New Mercies: Patty Stack
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Volunteering Wherever There is a Need

Patty Stack had been working for a company in the United States for 29 years when the pandemic hit and impacted her employment. Seeing this as an opportunity instead of devastation, Patty took courses to receive her certification as a nurse aide, something she had always wanted to do. Patty originally applied to volunteer with Mercy Ships in the hospital but learned there wasn’t a need for her skill set at the time. Despite the setback, she once again saw it as an opportunity and decided to serve wherever there was a need. Patty came on board the Africa Mercy as a volunteer in the dining room.

Now, Patty is loving her life on the ship and enjoys getting to meet every crew member on board as they come to the dining room for meals. Patty has also volunteered to be the librarian and run the boutique! She has a servant’s heart and is quick to step in wherever this is a gap to be filled. In this episode, you will be uplifted by Patty’s enthusiasm as she shares her joy for working on the Africa Mercy. You will also get a glimpse into ship-life and what it means to volunteer amongst different professionals, all with one common goal — seeing lives transformed.

New Mercies Podcast Transcript

Raeanne Newquist:

Patty, welcome to New Mercies. And thank you so much for taking the time to let us all get to know you a little bit better today. Currently, you are on the Africa Mercy in Dakar, Senegal. So, tell us what’s it like?

Patty Stack:

Yes. So, thank you for inviting me. I have been here for seven months on the Africa Mercy, and I absolutely love it. This has been a dream come true for me. I’ve done several mission trips over the years and many different countries. But West Africa has always had a special place in my heart. I just truly have fallen in love with the culture, the people, the music, the dance, the food. So, when I was accepted to volunteer on the Africa Mercy, I just jumped at the opportunity. And yeah, I’m just thrilled to death to be here. And every day is a joy and a blessing for me.

Raeanne:

Oh, I love that. So, you’ve been there about seven months. So, it must feel like home. You’re all settled in?

Patty:

I am I love! I have three cabin mates, they’re absolutely fantastic. I’ve become fast friends with not only my coworkers in the dining room and the galley that I see every day, of course but also my cabin mates. I always say to my friends and family, I have, I believe the best job on board working in the dining room because it is the center and the hub of all activity. I know everybody’s name. Everybody knows me. I love to greet people in the morning and serve them with a smile. And it’s just a lot of fun.

Raeanne:

That is so great. Well, we cannot wait to hear more about your job on board. But before we do that, why don’t you tell us how you got on board in the first place? How did you hear about Mercy Ships and what brought you there?

Patty:

I’ve kind of always known about Mercy Ships through my church and just from doing past mission work. After losing my job in 2020, after working for the same company for 29 years, I decided to go to nursing school — I’ve wanted to be a nurse my whole life. So right away, I went to nursing school and received my certification for nurse’s aide and applied to work on the African Mercy in a hospital role. So, I applied to work in the Hope Center and then also in the ward. But I learned that there wouldn’t be any positions available for quite some time. So, they had said to me, well, if you really want to come on board and come soon, take a position that’s an urgent need. So, I looked at the stewards position. And I applied to work in the dining room and the galley. And after being here for seven months, like I said, I just love it. It’s fantastic. So, I do plan on coming back one day, and hopefully working with the patients. But if that’s not God’s plan, then that’s okay.

Raeanne:

So, you’re from Connecticut and you mentioned that you heard about Mercy Ships from your church — that seems like a really big adjustment in life to go from living in Connecticut, the stability of the same company for 29 years, now all of a sudden, you’re living with three roommates on a hospital ship in West Africa. How has that transition been for you?

Patty:

Yeah, it’s actually been a pretty simple and smooth transition from me. I like I said, I’ve been blessed been able to have traveled in third world countries, so it was pretty smooth for me. And yeah, I hop out of bed with pep in my step every day and sometimes want to pinch myself that I am on this big white hospital ship living in West Africa with people of all ages and from 40 different countries and it’s just wonderful.

Raeanne:

You were made for this! I’m excited for you. So, you mentioned that you took a position working in the dining room. So why don’t you tell us a little bit what a day in the life of a dining room worker looks like?

Patty:

Okay, sure. So, we work long hours. So, from 5:30 in the morning till seven 7:30 In the evening, but we do get to two-hour breaks in between each meal. So that allows us for a time to go for a long walk, or to take a fitness class or to just sit by the pool and read a book or take a nap. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and we work closely with the galley crew, the galley cooks the food, there’s eight of us on each shift, and we kind of rotate our duties. So not you know, every day is a different day. And we are working now with four-day crew, and they are just wonderful. And it’s just so fun to work with the local day crew, just talk to them and learn about them and to teach them about our culture, it’s fantastic.

