[notice]Part 2 of an article by ANDRE VILJOEN based on a recent interview with Peter Nicoll, CEO of OM Ships International. (See Part 1) [/notice]
“So the ships ministry has literally touched millions of people,” I remarked as I perused a brochure with impressive facts and figures about the activities of OM Ships International since its launch in 1970.
“Yes, but God is not interested in the millions; He’s interested in the individuals who make up the millions,” said Peter Nicoll, CEO of OM Ships International during a recent interview in Port Elizabeth.
Down Maritime Memory Lane
Being the head of one of one of the world’s most memorable missionary brands brings OM Ships International CEO, Peter Nicoll, into contact with people from all over the world who have fond memories of the famous ‘book ships’. On his plane flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, where I interviewed him, Nicoll said he ended up sitting next to the sales manager of a company in Sri Lanka, where Logos Hope is currently visiting. The businessman told him he remembered visiting the first Logos ship when it was berthed in Colombo 20 years ago. He was a young boy at the time and he still uses the dictionary he bought on the OM ship. He says when he gets back to Sri Lanka he will ask his company to sponsor some people from poor rural areas to visit the Logos Hope.
“We see that over and over again,” he continued. “In the Phillippines [where the OM ship Logos Hope spent some months undergoing maintenance in 2012] we had a businessman who helped with some of the preparations for our visit there. He was not a believer but his heart was good and he wanted to do something for his community. And when the ship came into port our guys noticed that he spent time on board every day and they asked: ‘What’s going on here?’.
“Eventually he [the businessman] confessed and said: ‘You know there’s something here that just has gripped me and I realise there’s a reality of God here that I need’. And then one of our guys was able to lead him to faith in Christ before we left.”
Nicoll pointed out that encountering the reality of 60 nationalities of people who have given their lives to Christ, and live and serve together as volunteers on the ship, often does make a significant impact on visitors.
Logos Hope is OM’s fourth and current ship and like its predecessors takes ‘the world’s largest floating book fair’ from port to port. Many South Africans, like myself, will remember visiting former OM ship, the Doulos, when it was in SA in 2003. The Doulos was retired from service in 2009, because it became too expensive to maintain.
“Otherwise it [the Doulos]would be turning 100 years old next year, “said Nicoll.
He said Logos Hope, which was once a passenger car ferry, is double the size of Doulos. The 5 000-title book exhibition which was open to the elements on Doulos is housed in an air conditioned space on Logos Hope and provides many visitors with their first opportunity to purchase quality educational and Christian literature at affordable prices. Other new visitor-friendly facilities on the larger vessel include an audiovisual gospel presentation and an international café. The bigger ship offers more opportunities for onboard ministry and crew interaction with visitors and receives about a million visitors a year.
Prior to her arrival in Sri Lanka, the Logos Hope visited Singapore, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. And in the months ahead she will spend time in several countries in the Arabian Gulf: Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Reputation for integrity
Nicoll said the ship gets invited to some surprising places because of its reputation for integrity in respecting local cultures and authorities, and because of its track record of bringing genuine, caring humanitarian service.
In addition to the ministry opportunities on board the ship, team members make the most of opportunities to serve people in many different ways onshore, where they are often used to demonstrate God’s love for individual people and communities.
For instance, a month ago, in the Philippines, a Logos Hope team was conducting free eye tests and giving away spectacles in an area just 30km outside the capital, Manila. One man started weeping after he received his spectacles. He said he hadn’t been able to read his Bible for three years – and he is the local pastor!
Another team went inland to bless communities with water purifiers and other practical gifts. To reach one village they spent eight hours climbing a mountain. The people in the village said they hadn’t seen anybody from the outside for 13 years.
Nicoll became CEO of OM Ships International in 2009 after establishing and developing OM International HR Services, focusing on leadership development from 2004 to 2009. Having served with his wife, Bernice, and children for six and a half years on the first OM ship, Logos, and for two years on the Doulos, he has a long and deep heart connection with the unique ships ministry. He was pastoring a church in Grahamstown in the 1980s and had barely heard of OM’s ship ministry when God clearly called the family to embark on an adventure that changed the course of their lives.
He said the ship ministry turned out to be a perfect match for the Nicoll’s gifts and desires.
“I am a pastor by background and just being able to oversee and nurture a community of people into discipleship, maturity and using their gifts for God was most fulfilling.”
Need another ship
Asked when the Logos Hope will visit South Africa, he said: “It is impossible to serve the world with just one ship. We haven’t been to Latin America for14 to 15 years and they are desperate for us to come. We would like to come to South Africa more regularly but we simply need another ship.”
He said the ministry will acquire a new ship. When and what kind of vessel is the focus of much research by his team.
Nicoll, who is based in England, said he personally tries to visit South Africa each year to pursue ministry partnership needs. He said SA is seen as one of the most significant OM fields in terms of sending and training missionaries. Many people from other nations choose to undergo training with OM SA because of its respected cross cultural training programme which produces people who are prepared for what they will face. South Africans who go overseas are often quickly engaged in significant ministry and many rise to leadership.
During this year’s visit, Nicoll appointed Pierre Dennis of Cape Town to head up a strategic new portfolio of OM Ships Partnership Development in South Afria. Dennis, who has been with OM for more than 20 years and who has regularly served on OM ships, will be responsible for recruiting intercessors, volunteer crew and sponsors to support OM’s ongoing and expanding ministry.