decided to give basic information about hygiene, malnutrition and other diseases to prevent the physical struggles people go through.
This unique type of health Bible is intended specifically for developing countries where the population has a high AIDS/HIV risk.
Health for Life Bibles have been printed in English, but this is the very first French language health Bible to be published. The first copy was given Mr. J.Hoogendoorn, Honorary Consul of Togo in Holland. Five thousand copies of Guide de la Vie have been printed. Mercy Ships has been given the privilege of being one of the main outlets to disperse the Bibles in Togo. The bible hand out at the Hospitality Center was the first step in getting the Life Guide Bibles into the hands of the Togolese people to jointly improve their spiritual and physical health. Mercy Ships is proud to be a part of Health for Life and will spread the Bibles to Mercy Ships patients, and beyond.
Alex handing a Bible to Afi. She has had multiple surgeries on the ship.
The long line to get Bibles!
A few caregivers browse through their new Bible.