A global charity operating a growing fleet of hospital ships concluded the first Alpha course in Liberia with a celebratory dinner for 36 crewmembers and more than 150 guests.
The ten-week course, held at the William V. S. Tubman High School in Monrovia, was run by Texas-based Mercy Ships in partnership with five church denominations.
At the celebration evening, several participants described how the Alpha course had impacted their lives. The Alpha course, which started in the U.K., gives an introduction to Christianity in a relaxed and friendly setting. Each session begins with a meal, followed by a talk discussion in small groups. Currently, the course operates in more than 150 countries worldwide.
The church plays an important role in the re-shaping of society as Liberia recovers after 14 years of civil war, Mercy Ships reported. By bringing the Alpha course, Mercy Ships is providing new resources for the church as well as encouraging cross-denominational cooperation.
Since March, Mercy Ships has been conducting development projects and educational programs to help re-build Liberia during the three-month stay of its 522-foot flagship, the Anastasisthe first visit of a Mercy Ship to the war-torn West African nation.
After the Mercy Ship leaves this month, church leaders will continue meeting together to plan their own Alpha course. The global charity did report, however, that it would continue bringing "hope and healing" to Liberia in a second phase beginning in October 2005.
With three hospital ships and offices in 17 countries, Mercy Ships has visited more than 500 ports in over 50 developing nations. The global charity has performed more than 2 million services, with a value of $250 million (USD), which include treating more than 300,000 people in village clinics, performing 18,000 surgeries, 110,000 dental treatments and completing close to 350 construction and agriculture projects, including schools, clinics, orphanages and water wells.