Seeing children's faith grow

written by Emmeline Devan

As a single person, John Benn (South Africa), a pastor's son, volunteered with Logos Hope from 2008 to 2010. It was during this stint that he met his wife, Dane (South Africa), who came to visit her sister as she served on board. Dane, whose parents also worked with Operation Mobilisation, never wanted to join the ship.

"I did not want to join missions! I had grown up with it all my life!" says Dane, who chose a career in nursing instead. After marriage and two children – Cori and Lily – John trained with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), whose base was coincidentally near the Benns’ home, and continued on as staff. He had thought that when the children were older, perhaps, they might rejoin Logos Hope. It was as Dane sat in church one Sunday that she became aware of God calling her into mission. She resigned from her job and enrolled on the same YWAM training John had been through.

Whilst on an outreach to Tanzania in November 2019, the Benns decided to join Logos Hope. "We thought that John could go as a cook, and I as a nurse when we saw these vacant positions advertised," explains Dane. John has a culinary diploma and worked in the galley when he was with the ship before. "That was the carrot on the stick that God used to 'lure' us! We believe that He has called us long-term to care for people serving in mission," Dane says. "We felt that Logos Hope was the right first step, so when God opened the door, we stepped through."

Just three weeks after finalising the decision, the family had returned to South Africa, packed up their things and arrived at their pre-ship training in Jamaica. "Everything just fell into place. Our visas only came through the day we were leaving! God's hand was on the matter. There were so many ways we could have been prevented from coming, but we weren't."

As a former working mum, Dane felt that God knew she needed a slow transition to full-time mission by first joining YWAM. On the ship, mothers are not assigned to a department but are free to help out in any way as their time permits.

"It was a big adjustment,” she says. “I had been working 12 to 14 hours a day as a nurse. I would leave for work before the children got up and return home when they were asleep. I learnt to find my purpose inside the home. It is not who I am, naturally.” Dane had been in nursing for a decade. “I learnt that instead of having to 'do' something, just 'being' me is my contribution."

For John, there has been much to adapt to. He initially had to transition from being the children's main caregiver to take on the role of bookfair manager; but then with the bookfair shutting to the public as a precaution against coronavirus and various crew changes, John has deputised for the chief cook before moving to manage the personnel department. As the emcee of one community gathering on board joked, John is ‘probably the most dangerous man on the ship.’ "Your roles are safe from me. I have absolutely no qualifications in your areas!”, he reassured the captain and chief engineer.

John and Dane’s daughters are thriving in the ship environment. From being shy, Lily (three) has learnt to speak and developed her own personality with the more individual attention given by her teachers. Cori (six) learnt to read within four months and has friendships with the Benns’ adult 'ship children.' The ship's community is grouped into families with 'parents' – usually a married couple – to head them. Cori has gone from merely saying a set prayer to having conversations with Jesus over the time she has been living on Logos Hope. "All this is because of the ship environment. Back home, they were in a Christian school but Jesus was not talked about all day, as He is here," Dane explains.

Coming to live on the ship was a decision the Benns made together as family; by talking with their girls about what they felt God was saying. The many conversations helped their older daughter particularly to process her own sense of purpose to serve God on board. "If she had had any major objection, we would have considered it," her mother says.

The experience of lockdown and many people’s altered plans has greatly reduced the number of children on board, so the Benns have a wall of pictures of their friends who have left and talk about them often. "We tell the girls that we did not let them go, but have sent them out to spread the gospel," explains Dane.

What would she say to other families who might be thinking of joining Logos Hope? "It is not always easy living in this unusual community, but getting to see the growth of your kids is worth the sacrifices you make to come."