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Back from the Top of the World!

I'm back from Iceland, the Top of the World, Land of Fire and Ice, Land of the Midnight Sun. What a fascinating island nation. The Arctic Circle runs through the edge of it. Tectonic plates dividing Europe and North America run through the middle. Whales are frequent visitors. Polar bears are rare visitors. Puffins are weird-looking visitors. I was a recent visitor.

My two weeks there were spent aboard the Logos II operated by OM Ships. Two hundred missionaries from forty-five countries, ages ranging from 20's to 70's live, work, and serve from this ship. None are paid a salary. Everyone from captain to galley crew are missionaries who raise their own support to be there. Remarkable. I was there to interview people, take pictures, and write stories about what I learned. My innate curiosity made this a natural for me.

I wondered what everybody did all day so I went around asking. Galley cooks cook. Engineers run engines. Accommodations crew clean the accommodations. IT guys keep the computer network up and running. Communications communicate reports by e-mail of activities to OM Ships offices around the world. AV guys take video and photo records of everything to go with those communications.

The captain -- what does he actually do, I asked? He doesn't steer the ship but he sees to it that somebody does, and that all vessel operations from bow to stern go as smoothly as possible. This was critical on the voyage to Iceland when gale force winds struck. Many were violently seasick and mothers and children camped out on the dining room floor, the most stable ship location.

Everything outside and in had to be lashed or taped down, books crated as well as dishes - just think how many dishes two hundred people go through in a day! A few things did fly out of cupboards and break, but this crew has lots of experience preparing for storms and except for their stomachs, weathered it well. I'm glad I arrived several days later.

I asked the steward how food was ordered. Fresh meat, vegetables and fruit were purchased when economically feasible from local suppliers. It can be a challenge to plan meals compatible with taste buds from 45 different countries. Menus included lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, cabbage, sweet pickles, peppers and corn. Pasta and cheese, broccoli or cauliflower, rice with sausage, chicken or pork, bananas and oranges, coffee 24 hours a day (yay!). Scrambled eggs, cooked or dried cereal and fresh milk, plus bread of many varieties - I always enjoyed meal times. The dining room is not just for meals but for Bible study and small meetings, with wireless laptops in use here and there.

Teachers teach. Yep, there's kindergarten and school on the Logos II, utilizing the British educational system. A very low teacher-pupil ratio provides excellent educational opportunities, and just think about the field trips! The UFO (unidentified finance office, location unmarked for protection) exchanged current currency for kronars and kept meticulous financial records.

OM Ships are known as the "Book Ships." Their primary ministry is providing educational and Christian books and Bibles around the world for a low price. In some ports books and Bibles are donated, as in the Caribbean after a hurricane destroyed the local library and church. It can be hectic when wall-to-wall customers are winding their way through the aisles. I learned to turn my name tag over in the Book Fair - I simply didn't know how much that was in kronas, etc..

Doctors doctor and nurses nurse in the ship clinic, except for several not needed this trip who were serving on deck or elsewhere. I interviewed the lady doctor from Germany, a Family Practice physician with special training in Tropical Diseases. (This ship has spent many months in tropical waters in the past.) Most ailments treated are minor, thankfully.

Then there's programming. No, not computer programming, planning mission programs for port visits, onboard and on shore. This included an Open Air event adjoining a modern bank building and an open-air coffee shop ($8 per cup, a bit much for even coffee-loving me). A stage was set up where testimonies, dramas and songs were presented in 20-minute segments throughout the day. Each segment was themed. European, South American, and African crewmembers wore their native dress and performed native Christian music. Interludes allowed opportunities to talk one-on-one and issue invitations to tour the ship, berthed just a few blocks away.

Conferences, receptions, special events for teenagers, youngsters and their parents (separate, of course) were happening onboard most days of the week. Tours were conducted. El Capitano welcomed school kids. The International Cafe served coffee, tea and cookies and crewmembers answered lots of questions - who are you, where are you from, why are you here?

All crewmembers have regular jobs but they have ministry days too. One day they painted a rehab center, another day scrubbed a building housing brain-damaged drug addicts. Some gave day-care workers a break, teaching Bible stories and giving laughs and hugs to toddlers. Sundays found them in local churches sharing personal stories with information about the ship ministry. Ship-board worship was led by one of the half-dozen praise bands, the sermon offered by one of the crew or an invited guest.

On days off in Iceland some crew went camping, some sight-seeing. Some went whale-watching. Others took the seven-hour Golden Circle tour of the active volcano area, waterfall, glacier, Blue Lagoon, and the rough terrain where North America meets Europe. Public swimming pools were cheap. Since Iceland is geothermically heated, you can swim in warm and cozy waters outdoors even when the air is quite chilly. I window-shopped, talked to shopkeepers and took photos.

I'm running out of room today - more about Iceland and the Logos II later. In the meantime, if you'd like to receive the monthly OM Ships Carolina Connection newsletter and weekly e-mail updates, e-mail me at

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