New Mercies: Whitney Grant
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Come Volunteer with Us

One little Facebook video was all it took to start Whitney Grant on a journey that she never would have expected! Happily working in her corporate HR job in the United States, Whitney was involved in her church and had a great community of friends — she was not looking for a major life change. But watching a Mercy Ships video that her friend posted on social media opened Whitney’s heart to something unexpected.

Whitney came to Mercy Ships with 10 years of HR experience, and she was surprised when her new job on board brought challenges that she never faced in corporate America. Whitney recalled, “I had become comfortable and on cruise control. But on the ship, I was challenged immediately.”

In this episode, Whitney not only shares about her personal time on board, but she also shares how you can have your own life changing experience with Mercy Ships! Whitney answers questions about how to volunteer, what to expect in the application process, as well as current priority positions.  From getting to grow professionally and personally, to living in a community of people from all over the world – you too, can find your place on board!

If you’ve ever wondered how you can join this amazing mission, this episode is for you!

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, Whitney Grant is sharing a bit of her own experience on board, but she is also sharing how you can apply and come volunteer too! Here’s my interview with Whitney Grant.

Raeanne Newquist:

Well, Whitney, it is so exciting for me to get to see my friend and speak with you today. Whitney, welcome to New Mercies.

Whitney Grant:

Thank you. And it’s a pleasure to be here with you.

Raeanne:

Now Whitney, I know that you have been with Mercy Ships for a good handful of years now. And mostly you work in Texas. But currently you are on board the Global Mercy for a little stint in Sierra Leone. So tell us what took you to the Global Mercy this round? And how long are you going to be there?

Whitney:

So I am currently on the Global Mercy filling one of the critical openings that we have in our HR department. So I am serving as a Global Mercy HR director and I will be here for another month or so about three months total.

Raeanne:

Oh, that’s exciting. So have you been to Sierra Leone before?

Whitney:

I have not. And I had the privilege of actually sailing in with a ship earlier in August. So I have seen many different sides of Freetown from ships from the planes on land and a car it’s a pretty amazing place.

Raeanne:

Wow, I’ve heard it’s just beautiful. Everyone has had amazing things to say about the beaches. Have you had some time to explore?

Whitney:

I’ve gone to several markets and restaurants. I haven’t been to many beaches yet.

Raeanne:

Well, Whitney, I know that this is not your first time on board a Mercy Ships vessel. You joined Mercy Ships I believe back in 2019. Whitney, tell us how did you heard about Mercy Ships and what caused you to go volunteer in the first place?

Whitney:

I felt the calling back in 2019 to join Mercy Ships as a volunteer and my journey started with a video that was actually posted on Facebook. Someone from church had shared a video from Mercy Ships. And it was one of the patient’s stories. I had never heard of Mercy Ships before. At the time, I was working in corporate HR, and not looking to leave corporate HR. I had a job that I loved. I love my hometown, my city, my church, but there was something about this video and seeing the patient, I just had to learn more about this organization. And so I clicked on the video, I watched it. And then I kind of became a little obsessed and went to the Mercy Ships site and kept watching patient video after patient video. And it was surreal to comprehend surgeries were taking place on board a hospital ship.

And as I kept watching videos, I learned that the surgeries on the ships are being done by volunteers. And I didn’t feel an initial draw. Like at that moment, my HR brain kicked in and it was like, wow, like how does this work with volunteers? So I started going to look at what kind of roles they have on a ship. So I clicked on the website where it talks about current openings. And right before my face flashed this notice it says current openings for an HR director on board. Oh my gosh, it’s urgent, nice. And you know, sometimes people don’t know if God’s talking to them or not. God was talking to me in that moment. Like, there’s something for you to apply for. And I was like, Oh, God, I’m not looking for volunteer role. I’m really happy where I am. But I really felt strongly when I read the job description, that it was something that I could use my professional skills for, as well as my heart to serve God for so I applied for the role. And three months later, I found myself on the Africa Mercy in 2019 as a volunteer HR director.

