New Mercies: Bill Beagley
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30 Short Days Led to a Lifetime of Change

Bill Beagley heard of Mercy Ships many years ago and soon was aching to volunteer. When he heard that his electrical skills were needed on the Global Mercy, he jumped at the opportunity. He was only on board for 30 days, but the impact of those precious days will last a lifetime.

In this episode Bill talks about the major life transformation that had to happen before he was able to volunteer on the Global Mercy. He shares the blessing of the many new friends he met as well as the reward of being a part of the transformations that will occur on board next year.

Volunteers like Bill are vital to fulfilling our mission, and because of prayerful and generous friends like you, we are able to help even more people find the hope and healing they desperately need. Every donation, every prayer, and every person can touch the lives of so many. Your donation makes a difference.

This GivingTuesday, give the gift of hope to someone in need. Visit mercyshipgifts.org to learn more. 

Mercy Ships has brought hope and healing to those who need it most for over 40 years. Using hospital ships, we are able to provide safe, free surgical care to those in need and bring medical training to healthcare workers living the countries we serve.

Looking for a way to join our mission of bringing hope and healing? Partner with us through a giftvolunteering with us, or by joining us in prayer.

New Mercies Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the New Mercies, a podcast by Mercy Ships, where we’ll take you behind the scenes and on board our incredible hospital ships that are transforming lives all over the world. We invite you to join us each week as we sit down with our crew, patients, volunteers, and partners to hear their stories of life-changing hope and healing.

Today on New Mercies Bill Beagley is joining us to tell us about the impactful 30 days he just spent on board the Global Mercy. Although his time was short, the friendships made and the lessons learned will last a lifetime.

Raeanne Newquist:

Bill, welcome to New Mercies. And I guess I should say welcome home, because you are really just getting off of the Global Mercy. So welcome to the podcast.

Bill Beagley:

Thank you very much. I’m very honored to be here.

Raeanne:

You did just get off the ship. So tell us how was your transition back?

Bill:

It was good. I got off the plane at 10 o’clock and I walked over to my office and started working at 11! Luckily, my boss let me go home and I came back the next day and just started work. The time difference was the biggest thing. But you know, I just went right back to work.

Raeanne:

Oh, my goodness, well, you’re a trooper. So you were just on the Global Mercy in the Canary Islands. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your life before you went on the ship. And what prompted you to consider going and serving with Mercy Ships.

Bill:

It was the summer of 1986, a long time ago, and I went to a YWAM camp here in western Colorado that was actually run by Don Stephens’ in-laws. He brought his daughter, I think her name was Heidi, up to the camp and she stayed three or four weeks with us. And when they came up to take her back to the ship, he told us about the Anastasis and what they were doing and how one day maybe we could do a DTS on the ship. I was just super blown away, but I was only 16 at the time. So when the summer was over, and I finished my summer of service, I went back home and completely forgot about it. And then fast forward to 2020 When COVID shuts everyone down, and we had to work from home and I’m sitting on my computer and I wondered what ever happened to the Anastasis, so I Googled it. The Africa Mercy came up. And then, of course, that led to the 60 Minutes YouTube video — I watched that and bawled like a baby. And that led to the Carys Parker videos. Oh boy, I watched 100 of them! I probably watched five a day and then went back and rewatched them. And I was absolutely devastated. I was just in tears at what the people in Africa have to go through and what the Africa Mercy was providing. I’m not a doctor, I’m an electronic technician. So I didn’t know what I could do. And that’s why I really liked the Carys Parker videos, because she showed you all the different places on the ship that a person could work. And I said, I want to do that!

Raeanne:

That’s awesome. So watching these videos, watching the Carys Parker videos specifically just opened up your eyes to hey, this might be something that I could do?

Bill:

Yeah, the videos are so high quality. It was enjoyable to watch and they’re short enough that you could click off two or three before you had to get a lunch break or anything. It was really good stuff.

Raeanne:

That is so cool. Why don’t you tell us what do you do as a profession? You mentioned a little bit but where do you currently work?

