Deb Duff’s journey as a Mercy Ships volunteer has been full of unpredictable starts and stops. In fact, it started with a stop, when she found out her job in Australia was going to be eliminated.
Deb had been working for 25 years, and she’d been thinking about taking some time to volunteer.
“I’d started thinking, ‘What is my life about? What am I actually doing to make a difference in the world?’” she said.
Deb took a leap of faith. She took this unexpected fork in the road as a sign and applied to Mercy Ships. A few weeks later, she was accepted and soon travelled to the Africa MercyⓇ to serve in Senegal.
Six months later, another abrupt stop took place. The COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe.
As a Receptionist, Deb worked hard to ensure everyone had the correct paperwork they needed to leave. Then, it was her turn to head home earlier than planned.
But Deb knew it wasn’t the end of her journey. She thought, “’Well, God has brought me to Mercy Ships.’ I really wanted to see that two-year commitment fulfilled, no matter where we were.”
She intended to take a two-month break, but it ended up being over a year before Deb stepped back on board a Mercy Ship.
“It was a really hard time to process what God was doing,” she said, calling the waiting period a “wilderness.” “But it was a really rich time of God saying, ‘Yep, just be still, have this time of rest, learn much more about who you are,” Deb recalled.
Now Deb is back on board, serving as Head Receptionist on the newly built Global MercyⓇ during a historic season for Mercy Ships. She’s found that being behind the reception desk is a powerful place to make a difference.
She and her team are the first faces crew members see when they board.
“Some of them have travelled for 40 hours to get to wherever we are, and we can be the face of reason and kindness and sanctuary,” she said.
That sanctuary proved vital when the pandemic began.
“There was a lot of crazy emotions going on,” she said. “What reception could do was be a really calm place.”
She had one team member who was an artist. Deb encouraged that person draw pictures on the board behind the reception desk.
“I’ve never seen something so beautiful on a white board,” Deb said.
There was a lot of work to be done, and drawing wasn’t exactly in the job description. Or was it?
“We’re there to do what is needed and that was what was needed at that time,” Deb said. “That glimpse of something beautiful on a white board behind reception actually became this beacon of assurance and hope.”
Deb felt at that moment that she was making her mark.
“I can’t draw, but I can draw out the talents of people,” she said.
Deb’s time as a Mercy Ships volunteer has changed her life and her purpose. She measures it differently now.
“Now I think, what is the value of my life? Not, what can I earn in my life?” she said. “And that’s a different thing. What can I give, rather than what can I receive?”
Do you want to Make Your Mark and find new purpose like Deb? We need everyone from receptionists to deckhands to nurses to crew the Mercy Ships fleet. Find your place on board at mercyships.org/makeyourmark