Raeanne:

You know, it’s so cool to hear your story because oftentimes, I speak with crew who came to a critical point in their career where they felt maybe not satisfied and felt empty and were looking for something else to fulfill them. I talked to several nurses who say, you know, I was thinking about leaving nursing until I found this and realized I could do something more than I was doing and it’s awesome to hear your story to say I loved my job. I loved my community and my church I had no desire to leave, but obviously God had other plans for you, using your experience and your professional skills in this ministry is critical. And it’s so wonderful to take people who are thriving, and bring them on board to continue the work that they were doing, but in a whole different environment. What was it like for you in your first field service?

Whitney:

Oh, man, it was like a roller coaster. It was like nothing I had experienced before. And especially as an HR professional, I love to give a holistic preview. And so I always tell people, my first year on board were some of the most beautiful and difficult moments I have had in my entire life. And I think that’s the beauty of a ministry. It’s not always perfect. We have people with good hearts, we also are flawed individuals trying to do the work of God. And so I grew so much as an individual and professionally. I had come to Mercy Ships with close to 10 years of HR experience and I was challenged with things I had never seen in the corporate HR world. Because in HR, for instance, working with people who work and live together, creates a lot of different challenges. Thatmy faith grew a lot as well, just in relying on God and experiencing things that I frankly didn’t know how to solve for, but God… that means they’re just some tough, tough challenges and helped me and really just allowed me to connect with people in a different way that I would have never experienced in a corporate HR setting.

Raeanne:

Because you wouldn’t think that it would almost seem like I’m going to a hospital ship is going to be much more simple than working in corporate America. But there are so many new dynamics, so many ways to be challenged and to grow in your profession. By just experiencing different cultures and being in a developing nation, there’s so much going on that it’s really inspiring and lifegiving to be challenged.

Whitney:

It is, it requires faith, right? Because I had become quite comfortable and content in the job that I was very happy in, to the point where I was on cruise control, right. And that was not the case. As soon as I stepped foot on the ship, I was challenged by situations and I didn’t know what to do and so it’s beautiful to be able to work in your profession, but also to experience different aspects of God’s character in the way that you wouldn’t have experienced at home.

Raeanne:

Whitney, what was a highlight for you, in your first field service in Senegal?

Whitney:

Definitely the crew. I love the patients that I love the crew. It was a blessing meeting so many people that God had called from all over the world and truly make the ministry run. It makes the ministry what it is. And just meeting so many different people. It’s almost like you get to travel to 40 different countries all at the same time. Because interacting with people from 40 different nations at once and being challenged as well. I’m meeting people who would break stereotypes and assumptions that I had about certain countries. It was just a great learning experience of meeting different people.

Raeanne:

Oh, I love that. And I totally agree. It’s such a special environment where, I’ve never been to Epcot Center at Disneyworld, but I’ve heard that you kind of get to experience a bunch of cultures in one place. And the ship is like that. You just get to experience so many different cultures, the way they interact and try different foods. I mean, it’s just such an incredible experience personally to encounter all these different people. So Whitney, I know initially, when you got on board the Africa Mercy, you had made a two year commitment to be the HR director. And then COVID happened and all of us got our lives turned upside down. When you returned to the United States, what were you doing?

Whitney:

I wasn’t able to finish my two year commitment because COVID happened and I felt at the time during the pandemic, it was best for me to stay back in the States. So I left Mercy Ships. And I went back to my corporate job and I was working with lovely people. But within six months, my heart was aching for something bigger and I had really missed working for an organization with a bigger purpose with more of a mission. And so within about six months, Mercy Ships reached out to me and I was able to come back and start helping with HR projects for the corporate office.

Raeanne:

Wow, it’s so true that something just gets under your skin when you work with Mercy Ships. And my husband and I often joke that it ruins you for the better. But it ruins you for the ordinary. It ruins you for the normal you know, and it’s challenging to go back to what you did before life in Mercy Ships. So I love that God brought you back. And now it seems that in your role you work mostly in Texas, right? But you get to visit the ships back and forth or tell us a little bit what you do now.

