Drawing with Light

Photography connects humans across the world every moment of every day — a photograph can speak without words and has the power to inspire. The coining of the word “photography” finds it roots in the Greek φῶς (phōs) meaning “light” and γραφή (graphê) meaning “drawing, writing” — photography means to “draw with light”.

The world has a French painter named Louis Daguerre to thank for the invention of photography (cite), and #WorldPhotographyDay celebrates the day in history when his invention was presented to the world patented as a “free gift” on August 19, 1839.

Mercy Ships is particularly grateful for the gift of photography, because it allows us the privilege to share the stories of our special patients with the world — patients like Adama, a young mother unable to see her twins until a cataract surgery restored her sight. Or a patient like Samory, who can now return to school after his pain and shame were removed with his facial tumor.

Thanks to photography, we are able to share these journeys of dignity and transformation around the globe and celebrate them together. By “drawing with light,” we are all somehow drawn more closely together.


Behind the Camera

On this World Photography Day, we’d like to switch the frame to the opposite side of the camera and share what it’s like to be a photographer with Mercy Ships. It’s a very important job and we’re grateful for the special photographers that have shared both their incredible skill and their lives with us as part of our volunteer community onboard.

Justine Forrest (GBR)

Justine was working as a photographer for a lifestyle magazine as well as shooting portraits and weddings before relocating her family to the Africa Mercy — her husband, Dave, as the school principal and two of her daughters attending the Academy onboard. With a passion for photography and connecting with people to tell their stories, working as a photographer with Mercy Ships was her dream job.

Mercy Ships is grateful for you, Justine!

What was your favorite picture taken while serving with us? And why?

Justine: This [picture] was shot at my first home visit in a village in Madagascar. I love it just because of the pure joy on these boys’ faces and it is something that resonated with me the whole time I was serving with Mercy Ships. The simplicity of life what could be viewed as overwhelming poverty and lack by western standards was in fact full of life, richness, community, and immense joy. These boys were also pretty pleased with themselves as they had just climbed up the coconut tree in their yard and delivered several fresh coconuts for us to enjoy!

Can you tell us what your service with Mercy Ships meant to you?

Justine: Serving with Mercy Ships with part of my family is still one of the best things I have done. For me to use my skills, which are in no way medical, to serve onboard was fabulous. And to be part of a village of like-minded people all serving God, each other, and the people of the country where we were docked was extra special. For me, personally, realizing my love of languages and my desire to be able to communicate with others was life changing. Being able to learn some of the local languages where we spent our time  — surprising and delighting patients and others out in the community with those languages was such a blessing to them and also to me. It is one of those things that you do that changes people’s lives but you are also incredibly blessed and changed so much so that your life and your perspectives will never be the same again.


Saul Loubassa Bighonda (COG)

Saul served onboard the Africa Mercy as a photographer for two field services. Always a team player, Saul also served in the Engineering ,  Deck , Supply t, and Housekeeping departments!

Mercy Ships is grateful for you, Saul!

What was your favorite picture taken while serving with us? And why?

Saul: I love this picture! The explosion of color, the fun, and happiness in it brings back so many good memories and joy! It shows a different aspect of life on the ship that you can only experience on the Africa Mercy. It reminds me of the community onboard a very diverse community, made up of different kinds of people from different countries, backgrounds, and experiences, who despite their differences, come together to achieve a common goal, and do so in a way that accommodates everybody.

Can you tell us what your service with Mercy Ships meant to you?

Saul: My service meant a lot to me. It was a time of much needed growth. I was able to have experiences that I would not have had if I had not made the decision to serve. This time helped me become a better person in all aspects of my life.


Why Volunteer?

Why serve with Mercy Ships? The common threads of motivation that weave through our crew — including volunteers like Saul and Justine — are the opportunities to work in community with people who share a common mission, and to use their skills to make a difference. There are so many more important stories to tell and patients to serve, and volunteers make this mission possible.

Find your place onboard with us at mercyships.org/volunteer.