Raeanne:

What are some things that you’ve learned about the Senegalese culture? Working with some local people?

Patty:

I have learned a lot, because we spent a lot of time together. So, where I come from, we typically wouldn’t talk so much about politics and religion. But I’ll tell you, the Senegalese people, they really liked to talk about their Muslim religion, 97% of the people are Muslim. And so, it’s just wonderful to hear all about their different religion and their stories. And Ramadan is coming up next week. And so, they’re going to be fasting. We have between 60-to-100-day crew that also come that are working on board the ship. So, they come for their lunch, and they’ll be fasting. So just learning, like how all that works is just wonderful.

Raeanne:

It’s a great experience to have those local people on board, because you do get to learn so much about the people that you’re serving. And that’s really exciting. What is a highlight for you so far in your time in the dining room?

Patty:

I really do love just working every day with people of all ages, we have people on board from 18 years of age to 70 years old. And we’re all here for the same common goal. And we’re working together, we’re eating together, we’re living with each other, we’re worshiping together. We all just wanting to help others, people who would otherwise not ever even dream of receiving free surgery if the Africa Mercy were not here. We’re all here with the same common goal. And I just really love learning from my coworkers.

Raeanne:

Patty, in addition to volunteering in the dining room, I understand that you volunteer in other areas as well.

Patty:

Yes, so I am the librarian, which, I absolutely love. I accepted that when I first came on board and appointed myself an assistant librarian. The library, it’s a wonderful place. We have tons and tons of books, all my favorite authors, it’s open 24 hours a day, so people are able just to come and sit and read. We also receive a lot of donations, you know, books that people have left behind. So, it’s just absolutely filled with so many books and DVDs and CDs, it’s a lot of fun working in the library. I also am the Boutique Manager on board the Africa Mercy, so the Boutique is a store kind of similar to Goodwill, but all items are free. It’s a place where crew who can come and take things that other crew members have left when they went home. So, there’s everything from clothing to shoes to lots of toiletries to small appliances to decorations and toys and books so the Boutique is great for new crew who might need something that they have not brought from home. And I have to tell you that I’d say like 70% of my current wardrobe is all from the boutique, including my swimsuits, beach towel, beach chair and sunscreen. It’s a great thing. So, the boutique does fill up very quickly, with lots of items. And there’s not a whole lot of room for storage on board. So, every once in a while, we need to pack up the boutique and we what did two days ago was we donated it to a charity, a YWAM charity that also supports an orphanage. I received a phone call kind of last minute that the charity people were going to come at 6pm, two nights ago. So, I quickly had to rally up a bunch of volunteers to carry all the items from deck 2 out onto the gangway and this huge bus rolls up. And I was like, oh, gosh, how are we going to get everything on from deck 2 out, you know, without such short notice of volunteers. But I’ll tell you the Africa Mercy Family, they certainly rallied up and we had an assembly line. And they filled up this entire bus with every single item from the boutique, including three children’s bicycles and two mattresses strapped to the roof on top of the bus and a set of golf clubs and carpet. And it’s just wonderful to know that it’s going to a great charity.

Raeanne:

That’s wonderful that so many people will be blessed by that stuff. You know, storage is limited on board the ship, in your cabin, you don’t have a lot of space to accumulate a lot of things whether it be shopping in local markets, or even going down in the boutique. So, I know a lot of people will take something from the boutique and leave three things in the boutique and they can get bursting at the seams down there. And how wonderful that those items were all being able to bless other people in need. In Senegal. Now, I understand you also recently had an experience with the boutique and a doctor and a patient. Can you tell us about that?

Patty:

My cabin mate works as an anesthesiologist assistant. And she told me just a couple of days ago that there was a patient that was receiving surgery and had asked for a pair of sunglasses, she wasn’t comfortable with the way she was looking. And so, the doctor quickly asked my cabin mate, if she could run down to the boutique and pick up a pair of sunglasses. And she did. And she found a brand-new pair of sunglasses and gave it to the patient. She was thrilled and felt more confidence when she was walking around the ship.

Raeanne:

That’s so cool. Again, just blessing people beyond the crew. In addition to volunteering in the library, as well as the boutique, you also are helping coordinate a pretty interesting excursion on board the ship. Can you tell us about that?