Whitney:

Yeah, yeah. So I have the privilege of working in a role in the HR team, where I actually get to oversee the ship HR team. So it’s truly a reward each day, knowing that I could support the volunteers on the ship, who were in the role that I was doing myself. And so in my role, I work remotely, but I interact very closely with the teams on their different needs, policies, anything that may come up as well. So I’m like the cheerleader and shoreside support for the HR director.

Raeanne:

Oh, that’s a great and having been on board yourself and lived what they’re going through, I’m sure you are an incredible asset to them. And just that perfect cheerleader, as you said, because you know, you’ve lived it. You’ve gone through it. Whitney, I know that we are entering a very exciting season of Mercy Ships. We’ve talked a lot about the Global Mercy coming online being built and coming online, which it is now in Sierra Leone with you on it. But in the first of the year, we will have two ships in service as the Africa Mercy comes out of its refit. What does that mean for you, in HR to have two ships going into field service?

Whitney:

Yeah, is a huge moment for our organization to have two very large hospital ships going into field service at the same time. And so for me, firstly, it means that we get to serve two different nations at the same time, which is an incredible blessing from the Lord that he would equip us to do so. And very practically, it also means there are a lot of HR needs, there are needs for people to back those ships. And so that’s one of my top focuses and things that keep me up at night is how do we make sure we have enough volunteers, to staff the ships so that we can serve two countries at the same time?

Raeanne:

How many volunteers are we talking about here? Like how many volunteers are on the Global Mercy? How many volunteers will be on the Africa Mercy?

Whitney:

So we have hundreds on each ship, right. And the Global Mercy will have close to 500 crew, the Africa Mercy close to 400 crew. But we also know that we need crew who are willing to come for even just short periods of time, for two weeks here, three weeks there. So when we think about how many volunteers we may need in the year to make that happen, we’re talking probably close to 3000 people a year. Volunteers, not applications of volunteers who have said yes, for these days, I’m ready to come for this role. And so it is definitely a milestone that we are relying heavily on God.

Raeanne:

Oh, close to 3000 people. So of these volunteers on board, Whitney, what are some of the critical needs? What kinds of roles are we currently looking for to come staff these two ships?

Whitney:

Yeah, yeah. And so I think when we talk about critical needs, we have lists on our websites that someone listening to this podcast could check that out. But there’s something really consistent that we need from any person in the next few months, or years — someone with the heart to serve, and to build. And so that’s our biggest critical need is for God to send the right volunteers for the task, because we want to build two hospital ships, we want our mission to be evident and we want our culture to be evident on both ships. And so first and foremost, critical needs and God sending the right people with the right heart to get the work done. Because it’s not just a matter of numbers. And after that, we think very practically, every department could use some help right now when we think about those ships, so we don’t necessarily have a department that’s over staffed right now. And so technical departments, right, we’re always looking for crew, especially those who are willing to come long term, to do things from a captain, to a deckhand, to an engine hand, to a person or receptionist in our hospital, always looking for nurses. And that’s especially one of the areas we’re really praying for as we go to two ships.

We know that there’s some challenges just globally, with nurses and certain countries experiencing nurse recruiting shortages. And of course, that impacts us as well. But we still need nurses to come. We pray that God places it on their hearts. That’s a critical need for both of our ships, especially when we think about next year. And a lot of people don’t know this, of course, they think we need captains and nurses, but we need a lot of general people as well. People in more operational roles. So I didn’t know that you would need HR people on the ship, but we do need HR people starting next summer. We will need finance people, we will pretty much need every single work type that you see on our website by next summer. And so we’re looking for those people now that are willing to come either on an urgent need, or starting next summer. And so if someone’s listening to this, we need all skill sets! And so I would encourage everyone to apply. And Lord willing within next year, sometime there will be a spot for them on board.

Raeanne:

If you’re listening to this right now, and you feel like your heart’s kind of racing a little bit, or your palms are getting a little sweaty, that just might be the Holy Spirit telling you, hey, this is something I want you to step out of your comfort zone and do. Leave your corporate job where you’re comfortable and happy because I have something even bigger for you. Who knows. Very exciting. Whitney, what do you think makes Mercy Ships, a different organization to volunteer with?