Bill:

I work for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction Colorado as an electronic technician. I maintain weather radar and weather stations at airports in western Colorado and eastern Utah.

Raeanne:

Oh wow. That’s amazing. That must be a lot of work because I know that out there y’all get a lot of weather!

Bill:

Snow is a big thing and people want to know if they’re going to be able to travel on the interstate and is it going to shut down stuff and we do a lot of work with fires too. If there’s a fire they need to know the wind direction and when they might get in some moisture.

Raeanne:

So as you were watching these Mercy Ships videos, and your heart was being pulled apart by watching the need in Africa, when did you have that moment where you thought — you know what, I have something to offer, I have something as an engineer that I can contribute?

Bill:

It was probably one of her videos when she followed around an electrician or somebody that wasn’t a doctor. And I went to their website and looked and all the job openings listed. And I said, “You know what, look there, there’s an electronic technician job.” Now, I didn’t know at the time that required a two-year commitment or a three-month commitment. So I went and applied with my wife’s permission that I could do it for a couple of weeks or something like that. And then I did some more reading, and I went, Oh, I can’t be gone that long! So I kind of just put it on the back burner. I thought when I retire or get independently wealthy and don’t have to work, I’ll go someday. And my wife did some reading because she’s really behind me, she didn’t go, but she’s really behind it. He loves what they do and she loves what it put in my heart and we have a heart for missions. We were youth pastors at our church for 17 years, and children’s pastors for 20 years. Anyway, she looked at it and she goes, you know, you’re going to have to lose some weight, because I’m on the large side. And I said, I didn’t know that. She said, yeah, they have a BMI scale and you’re over. I said, all right, then, so I signed up for a diet program, and I hit it really hard. I lost 70 pounds.

Raeanne:

Oh, my gosh, that’s fabulous!

Bill:

Yeah, it was awesome and that was exactly what I needed. So, my volunteer coordinator, I think that’s what they’re called, sent me an email and said, If you’ll change your position to project assistance, we have a position for you and we can use you. I said, awesome, I’ll do it.

Raeanne:

That is so cool. So when did you then get on board?

Bill:

I came on October 3, it was so awesome. But that ship is the coolest place, with the coolest coworkers, and a great boss. The first two weeks, three of us were assigned to work together in the operating rooms on the radiology equipment. We were in there wiring, so that Martha Henderson, who runs the x-ray department, could have a warning light when she pushes an x-ray button to tell people don’t come in, it turns from green to red. So we had to mount those and we had to make them work with the equipment she currently had. We had to drill holes and mount boxes and it was a good use of my technical skills and knowledge that I use at home. She was so appreciative when we were done. And it was just a great experience doing that. I told her I was a little sad because we didn’t get to do this during field service, I wanted to meet patients. She said before a patient can ever have surgery, they have to come here and be x-rayed and what we worked on will be the first step in that process. So she said — I know you won’t be here for it, but I’ll let you know when the first patients get x-rayed using your machine.

Raeanne:

And you never know, maybe you’ll get to go back someday and help out when there are patients on board.

Bill:

Yep, that’s always in the plan. I’m planning on going back in 2024. We’re going to be back in Tenerife, which is where Global Mercy currently is. So if everything works out, then I’ll go back in July of 2024 and do some more work.

Raeanne:

That is so cool. Well, Bill, tell us what were your first impressions when you walked up the gangway?

Bill:

A lot of times, because I’ve built this up to be something so great, having watched videos for two years and lost the weight and applied, you think well, it’s not going to be as great as that. But when I walked up that gangway, it was so much bigger and better. And the first thing you see, there’s a plaque on the wall that says “following the 2000-year-old model of Jesus bringing hope and healing.” I took a picture of that, I took a picture of the stairs, I took a picture of the lobby, I took a picture of the lady at the front desk, I took a picture of the doors, and she kind of looked at me kind of funny. I only get one shot at a first impression, so I’m taking it all in. I bet I posted 30 pictures a day every day.

