Seventeen countries and four Mercy Ships

Over the last several years, Rodrigo Silva has sailed to 17 countries to bring hope and healing to those in need. And now serving as chief officer on the Global Mercy®, he has been aboard four different Mercy Ships.

“Serving is a joy and being on the ships — and being able to do something in my area, which contributes to Mercy Ships mission — is special,” he shared.

He first heard about the organization in March 1999 while volunteering in his home country of Brazil for Youth with a Mission (YWAM), which was linked to Mercy Ships at the time. Mercy Ships had just purchased the vessel that would become the Africa Mercy®.  

“[In 1999] They were celebrating the new ship coming into the fleet, so that was a big thing and it stuck in my mind,” recounted Rodrigo. Two years later he encountered Mercy Ships again through a maritime magazine advertisement. This was the final push — Rodrigo decided to serve and filled out an application. In 2001, he boarded the Anastasis as a Deck Rating to start his first commitment. Though he started his journey as a single man, Rodrigo returned later with his wife and eventually his children as well.

Rodrigo celebrated his first anniversary with Tatyana on board the Caribbean Mercy in 2003. Now, they each have spent a combined 15 years serving with Mercy Ships and have lived on board full-time since 2016. 

Raising a family on board a hospital ship

While Rodrigo is working in the deck department, Tatyana volunteers as a preschool teacher in the Academy attended by their three children: Abigail, Benjamin, and Estevam.

“The challenge is not very different from raising children (anywhere else), which is a challenge on its own,” Rodrigo explained. “I believe there are a lot more benefits that we reap, being here with a close community.”  

In 2021, the family started another new chapter in their Mercy Ships journey. Rodrigo boarded the Global Mercy, sailing from China to Europe as its first chief officer. What are the biggest changes about serving on this brand new, built-from-scratch hospital ship?

“Size is definitely the big thing,” Rodrigo says, plus “things are a lot more modern.” He finds the extra responsibility both challenging and rewarding: “Days are usually very different. There’s always something different coming up.”  

The Global Mercy’s maiden voyage to Africa is next up on Rodrigo’s horizon. This inaugural sail to Senegal will take place in May. The ship will be formally commissioned in Senegal in June, starting its mission to provide hope and healing for years to come. The multi-level hospital on board will offer life-changing surgeries from world-class surgeons to those who lack critical access to basic healthcare.

“It’s an exciting tool and it’s a definite step up,” Rodrigo shared. “It’ll be able to do a lot more in numbers, but my prayer is that obviously in growing this way, we would never lose the focus on the individuals and make sure that they get as transformed as they were when the little ship was coming by and tying up with 50 crew members on board.”

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