The Covid-19 pandemic brought much a world to a stop, and many of us found ourselves hunkered down in our homes under lockdown. Hear Priscilla Lee share her story of missions with ANGEL MAE and SHIWEI QUEK, as she endured a months-long lockdown and pandemic onboard the missionary ship Logos Hope, journeying the seas for almost two years.
Meeting Priscilla on Zoom, we were struck by the world map above her bed, a fitting reminder of her two years travelling the seas aboard the Logos Hope ship. From September 2019 to August 2021, Priscilla served as a community-engagement volunteer and graphic designer, doing missions work like teaching English to Brazilian kids, street evangelism, interacting with homeless people, facilitating international showcases onboard the ship, and assisting in operating the world’s largest floating bookstore. She rattled off a list of countries she visited — Barbados, Brazil, St. Lucia, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Curaçao, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago. They sounded like honeymoon destinations and conjure up images of Pirates of the Caribbean! Straightforward and sincere, Priscilla felt like an old friend whom one wants to catch up with, after living out an adventure of a lifetime.
Why did you choose to serve God in missions on board Logos Hope?
I actually received a prophecy from a pastor’s daughter who said that one day, I would share the gospel on an international scale. I have kept that in mind since I was a teenager. I didn’t know about the ship, but I let myself be exposed to opportunities relating to evangelism and missions to see for myself whether this prophecy was actually from God. In 2018, at the GoForth missions conference, I learnt about Operations Mobilisation (OM) and Logos Hope. Interestingly, one month before I went to the conference, I had a friend who received a painting. It’s a scene of the sea, and in the middle, there’s a full moon, and a boat. When she gave me the painting, I asked her, “What is this for?” She said, “I don’t know, I only know it’s for you.” When I was reflecting on what I had taken away from the conference, suddenly the painting came into my consciousness. And the question that popped up in my mind, as if God was asking me, was, “Do you want to consider going on board the ship?” Yeah, so that’s how it started.
What was it like doing missions on board Logos Hope?
It was a great, great, great challenge, but I matured a lot. I started off my time on board on a difficult note because I was struggling with my purpose on the ship. Other than one week a day when I got to interact with the locals, I was just working in the ship kitchen, scrubbing the pots and pans, sometimes preparing food for the ship crew members. There were 400–500 people on board before the pandemic, and we had to prepare three meals a day.
When the pandemic hit, I experienced a lot of grief for nearly a year because my close friends left the ship one after another. When the pandemic started, the airports stayed closed or countries were waiting to lockdown. So whenever there was an opportunity to get chartered flights from their countries’ embassies, they quickly seized the opportunity to return home. It was always very sudden. Some of them gave me two weeks’ notice, or even left in a day. The worst was a friend who left in two hours. On top of that, there was no ministry work. I was really struggling with my purpose there and the overwhelmingly difficult emotions.
How did the pandemic change things?
The greatest hit was on the book fair. Before the pandemic, a lot of locals would come on board to buy books and interact with the international community because it was very rare for them to meet international people. The books are cheaper than local rates, so it gives them an incentive to come on board. We had to close the book fair for 16 months before we moved it on shore so it was convenient for locals to buy books. But even then it wasn’t, of course, as big as the book fair on the ship. We also waited for seven months to finally be able to have weekly ministry work.
But God is working mightily during the pandemic, even today. For more than a year, He kept 250 to 300 crew members on the ship safe from the Covid-19 virus. I think that is a miracle, because there were so many of us, and if one person gets it, the whole ship can get infected because ventilation is poor. Last year, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government provided free Covid-19 vaccination for the ship crew members. That continued to keep us safe, which is not something that comes along easily. We were in the Caribbean area for 20 months and we thank God there wasn’t any danger from pirates. We had funding issues due to the pandemic, and there were times when we didn’t have enough food. We had to ration our food because of shipping container delay issues, but God made sure that we had enough till the containers came in. There were times we almost ran out of water when we were locked down in Jamaica, but thank God He provided adequate water throughout the two years.
I WAS REALLY STRUGGLING WITH MY PURPOSE THERE AND THE OVERWHELMINGLY DIFFICULT EMOTIONS.
What kept you going during the tough times on the ship?
The first three months while we were in lockdown, it still felt alright because we still had a routine and continued to work in our departments. There were times when my mum asked me, ‘’Do you want to come back home and go back to the ship when the situation is better?” Some of my friends decided to shorten their time on Logos Hope. I had to decide for myself what to do. “What should I do during these remaining months on board?” That caused a lot of anxieties for more than a year and lot of helplessness. I felt quite depressed as well. I was homesick and after a year I slipped into a stage where I didn’t feel emotions anymore. I’m very grateful to God that He gave me a strong conviction and also adequate finances to stay on board. If not, I would have given up and come home. I had close friends on board that I could confide in, which is really a blessing, because it’s not easy to find friends that one can easily click with. I often forgot that they are from another country because we could be so real with each other. My mum also initiated more catch-ups with my family. The internet on the ship was really quite bad, so the times I could do video calls with friends and family helped a lot.
What impacted you most on the ship?
We learned some basic eye check-ups that we could do for people, and I was in charge of giving out prescription glasses with the degree that fit their level of eyesight. In St. Lucia, what hit me was seeing the smile on their faces after receiving a simple pair of glasses. I asked them, “How will this actually impact your daily life?” The context is that they went through a hurricane in September 2019,
IN THE HURRICANE, THEY LOST THEIR EYEGLASSES, FOR MORE THAN A YEAR, THEY COULDN’T SEE PROPERLY.
and right after that, the pandemic hit, so it was a double blow for them. They lost their jobs, family members, accommodations, and their children couldn’t go to school for more than a year. In the hurricane, some lost their eyeglasses. For more than a year, they couldn’t see properly. With the glasses, they now had the ability to go back to their jobs and lifestyles before the hurricane. It was quite a significant improvement. Through this ministry work, it hit me that I really want to be equipped with a particular skill to bring practical help to people. I was talking to a friend who does social work, and she told me, “You’re very suitable to do social work.” I’m slowly entering into the social sector because of the impact of the ship’s eyeglasses ministry and have enrolled into Singapore Bible College’s School of Counselling.
What is the one thing you hope our readers take away from your story?
No matter how difficult the situation is, when everything comes to a stop and we are not sure how things will turn out, we may long for the past, but in fact something new is birthing. We can still hang on and go through the process with the daily grace and mighty strength of God.