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A Second Officer’s Journey to Purpose

Swedish mariner Tommie Kristensson has had a lifelong career at sea, starting when he was just 17 years old.

“That’s basically what I’ve been doing my entire life,” he shared. “You may say it’s a very natural environment to work on a ship.”

Yet despite his years of experience and education, he felt that something was missing. Tommie believed he was still searching for his direction in life.

“For a long time after academy was done, I think I had a hard time finding a good purpose with my work, because as a sailor you come down, you work six to eight weeks in one get-go, and then you get home for six to eight weeks,” he said. “For me, life was starting to stagnate quite a bit, and that is also when I started to think more about how I want to do some volunteering, because I want to give my life a better purpose than what I had.”

That’s when Tommie saw that Mercy Ships needed a mariner with exactly his skillset to work on board its fleet of hospital ships. Crewed by volunteers from around the world, the fleet delivers state-of-the-art free surgical care and surgical education in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I was scrolling through LinkedIn, and voila!”

Mercy Ships was hiring Second and Third officers, asking for a volunteer with the kind of expertise that Tommie could offer. Realizing that his skills made him capable for more than a job, and that he could make a direct impact on the lives of people who need a change for good, Tommie’s purpose felt clear: “I feel like I could give some more to this world.” He applied, and the rest is still unfolding.

Finding Purpose as a Maritime Volunteer with Mercy Ships

Today, Tommie volunteers as the Second Officer on board the Global Mercy, whose volunteer crew is currently providing free surgical care to those in need and additional medical training and education to local healthcare professionals in Sierra Leone. In his role, Tommie has his hands full with the care and safety of everyone on board.

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“The nature of this ship is there’s not many sailors,” he observed. “So, there’s a lot of time we need to take teaching people on the ship about basic maritime safety.”

What is born from a need creates strong bonds and clear purpose, and the contrast with his former life was obvious to Tommie: “You work on a cargo ship, it’s a very small building, and you live with maybe twelve to thirteen people for six to eight weeks straight. You don’t get to really see anyone else. Here, you have this big open ship that you can go around in, and the whole crew is together, and there’s this sense of this special community we have here on the ship, and a lot of people to meet.”

Change Within, Change Without

For Tommie, being a part of making hope and healing tangible has led to transformation for others — and also for himself. 

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“A lot of people have definitely noticed a change with me after coming here to Mercy Ships,” he shared. “It is my experience with Mercy Ships that has truly changed my way of seeing life.”

One of these changes has been a reinvigorated sense of purpose behind becoming a mariner.

“Here, you use your expertise, you use your knowledge that you gained from spending a long time in school, to actually deliver hope and healing,” he said. “That’s one of the best purposes I think anyone can have.”

Have you been searching for a place of purpose, where your professional experience and skills make a lasting difference? Wondering what volunteer opportunities are available? There are currently openings available for officer positions as well as many other roles, from maritime to medical. Apply today and get ready to find your place on board.