“The Logos Hope has a wonderful pictorial presentation of the Prodigal Son on display in the Visitor Experience deck,” Cheuk Chung, OM Hong Kong Field Leader, recalled. “It shows the love our heavenly Father has for us and can easily be used to share the gospel.”
When Logos Hope visited Hong Kong for the first time in December 2012, the local team wanted to make the most of the opportunity. However, few crewmembers could speak Cantonese with local visitors.
“I remembered when OM partnered with a short-term mission training centre known as Hong Kong Christian Mission Centre (HKCMC) in the 1980s,” Cheuk Chung said. “So we invited them to send trained volunteers to work on board during the visit.”
Around 450 volunteers from 70 churches came on board wearing jackets bearing the legend ‘ambassador’. They shared their faith with visitors, often using a tract called “Precious Gospel” and other tools learnt during their training. The ambassadors had practiced approaching strangers on public transportation and in other public places, and utilised their skills to draw visitors into engaging dialogue.
When Logos Hope was purchased, it was selected because it allowed for an indoor space of about 1,500 square metres for the book fair and an interactive experience for visitors. “The vision was to look in the eyes of every visitor and engage them with the gospel. By creating a visitor’s experience that had the space, we would be able to do so,” said Randy Grebe, director of Partner Ministries on board.
On Deck 4, visitors have the chance to look inside a staged crewmember’s cabin, interact with a simulated bridge with a steering wheel and electronic equipment, learn about the history of OM ships and sit in a lifeboat to watch a video about the ship that shows areas not open to the public like the galley and engine room. From there, visitors enter the book fair and, when done browsing, are led to The Journey of Life, a unique pictorial walkthrough story of the Prodigal Son.
“If there’s a place where we have a visitor’s heart and eyes, it’s during the Prodigal Son walkthrough,” shared Randy Grebe. “We are very intentional about making contact with visitors, and our ambassadors are of highest value to us in making those connections.”
Every port sees between 50-120 volunteers helping, a group of these as the ambassadors that are essentially trained evangelists passionate about sharing Christ. They engage visitors in their own heart language and know the culture and idiosyncrasies of the language.
“We want every visitor to take a step closer to Jesus in some way,” said Randy. “We choose [ambassadors] specifically to stand at the beginning of this story [the Prodigal Son] and literally walk people through it. They can assess whom they are speaking to and how they need to drive the story to make it most understood. They’re able to go to the heart of the story much quicker than any foreigner.”
In Hong Kong, an estimated 1,100 conversations about spiritual matters and faith in God occurred during the three-week visit. One ambassador, Amy Lao, spoke with a 50-year-old man. “I told him it was no coincidence he had come to the ship,” she said. “Jesus had wanted him to come to the ship and hear the gospel.” When Amy asked if he wanted to accept Christ, he prayed and committed his life to follow Jesus.
In the end, over 130 people made decisions to respond to God’s voice. Local churches were put in touch with them and more than 600 others who expressed interest in further contact. These churches will continue the conversations and support those who made new commitments.
“Thank you for coming. For me, your visit is a surprising gift from God! Now I know God is listening and waiting for me to turn to Him,” Teresa Shum, a local visitor in Hong Kong, said. She and over 13,000 other visitors were engaged in their own language, in their own city, and heard the good news presented in a colourful, tangible way.
One million visitors walk through this same Visitor Experience annually and have opportunity to talk one on one with someone on board. Randy explained how ambassadors and crewmembers write down experiences or conversations that stood out; countless [such] stories led him “to be absolutely convinced that every day there are God stories of how people are being transformed and changed on this ship.”
Ellyn S. grew up as an American overseas in Europe and has continued to pursue her love for travel, writing and photography. She studied creative writing and works as a freelance writer for OM. She is passionate about using her skills to capture moving stories of what God is doing in Asia.