Whitney:

There are some really good organizations out there. Mercy Ships is just truly special. I know, I’m like a director in the organization and we’re supposed to have all this HR experience. But it really is an impossible operating model that we have. The fact that we have ships that are hospitals that are run

with volunteers from all over the world that is supported by national offices and an office in Texas, it is really a beautiful ministry that you can see God’s hand and because it’s pretty impossible to make that happen, right. For instance, like a lot of ships, they might be cruise ships or cargo ships, but they don’t necessarily have volunteers, or a hospital or people who aren’t seafarers on them. And so it really is a special environment to be a part of in terms of being a volunteer, and especially for those who feel like God’s calling them to something else. It’s a really nice environment to volunteer in for your first volunteer assignment. So it was very nice coming to the ship, and you have a community on board. You’re not alone, you’re surrounded by hundreds of people, there’s church on board, there’s small groups, there’s people who are always doing activities in town, you get to sail occasionally, if you’re here for sail, which is amazing, you’d get to see dolphins, and if you’re see sick, probably not as exciting, but truly a truly special environment. And honestly, the fact that it’s a ship is so dynamic. There aren’t a lot of ministries using ships out there. And so I think a lot of people will be challenged in ways that they have never been challenged before with that dynamic. But it’s a really beautiful opportunity to experience God.

Raeanne:

Absolutely. Such a unique environment, such a unique experience getting to serve on board. Well, if someone does want to come and join the mission of Mercy Ships, what are kind of the steps practically that people need to take in order to find themselves boarding one of our ships?

Whitney:

They should definitely apply on our website. And before they do, I always recommend checking the website. We have a lot of good information on our website in terms of what it’s like to be a volunteer. What are some of the rules, what are the different requirements as well to serve, so we don’t just go from application to flying you out to a ship. There’s some screenings that happened in between there. And so I think a lot of people who are considering it should really take a look at those different FAQs and different information so they can get an idea of what it’s like to serve. And also pray about it as well, because God might call them in a capacity that they weren’t expecting. We also have people of course, that match role for role, like I’ve met said the HR director, and I loved it. And we have people with PhDs working in the dining room, and they absolutely love it, and they bring so much value there. And that’s where God has called them. And so prayers are a very important part of the journey.

Raeanne:

Absolutely. That might be the number one part of the journey, is to prayerfully consider this but then get on the website to explore. I know even on YouTube, if you just look at Mercy Ships, there are so many incredible videos you can watch to kind of get a glimpse into life on board and what exactly we do and it sounds like even for you, it was one of those videos that really captured your heart and kind of said, Oh my gosh, I can’t look away. I just I want to be a part of this. So once someone has pursued this opportunity gotten on the website started the application process. What can they expect next? Will they be contacted by someone from Mercy Ships or what will happen after they send off their application?

Whitney:

So after they send off their application, there is a team that will review it. And those who are selected to move forward an interview with take place. And it’s also important for folks that know as well, there are some screenings that take place as well. And so it’s not a typical application process, we are sending people to ship, oftentimes in countries that are nowhere near their home countries. And so there’s different screenings we do to make sure that they’re medically okay. And so that process does take time. And it’s important for individuals to understand that and we’re really working on a lot of our systems as well to try to see processes. But for some, it could take a few months, for others, they may be filling the critical role, and it goes very fast for them. So it really does vary based on the role, based on the talent pool for that role. Based on for instance, if it’s a leadership position, there will be much more interviews, and then other roles as well. So it varies.

Raeanne:

It can take some time, you bring up a good point to talking about different screenings that happen, you do have to have a medical exam by your doctor. Because there are a lot of stairs involved on board. You know, some people with bad knees, it’s kind of it’s a tough place to get around if you have some knee issues, but it’s also just a unique environment. So being healthy is always very important. Let’s say that we’ve gone through the whole process, we are welcomed on board, what can people expect, when they get on board one of our vessels?