Raeanne:

Oh my goodness. I’m going to have to look up your social media account and look at those photos.

Bill:

Yeah, I took pictures of the food. I took pictures of the doors. I took pictures of the laundry. I blasted Facebook.

Raeanne:

Bill, you were on board the Global Mercy for 30 days and some people might think that that’s not a very long time. But as you and I both know, the days, weeks, and months with Mercy Ships is kind of like dog years. I think one week on board is about seven weeks on board equivalent. So 30 days is actually quite a few months in Mercy Ships time. What was a highlight for you during that time?

Bill:

Oh, that’s easy. It’s the people. It’s meeting the people and working with people that you never would have met. My work crew was three Belgian men, two Americans, a French guy, and a Venezuelan who lives in Switzerland. So just getting to meet these people was a highlight. And in you eat meals with them. So you know, at work, you’re talking work, but at meals you’re talking — what does your country do? And what do you guys eat? I learned so much. Specifically Belgium, I learned more about Belgium in the first lunch I had than I had known my entire life. And the friendships, they’re just the best. We’re still texting and chatting and talking about our time and what we’re doing now, so the highlight had to be the people. Everybody is a friend. I sat down with the captain of the ship, and we had a meal. And one time I sat with Mike and Carolyn Kirchner, had a meal with them, and learned about where they’re from and what they’re doing. Sometimes you have kind of groups where people sit in their own little clique, their own little thing. There were no real clicks in the Mercy Ships, you could sit with whoever you wanted to and they would treat you like you were a friend.

Raeanne:

I love that — one giant family.

Bill:

Yes, friendships you make are so awesome. It’s only 30 days. But like you said, you feel like you’ve been there for three years. Because you don’t just work with people, you eat with people, you do church with people, you do worship services with people, you do weekends with them. So your time is amplified, you’re not seeing friends until five o’clock and then go home — you are at home, you do life with them. And you’d think you might get tired of seeing the same people all the time, but you don’t. You look forward to them, like I have to go to sleep, but when I wake up, I can’t wait to have breakfast with this group of guys.

Raeanne:

And the beauty is, you’ll have those relationships for the rest of your life. And now you have a reason to take your wife to Belgium!

Bill:

Yes. And I told her we are going to go and when we go, my buddy Warner who is a plumber in Belgium said we can stay with him.

Raeanne:

Well, Bill during your time on board, how did you see lives being changed? I know it’s a unique experience, a unique time because the ship is not in field service, the hospital is not up and running with patients on board, but still God is at work doing awesome things. So how did you see lives being changed while you were there?

Bill:

Well, I saw lives being changed amongst my work crew. For two of us, it was our first time, the other people had done several tours on either the Global Mercy or the Africa Mercy. So for me and him it was really eye-opening and eye-widening. My worldview has always been Biblical, I’ve been raised in a Christian home and I’ve had a biblical worldview my whole life. But that biblical worldview has been so narrow because my life has been in Grand Junction Colorado for all of it. But to see how God operates around the world in the lives of people around the world was eye-opening. The two of us talked about this because it was his first time and he was blown away just as much as I was at how big the world is. And you don’t see that in my town, it’s very much the same — everybody’s the same. Getting to see these people and see how God moves and operates and getting to hear the worship in the different accents was just so amazing. I got blessed to be there and I didn’t take anything for granted. I didn’t assume I deserved it. I knew it was like I won the lottery. I absolutely loved every second of every minute, even the hardest workdays. Nobody thought their job was more important. Nobody thought they were more important. We were all doing this to get this ship ready to help people in Africa.

Raeanne:

That is so cool. You guys are kind of on the front end before this ship goes into service. And you know that what you’re doing is going to be used to impact people in a mighty way. But how do you keep that mindset when the patients aren’t there? Like how did you continue to stay encouraged and inspired by the patients even though they weren’t there?

