The digital age has arrived – for those with the technology. But for countless millions, access to computers, broadband internet and fax machines remains out of reach. To many in the developing world the printed word is still the main method of communicating information.
Realising this, OM Ships International operates floating book-fairs that bring educational literature to port communities around the world. To date, the vessels Logos, Logos II and Doulos have called at 150 countries and distributed close to 30 million books.
Each ship is operated by an all-volunteer international crew of Christians. Through generous agreements with book publishers, the literature on board is offered at prices affordable to citizens of developing countries.
Earlier this year, visitors to Logos II in Jamaica bought an average of one Bible every minute. Islanders in the Seychelles queued outside the port gate overnight to make sure they were first in line to come on board Doulos.
In areas of particular need, the crew donate stocks of literature to libraries, colleges and universities. Educational institutions in Sri Lanka, damaged by the December 2004 tsunami, gratefully accepted books worth £16,000 during the Doulos visit in January.
Logos II Book-Fair Manager Ginny Newell (USA) personally co-ordinated a large donation of literature to assist a government literacy drive in the Caribbean island of St Vincent. Crew also regularly participate in development projects and medical relief in the different countries the ships visit.
Accompanying this practical work, each vessel offers conferences and teaching seminars to further assist local communities. Onboard facilities allow several hundred people to attend programmes covering a wide range of subjects – from pastors’ workshops to AIDS presentations for teenagers. The conference rooms also host daily devotional sessions for the crew and weekly prayer meetings.
The logistics of operating such a ministry are complex. There is an ongoing shortage of qualified deck officers and marine engineers serving on board. The vessels must also comply with international shipping regulations.
Each year, an average of one million people come on board, stretching resources and the crew. To meet that need, a new and larger vessel, Logos Hope, is currently being renovated in a Croatian shipyard. With sufficient finances and crew, Logos Hope offers the possibility for OM Ships International to continue serving the world’s neediest people.