All Aboard the Africa Mercy Ship

Date Posted: 7/14/2016

Married duo --Miguel and Mireya—will set sail this summer on a three-year medical mission experience, starting in Benin, West Africa.
Since meeting and marrying over 20 years ago, Miguel and Mireya Ottaviano felt a specific desire to help the underserved with medical missions-- but this passion was complicated because neither of them are medical professionals. With this vision in the back of their minds, they went about their lives serving in different capacities. Mireya has served in children’s ministry and at St. Luke’s UMC Gethsemane campus and as local pastor in the Methodist church, and Miguel proceeded to work in the corporate world, awaiting a more specific calling they could do together.
“Life’s circumstances recently freed us to examine our lives and our time,” shares Mireya, “and we both immediately felt that God was speaking to us to discern His direction.” After Miguel was laid off, they regrouped, committed to prayer and began making the necessary lifestyle changes to not re-enter the labor market, but work toward being fully available to God’s direction.
“About this time, we learned about a unique ministry called Mercy Ships,” shares Miguel. “These ships provide top-tier surgical service and medical care to third world nations in need. Their vision of bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor immediately resonated in us, and we soon realized they needed volunteers of a wide range of skills to fulfill their critical mission.” Providing this ministry requires over 350 positions on board, and over 1,400 volunteers per year.

Mercy Ships Overview from Mercy Ships on Vimeo.

The Journey Begins
Through the encouragement of leaders in the Methodist connection, Miguel and Mireya were designated as lay ministers in the South Central district, and embarked on the process of joining Mercy Ships. They sold their belongings, leased their home and spent a year in South America with family, while serving various charitable organizations as they sought clear answers through the application process.
In 2016, Miguel was accepted in the communications department to share the images and message of Mercy Ships, and Mireya as counselor/chaplain to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs on the Africa Mercy ship. They have recently participated in two months of training, and will join the ship in Durban, South Africa this summer for the first of three service years in Benin, West Africa.
“Our time with the United Methodist church in a multi-cultural setting in Houston has been key to prepare us to serve in Africa,” notes Mireya, “both in organizing and leading widely diverse groups in the church, as well as providing individual support and direction for people of wide international and cultural backgrounds.” She will use her skills in advising and organizing while on the ship. “As a lay leader, I have gained experience serving groups of multinational men in one of Houston’s most diverse neighborhoods,” shares Miguel, “which has equipped me to better interact with the people of more than 30 nations that serve on the ship.” Adds Miguel, “Even though my primary job is to capture images to communicate the mission, I have been encouraged to continue my role as an active layman in ministries and groups on board.”
Miguel and Mireya are both excited to be a part of bringing God’s hope and physical healing to individuals and nations that would have no other way of getting help. “Serving the unserved is going to be a beautiful experience,” she shares. “We have been dreaming of this for more than two decades and now know that Mercy Ships will be the vessel for us to be instruments to serve Him by serving his people.” Adds Miguel, “God is good and has given us roles that we wished for -- as Counselor/Chaplain and photographer. Our time at St. Luke’s UMC, Houston and the Texas  Annual Conference equipped us, and we are glad to continue our journey together.”
Rev. Diane McGehee, Director of the TAC Center for Missional Excellence shares, “It was clear to me from the day that I first met Mireya and Miguel, that God had a unique call on their lives.  I am proud to have been a part of their ministry within the Texas Annual Conference over the past 5 years and now, as we send them out as ambassadors for Jesus Christ and the TAC to serve Christ among the poor for the transformation of the world.  Our prayers and support go with them.”
You can follow Miguel and Mireya’s ministry through their blog at  
For more information on Mercy Ships please visit