Whitney:

What they can expect is probably the unexpected, and so there’s no ego. But there is definitely much to experience when you get on board. And so it’s not as a predictable environment as for instance, like a corporate HR setting that I would go through. There could be things like drills, there are dynamics that maybe would impact my normal work day to day, where we’re working and living in the same community. And so sometimes it’s very helpful for someone to come to the ship and really hold their expectations loosely, they should expect to see God, they should expect to be surrounded by a great people, they should expect to do work that they find personally fulfilling. But it’s a very unique environment, the dynamic can change because we have rotating crew coming and going constantly. So they want to just hold their expectations loosely, regarding maybe housing, like having to get assigned to maybe even roles that they aren’t used to. Sometimes our needs change at the last minute. And so maybe we need to change someone’s shift to accommodate a surgery that didn’t quite go as planned. And so I always encourage crew who were coming, especially crew who have done everything to keep their expectations high and be excited, but also to be flexible to know that this is a very unique environment. And it will probably not be exactly how you expected it. And for those who can adapt, I find that their transition is a much more successful one.

Raeanne:

Absolutely, expect the unexpected. I know I did not expect popcorn Tuesday. Every Tuesday popcorn is served on the ship. I did not expect waffle Friday, where you get waffles every Friday during break time. Ice cream every Thursday night after community meetings. I did not expect these things. But let me tell you now my three kids do expect those things. Let’s have popcorn Tuesday, let’s have ice cream every Thursday. There are so many fun things and I kind of kid, but you expect the unexpected and find fun and joy. But also there are some different challenges. I didn’t expect to be working in housekeeping for a little bit. I didn’t expect you know different world changes but my goodness, it was so rewarding. The different crew I got to meet as my role onboard changed. Month after month things transpired and changed a little bit. So yes, to be flexible to come with open hands to expect the unexpected is very important. Whitney I know that God is bringing Mercy Ships into a new season and we are all so excited to see him provide extravagantly for the needs that we have in staffing two ships. So as we close our time together, Whitney how would you encourage people that are listening to come volunteer with us?

Whitney:

I hope If you’re listening to this, and you’re on the fence, that will be normal, I wasn’t convinced that God for sure called me to give up my corporate job and to go volunteer with Mercy Ships until stepped foot up the gangway of the ship. There was some hesitation, there was a lot of moments where I was uncomfortable and unsure up until when I got to the ship. But what I’ll say is, if it’s something that you feel like God is placing on your heart, that this something that you’re considering prayerfully, he will show up, he will show up in your needs, he will show up with things like support raising, he will show up with removing barriers in your current life. For instance, I had to get rid of an apartment and to sell belongings, and he took care of all those things. If he wants you here, he will make away. And it’s not about remembering what you gave up either. I don’t miss that old job that I had. Seeing all that I have received here at Mercy Ships.

Raeanne:

That is so good. And I agree, friends, what you receive is far more than what you give up. And isn’t that the way that God works anyways, he multiplies. You know, when we fully surrendered to him, he just lavishes us with incredible blessings and gifts that only can come from him. So maybe your gift from God is awaiting you right now on board one of our vessels. So we encourage you to apply and find out the ways that you can come and use your gifts and talents, your professional experience to make a difference in the lives of those who are in need around the world and especially in West Africa. Whitney, thank you so much for all that you do. We are so grateful for you. We are so grateful that you said yes to God to leave your corporate job. And even upon returning to that job God still just tugged at your heart. Obviously, he has transformed you in many ways. And I know you’re doing great things even onboard right now. And we have a lot of needs to staff both ships next year. So if you’re listening to this, and you want to apply them, please go to opportunities.mercy ships.org And come find your place on board. Come serve with us. Whitney, thank you for all you do. And thank you for sharing with us today.

Whitney:

And I think everyone who is listening right now I want to encourage everyone to go to the website. And specifically take a look at the opportunities that are there. You may see one of those open positions and see your neighbor or your doctor or a cousin in that role and you may feel compelled to share it with them. We need people to come, we need people to share the message that there are openings as well.

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.