New Beginnings on a New Ship

A new year is beginning, and a brand-new hospital ship is preparing to sail to Senegal. Every area of the ship — from the hospital wards to the crew cabins — is coming to life.

New faces are also beginning to populate the vessels of the Mercy Ships fleet. Those like Joff Williams, who’s starting a fresh chapter as the managing director of the Global Mercy®. Leading the world’s largest civilian hospital ship through its equipping, maiden voyage, and first field service is a heavy responsibility — and a monumental honor.

“Many eyes will be on Mercy Ships, and it’s not something we take lightly,” Joff said. “As an organization, we have a tremendous opportunity here to send a message with the Global Mercy…that people are valued and that we should be serving each other. That’s a big part of the reason we exist on this earth.”

Joff is not navigating the journey as managing director alone. By his side are his wife, Kari, a nurse who’s been passionate about humanitarian missions since childhood, and their two children, Grayson and Lily.

Joff’s interest in Africa started at an early age. He grew up in Zimbabwe, watching his parents work for The Salvation Army during the AIDS epidemic.

“I was heavily impacted by seeing those things,” he shared. “It opened my eyes.”

After getting married, Joff and Kari began looking for ways to use their skills to make a positive impact in the world. They applied to volunteer with Mercy Ships, but instead, Joff was offered a full-time position working at the organization’s headquarters in Texas. It wasn’t the location they had in mind, but they wanted to serve however their skills were needed.

Almost a decade later, their original dream is coming true — in a way they never expected. Now, the family has sold their belongings and moved halfway across the world, into a family cabin aboard the newest Mercy Ship.

While they’ve never lived onboard a ship before, they feel ready for the unique joys and challenges of life in an international, floating community. Joff is a self-proclaimed extravert who’ll walk across three aisles in a superstore to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Kari is no stranger to community living: she was partially raised at a summer Bible camp with an ever-rotating list of guests. She’s curious about people and eager to learn.

“Any time we’ve met someone from another culture, you find out things that they eat or words they say, different things like that,” she shared. “I love meeting different people with different perspectives.”

Although their journey has taken twists and turns along the way, there’s nowhere they would rather be than on the Global Mercy during this season. The first field service of the ship is within sight and lives are about to change for good.

“If we just trust and take one step at the time, we get to see how God pieces things together along the way,” Joff said.

The Mercy Ships community onboard our hospital ships is like none other. Our volunteer crew brings their unique skills and vibrant life experiences from around the world to serve the people who need it most. It’s about so much more than a professional title. It’s about bringing all that you are — both in and out of the workplace. Whether you’re a physician, an accountant, or a teacher Mercy Ships needs you.

Discover the stories of Mercy Ships volunteers that have made their mark on board.

Ready to make your mark? There’s a place for you onboard: mercyships.org/makeyourmark