Patty:

Yes. So, we partner with a gentleman named Willie, who owns an organic farm not too far from the ship. It’s about an hour’s drive from here. He provides us all of his produce and dairy products, eggs and milk and yogurts. And he delivers them to the ship every Tuesday. And we give Him our food scraps for his compost. Once a month on Sundays, we have about 30 crew that will go visit his farm and he explains how he does the growing process. And he’s very passionate about what he does. So, he teaches the crew and the children and then they in turn are able to buy his products. He sells fresh harvested berries and salads and honeys and yogurts and jams and jellies, it’s wonderful.

Raeanne:

I love that we’re able to help the local people. I’m sure that Willie is very blessed by the extra business but also to give our food scraps for him to compost organically for his garden. That is awesome.

Patty:

Yes, yes. It’s a win for both.

Raeanne:

Now, have you tasted any of his produce?

Patty:

I have. I’ve tasted his fresh cheeses and his berries that he’s made into jams and jellies, they’re delicious.

We have a signup sheet for crew and the tour fills up very quickly. It only happens once a month because as you can imagine, Willie is very busy on the farm, but he’s kind enough to give the tour once a month.

Raeanne:

Something I’m sure is a highlight for the crew. So, Patty, in your seven months of being onboard thus far, what has ship life been like for you? What are some things that you liked? It sounds like you serve a lot of other people whether that be in the dining room, the boutique, the library, what are some things that you have found enjoyable for yourself on board?

Patty:

There’s a lot of great places to visit locally in Dakar — I’ve been to the Pink Lake, which is a beautiful area and the lake is actually pink and has a high salt content. It’s where the algae produces a red pigment and the water is actually buoyant so you can float in it like the Dead Sea. So that’s a very pretty area. I’ve also been to Goree Island where you can just simply walk from the ship to the ferry and take a half hour ferry ride. Goree Island is a very picturesque and beautiful island, but has a tough history. It was one of the largest slave trading centers in West Africa, all the way from the 14th to the 18th century. And now there’s a beautiful memorial in a museum. And that’s a settlement from actually the mid-1500s. I’m certainly reading up on my history before I go to these places. I also went to Ngor Island.

Raeanne:

Now I have to ask, how did you get to Ngor?

Patty:

We took a 10-minute piroque and it’s a little canoe from the beach. You simply take a taxi, and it is very inexpensive, then you take a 10 minute little canoe ride to the islands.

Raeanne:

Now did you think when you were on that little, tiny boat that you were going to make it? Because I know that my family and I got on that little, tiny boat only for 10 minutes and when you can see the other side. But there were so many people packed in that tiny little canoe if you will.

Patty:

Yes, water was about an inch from the top of the boat. Oh, gosh, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen. The currents there were rough so we wore life jackets. But yes, yes, it was a little a little hairy. But the island is very pretty, and a lot of artists are there and it’s just so nice to see how creative their work is and how proud that they are to show you their craftsmanship. It’s just their handicrafts. It’s just beautiful.

Raeanne:

In your time serving thus far, has there been a moment that has impacted you personally?

Patty:

There’s been like several moments! I just love going up to deck seven when the patients are being released from the ward. And the patients that have received surgeries, Women’s Health surgeries, they are given a beautiful dress and a matching headpiece. And so, we are allowed to go up to deck seven and wave and cheer them on as they walk off the gangway and then to the Mercy ship vehicle that will bring them to the Hope Center for their final recovery. And so those moments are just absolutely tear jerking, and just the excitement seeing them and their smiles on their faces and that they’re healed. And it’s just truly amazing.

Raeanne:

What a beautiful, beautiful moment where you see hope restored and real life begin.

Patty:

Yeah, it just makes this real in that this is the whole reason that we are here. It’s all about the patient. So, it’s truly miraculous. Amazing.

Raeanne:

I love that. Well, what does the future hold for you? You had mentioned that you had a nursing degree prior to coming in and was hoping to serve in that capacity. Your time will be up in September. What are you considering doing in the future?

Patty:

So my degree is actually just a certification for a nurse’s aide, but you don’t need a degree to work in the Hope Center or as a ward administrative position. So, I have reapplied for both of those positions, and I hope to return for sure in 2023. I’ll return home and get a job working in the medical field and in a teaching hospital or nursing home and gain more experience, and I want to use my skills to come back on the Africa Mercy or Global Mercy.

Raeanne:

So, you’re not even finished with this commitment, and you already want to extend into another one.

Patty:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I just love it.

Raeanne:

Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. That is so wonderful. Patty, we thank you so much for all that you are contributing to the community on board the Africa Mercy. We’re so grateful that God has uniquely gifted you to come and share just the love of Christ with the people that come through the line in the dining room and also in the boutique in the library, and beyond that, so thanks so much for taking the time to share with us today a little bit about your journey.

Patty:

Thank you.

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.

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