Our Story

We are an ordinary family of six, doing ordinary things, in a not so ordinary environment.  We serve with Mercy Ships,  a non-governmental organization, that focuses on bringing hope and healing to the poor of Western Africa through free, specialized surgeries onboard our ship, the Africa Mercy.  For more information on Mercy Ships and the Africa Mercy please go to the Mercy Ships website.

So, how did we end up here?  Well, we were living in Snohomish, Washington where we attended Central Christian Church.  Peter was working as a firefighter/EMT with the Snohomish Fire Department and Dara was homeschooling our three children.  Each year our church has a 'missions month', where different missionaries are highlighted and some come to speak about their ministries.  One Sunday Tom and Christine Sine (Aroney) came to speak about their mission, Mustard Seed Associates.  Christine mentioned, while reviewing her bio, that she had been a surgeon on a hospital ship called the Anastasis with an organization called Mercy Ships.  That really piqued Dara's curiosity and she said then, "I don't know when but I'm going to go to Africa some day".  However, at the time we had three young children and didn't really look into Mercy Ships.

About six months later Peter was reading a book called Educational Travel on a Shoestring, which had a section on serving as a family.  One of the featured ministries was Mercy Ships.  We felt it was not a coincidence that Mercy Ships, an organization we had never heard of six months before, had come up again in an unexpected place.  We decided to check out their website and then decided to ask for an application to attend their week long Introduction to Mercy Ships (IMS) course.  We took about three months to fill out the application with Peter working on it during breaks at the fire department on the manual type writer.

After sending the applications off we heard back fairly quickly that we were accepted to come to the IMS course.  In April of 2006 we left the kids with Dara's mom and flew to Dallas and then drove to landlocked, rural East Texas - home to the Mercy Ships International Operations Center (IOC).  Immediately after arriving we felt such a strong sense of God's peace.  We felt sure that this is what he had called us to.  Towards the end of the week we were invited to come back in August for the (then) three month long Gateway course; a more indepth study of Mercy Ships, their philosophy of missions, living in a cross-cultural environment, understanding world view, and other aspects of preparing us to serve in world missions.  The Human Resources department told us then that, while we were welcome to come to the Gateway coures, they did not have any family cabins available on the Africa Mercy, which was still in northern England being converted from a rail ferry to a state of the art hospital ship.  They could, however, offer us positions at the IOC following Gateway.

We flew back to Washington, Peter quit his job at the fire department, we sold our home and most of our belongings, were commissioned by our home church, said goodbye to family and friends, and moved to East Texas in August of 2006.  Our family loved the Gateway course, especially the outreach portion when we got to spend 4 weeks in the Dominican Republic helping out in a Haitian village.

At the end of the course Peter was offered a 'position' (we say 'position' here becuase it was completely volunteer) as Assistant Safety Manager in the Marine Operations division.  Dara had the more important role of being a full time mom to our kids.  She also volunteered part time in the Anchorage Cafe on base.  Grace was attending Van Elementary School and Elijah and Malachi were being homeschooled by Dara.

In late March of 2007 Peter was requested to fly to northern England to participate in the sea trials of the Africa Mercy, which was just finishing an eight year conversion.  We requested for Dara to come as well.  Once again Dara's mom came to the rescue and flew down to Texas to stay with the kids for a couple of weeks while we flew to England.

We fell in love with the Africa Mercy the first time we saw her.  Our time on board was phenomenal, with Peter working in the Deck Department and Dara working in Reception.  The highlight was an Easter morning sunrise service on deck 8, watching the sun come up over the Atlantic.  Unfortunately, as much as we loved it and the crew seemed to like us, there still was not a family cabin available for us.  Two years was about the soonest they thought something may be available.

So, we finished our two weeks on the Africa Mercy disappointed that a cabin would not be available but still content to be serving at the IOC and with Mercy Ships.  Well, God had a huge blessing in store for us.  A couple of days after we returned to the IOC a representative from Human Resources offered us a long-term family cabin on the Africa Mercy.  Peter accepted the position of Food Services Manager with responsibility for catering operations onboard (the then Food Services Manager ended up leaving earlier than expected).

We were packed up, on a flight to England, and boarding the Africa Mercy on May 1st 2001, just three days before she set sail on her maiden voyage from England to Liberia and only three weeks after we were asked to go.

A lot has happened since then.  We now have four children (Grace, Elijah, Malachi, and Xavier); Peter's role changed to Chief Steward and for seven years he was responsible for Crew Services (housekeeping, laundry, library, etc.), Stewards Stores (ordering, receiving, and distributing all 'goods' for the department), and Hospitality in addtion to catering operations (Galley and Dining Room).  He then served for one year as Field Security Officer. Dara became the Nursery Teacher onboard.  We have had the joy of serving in Liberia, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Benin, Togo, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea, The Republic of Congo, and Madagascar.  We have now transitioned back to the Unites States Peter serves in Maritime Training.

We have walked through joys, hardships, frustrations, miracles, financial struggles, beauty, questions of personal significance, have seen lives changed and people healed, and, through it all, have seen God's love and faithfulness at work in our lives and in the world around us.