There are people in the world that you meet, and you will never forget. There is something about them that allows them to stand out, be it physical attraction, personality, or genuine love for others. Mary Lou Maulsby is one of those people.
After a rocky start during my time with Mercy Ships, I was sitting in the dining hall eating dinner when this ‘little ole lady’ came up and greeted me with a smile and a warm, southern accented greeting. Though I had no clue who she was, she knew my name and who I was.
As she walked away, still smiling and with a youthful skip in her steps, I had a lingering feeling that this happy, go-love-’em-all attitude would change in the upcoming days. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This was, and still is Mrs. Mary Lou.
Mary Lou arrived aboard the Anastasis (a now-retired vessel of Mercy Ships) in the summer of 2006 to work in the dining hall. It was there where she met Dr. Gary (a man who helped to show her God’s plan) and soon discovered the poorest of the poor, the peoples of Africa.
Upon her return home, she knew that God was calling her back, full-time. So, she officially retired from teaching, sold everything she owned, packed up her one bag of luggage and headed back to Ghana and the Anastasis (after a pit-stop for Gateway, the Mercy Ships training course).
In her life before Mercy Ships, Mary Lou was a biology teacher ‘in the ghettos’ where she tought public school near Ft. Benning, Georgia for 16 years. She didn’t start teaching until the youthful age of ‘around 40 of something.’ Before her teaching years, she was a mother to a ‘plethora of children’ (five children total).
In her years of teaching, during the summers, she would take short-term missions trips to Central and South America. She knew for years before coming to Mercy Ships that God was calling her to serve the poorest of the poor. With her age and her children settling into their adult lives, she was able to retire and go full force after the calling of God.
She returned to Mercy Ships, after selling everything, including her car and house, and joined the hospitality department aboard the Anastasis. Throughout the four years she has been with Mercy Ships, she has participated in field services in Ghana, Liberia (where the crew of the Anastasis made the switch to the Africa Mercy), Benin, and Togo.
When a position opened up for the head of the dinning hall, she was the immediate choice. Unfortunately, Mary Lou did not want to lead, but she gave God a chance and ‘prayed a fleece,’ which God answered in less than a day. So with reluctance and no training, she took the position as director of the dining hall.
She learned all that she needed to know on the spot, through experience and through the team leaders, three college age guys from around the world. This position is the one in which she has held since. It has been a blessing to both crew, visitors and day-volunteers. It will be a great loss to see her leave tomorrow.
Her love and joy will be missed aboard the Africa Mercy. She will be missed, especially by those that worked for and beside her in the dining hall.
When asked what she would take home with her from her experience with Mercy Ships, Mary Lou smiled and shouted “Nothing!” as she threw some gifts into one of two large bags heading back to the states with her.
She then explained how the most valuable thing that she has received from her experience aboard the Anastasis and Africa Mercy has been the relationships that she has made throughout the four years here. She will treasure the people, from her roommates of the 6 berth, 4 and 3 berth rooms which she inhabited before gaining a single room of her own, to the members of the teams in which she had the honor of leading.
She has received many honors in the last couple days aboard the Africa Mercy, as many of the crew and volunteers have poured out their love and their support. Mary Lou is more than a leader on board the ship, she is a spiritual warrior, a mother and a beacon of hope and light to us all. In response to this outpouring of support, she stated that she is honored because of the relationships that God has allowed her to live through.
She stated that she has followed God’s call in her life and now he is calling her back to her own family. As she is now getting older in her age (but keeping her youthful spirit) and beginning to forget simple things, she feels it is necessary to spend time with her grandchildren while she still remembers the important things.
Her parting words of wisdom: “Don’t play around with Faith.”
Mary Lou Maulsby will be much missed aboard the Africa Mercy as God leads her to new adventures in her life.
God Bless and PEACE