Two years ago when our acceptance to serve with Mercy Ships was reversed in late 2010 we received many emails and messages of support. One came from a former Navy shipmate who I had known since we were Uni Midshipmen together. David had left the Navy for similar reasons to me and was now Managing Director of a small but successful asset management company.
Anyway by March 2011 it was time for me to find a real job to pay the bills and I was on the cusp of accepting one, albeit with some niggly naggly doubts that it was the best job for me. Then the night before I was due to start David rings me with the possibility of managing the Paying Off and Disposal of my old ship, HMAS MANOORA. Not a firm job offer but the possibility of one if he should get the contract for the task, if there was a task. Well I prayed a bit and remembered a sermon about trusting God as you stepped out of the boat. I then turned down the job offer, in lieu of the possibility of one.
Two weeks later there was a contract for 3 months and a job for me as the HMAS MANOORA Paying Off Availability Project Manager. Well in the last two years this task has extended and grown to encompass a lot more including project managing MANOORA’s sister ship, KANIMBLA, as well. And the job I turned down – well I would have been working 60 hour weeks and spending at least half my time in Darwin.
David has proved to be a fantastically supportive “Boss”. He “gets it” that I left the Navy to have a real family work life balance and encourages taking time out to do stuff at school with the kids, like helping out at excursions or sports days or swimming carnivals. We work hard for our customer and provide solid outcomes but we do not work ridiculous hours but nor do we gouge our customers. We are honest, ethical and treat people fairly. All this stems from his leadership.
When I broached the subject of us serving with Mercy Ships again he was thoroughly supportive, not asking how my role might be covered but rather asking how he might help and support us as we prepared to serve. Since then he has paid for me to complete three courses: Working at Heights, Confined Spaces and this week, an Open Water Diver Course; purchased new safety gear and uniforms for me, provided financial support and offered to pay for drinks at my farewell. He has even discussed how I might do some tasks remotely to keep the coffers topped up. I don’t feel like I am leaving the company but rather taking a sabbatical.
We have never spoken much about our faith together but in January this year we attended the funeral of the wife of another ex-Navy Uni classmate whom I had shared a flat with for 6 months in 1988. Liz and Andrew have four kids and it was heartbreaking to see the kids farewelling their mother, aged only 46. Sharing this with David was special for me. We tried not to cry but failed. Maybe we are becoming more aware of our own mortality. Maybe it was because Liz was so young. Maybe it was because their children were so young. Maybe we were thinking how would we manage in Andrew’s shoes if Tammy or Sarah were taken from us so early. Probably a little of all of these. His grief and mine were too much to contain but I am glad he was with me.
He christened me “Digby” 25 years ago, he danced at my wedding (a lot on the floor in his ceremonial whites), he offered me support when I left the Navy, he offered comfort when our first attempt at serving fell through, he offered me a job and he willingly let me go when we applied to serve again and has provided so much support as we prepare to leave and serve. He is a true friend and I believe God placed him in my life to help me on this journey to serve. He might not be coming to Africa himself but he has been instrumental in us being able to serve. I am not sure you have been referred to as an angel before, but I think you are one, David Coyle. Thank you.