Bill:

One of the things that that my wife did — I told you she supported and helped me get there — she wrote little cards and snug I’m into my luggage. I didn’t know till I got there and unzipped my bag and started pulling them out. She had them labeled by the day, so I didn’t open one every day. In one of the ones she did, she quoted Matthew, where Jesus is separating the sheep and the goats. And he says, “You on my right hand, you did these great things, you fed me, you clothed me, you visited me in jail.” And then they said, “we never did that.” And he said, “You did what you did to the least of these you’ve done to me.” I shared that with my group during devotions, I said, we will never see the people who we are helping. But I think when we get to heaven, Jesus is going to do two things. He’s going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and we’re going to get introductions to the people who we got to help. And that’s going to be so awesome.

Raeanne:

That is awesome. I just love your wife. I haven’t even met her, but how thoughtful and how beautiful that she had this great idea to send you scripture to inspire you and to keep you focused on the mission. That is very beautiful. Bill, it sounds like this 30 days has really left a mark on you. Obviously, your life was changed before you went, I mean, losing 70 pounds — that takes a lot of determination and a lot of discipline, aside from really wanting to go. How did you maintain your discipline to lose that weight, because that’s not a small task?

Bill:

First, my wife was behind me 110%. If she was going to have bad food, her and my daughter, I got a daughter still lives at home, if they were going to have some bad food, they would do it when I was gone. Or they would hide it from me. They would eat out at restaurants that I they know I shouldn’t go to when I was out of town for work or when I was gone. They would say hey, we have to go do some lady stuff. And then I found out later they went to Burger King and got burgers.

On my phone, I have the Africa Mercy as my screensaver and my screen lock. So I constantly had it to look at and I told everybody who would listen. I told them, “I’m trying to lose weight for this.” And they helped me by asking, “How’s it going? What’s your weight at? Where are you at? What are you doing? What’s your next step?”

One of the things I wanted to share was something my wife told me when I got back. So many people were following my trip. And there was seven hours difference, so I would post my pictures at normal time and then people would wake up and turn their Facebook on and see what I had done during the day. And they would call my wife and say, “did you see what Bill did today?” And they would talk about it. She’s a school teacher and when she got to the school they say “hey, what’s your husband doing today? What is what’s he up to? What are they doing on that ship? What’s going on?” And she’d have to give an update. When I got back to church on Sunday, I had at least five people say “That was the greatest trip ever. I’m so glad you took us with you, Bill.”

Raeanne:

Bill, you’ve kind of already answered this question, but as we wrap up our time together, how has your life been changed because of volunteering with Mercy Ships?

Bill:

I had no idea what it was going to be like. I had a preconceived idea, but God just said you’re not even close. Not even close to how good it’s going to be, how great it’s going to be, and how awesome it’s going to be getting back. One thing God told me is he said grow where you’re planted. I would love to have stayed on that ship, I would love to never come home. But you know what, that’s not what he has for me right now. He has me right here. So I’m going to tell about the Mercy Ships adventure and the Mercy Ships mission to every church that will let me come and to every group that will let me speak, to every person. I’ve already done it to two little groups at our church and I got another church in another town here in Colorado that’s asked me to come. So whenever possible, I will give them the website and give them the information and tell them how wonderful it is, and how there’s a position for everybody.

Raeanne:

Right there, that’s the tagline — There’s a position for everyone. You took your skills and your trade and you went and made a difference. And I’m anticipating right along with you for Martha’s email saying, here is the first patient that has been impacted by what you did back in October of 2022, in order to prepare the ship for hope and healing that it’s bringing to patients. So, Bill, thank you so much for inspiring us and telling everybody — Hey, there’s a place for you on board! No matter what you do, your skills are needed. And we thank you so much for sharing your journey. Welcome home.

Bill:

Oh, you are very welcome. I loved every minute of it. I can’t stop talking about it.

For more information about Mercy Ships, go to mercyships.org, and to keep up with the guests on New Mercies, follow us on Instagram at NewMerciesPodcast.