Mercy Ships, a global charity, has operated a growing fleet of hospital ships in developing nations since 1978. Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the poor, mobilizing people and resources worldwide.
My name is Tyrone Barton. Since May of 2001, I have been with Mercy Ships aboard the M/V Caribbean Mercy, the smallest of three ships. We serve Central America and the Caribbean. My job title aboard the ship is Executive Chef/Chief Cook.
I am a volunteer; my financial support comes from family, friends, and my home church. This is a full-time job for me; I live on this ship and have dedicated my skills and talents to the Lord's work with a grateful heart.
One of my first experiences aboard the ship that still sticks in my mind today is a conversation with a person I can't even remember, which is probably good because the conversation left me upset and offended. I was asked the usual - what's your job, how long are you here, what do you do with your time off?
In my time off, I caught up with my reading, prayer, and devotional time, did my laundry, studied various culinary books I brought with me, relaxed and did a myriad of other things. At the end of answering that question, the person looked at me point blank and said, "So actually, you didn't do anything". What do you mean -- I didn't do anything? You didn't go out to do outreach work with medical teams? You didn't work with well drilling? What about evangelism? And the list goes on...
Obviously, the Lord has given me wisdom to see through that narrow view -- because I am still here 3 years later.
We see the importance that cooking and food have played throughout the whole Bible - from sacrifices and feasts, blessings of one of the twelve tribes, specific diets, fasting, spiritual lessons, parables, and last but not least, the many miracles in Jesus' ministry involving food and wine. This is our mission, this is what we do -- from the blessings of Jacob, to the tribe of Asher in Genesis (Gen 49:20), to the thousand-year-reign talked about in Zechariah (Zech 14:20,21), we should see that our skills and abilities are important to God.
Please do not be dismayed or ashamed because you can't "swing through the jungle", translate the Bible, and/or be on the "front lines". 1 Cor. 15:26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Cor. 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Whether working a relentless job for a demanding profession that gives you a paycheck or doing the same job for a ministry that doesn't give you a paycheck and actually asks that you pay crew fees and insurance, and you have to be able to support yourself, your skills and talents (Ex 35:31) have gotten you where you are -- make the most of them! Share the love of Jesus in your workplace, your home, and your church. Having a mission is easy -- Jesus has already given you the commission (Matt 28: 19, 20). Carrying it out may take some figuring out and a lot of faith and boldness.
I would like to end by saying that we (Christians) always seem to associate "fellowship" with eating, even though that is not necessarily true. In joining Christian Chefs Fellowship, I have not cooked a thing! But I have been 'fed' a lot!