(Jiamin OM Doulos) 2005 - with Doulos crew

From intending to serve only two years on board Doulos, Jiamin Choo-Fong (bottom left) went on to serve a total of four. All photos courtesy of Jiamin Choo-Fong.

“Lord, please don’t ever call me to be a missionary!” were Jiamin Choo-Fong’s famous last words at age 18.

Contrary to her plea, she did indeed sense the call to become a full-time missionary at age 21. Convicted to give the first fruits of her youth to the Lord, she set sail on Operation Mobilisation’s (OM) now-decommissioned ship Doulos and remained on the high seas for four years.

She visited 52 ports of call in 31 countries in that time, to bring God’s love to the nations.

In conjunction with the newly launched Doulos Hope’s visit to Singapore from May 7 to 21, 2023, Jiamin shares excerpts from her 2011 book, Out of the Harbour, which details her faith journey far from home and close to the Father’s heart.

Doubts and fears
March to April 2004

I wished God had called me to Japan instead.

Like C and P, I have a strong desire to reach out to the Japanese. Wouldn’t it be great to serve in the mission field with close friends? How lonely it would be on the Doulos, where I would not know anyone.

Mozambique, 2005: A visit to a children’s hospital.

Various thoughts discouraged me: unexciting ship’s food, would I find good friends, would I get tired of ship’s life, would I lose the close relationships with family and friends at home?

Would I find good friends? Would I lose the close relationships with family and friends at home?

But wait, I’ve been so concerned about choosing the most comfortable route I’ve forgotten the most crucial thing – staying close to the Shepherd of my soul.

As long as I’m with Him, I’m definitely in the right place.

Other considerations weighed on me …

“You are the eldest child. If you go on Doulos, what will happen to your ageing mother? You’re supposed to take care of your family,” someone told me today.

Guilt haunted me. I’ve always wanted to earn money to give my family a good life.

Stepping out in faith
April to July 2004

Lord, You know the dilemma I’m facing. Some people are advising me which jobs to take up. Others are recommending Route X or Y for a bright future.

Instead of being upset by the many voices telling me what I should do with my life, please give me the words to respond in humility, patience and love. Words that will help them realise the importance of following Your plans and not our man-made ones.

Let this be my heart’s longing – wherever You lead, I will follow.

I understand it now, Lord. I do not choose which country to go to or which ministry to serve in, because it really doesn’t matter. What matters most is for me to walk in the path You have set before me. And You have put in me a desire to serve on Your ship, Doulos.

Let this be my heart’s longing – wherever You lead, I will follow.

Pastor Paul from my church affirmed my decision of joining Doulos. “The best gift you can ever give to others is the Gospel.” He reminded me to love God first, and not be distracted by ministry or even the needs of the lost.

Cambodia, 2006: Bringing book donations to a school.

Cambodia, 2006: Children welcoming the book donations.

On my concerns about providing for my family when I enter the mission field, he shared, “Let the church fulfil its role to take care of the missionaries and their families.

“When you are sent out as a missionary, others, including the family and the church, will be blessed because God will channel His favour to those who have let you go to serve Him.”

His words brought much comfort.

Being faithful
June 2005

It was about five months into my job on the ship in Catering, a physically gruelling assignment that had shift work.

K led a special devotion for the Catering shift. Each of us were asked to share a lesson that God taught us recently.

As long as I’m with Him, I’m definitely in the right place.

I said, “God has been breaking my pride as I work in the pantry and galley, teaching me to be faithful in the little things.”

K then told us a story about a carrot, an egg and a coffee bean. When put in the boiling water, under intense heat and pressure, the hard carrot became soft and weak, the fragile egg hardened inside, but the coffee bean changed the water into coffee that gave off a pleasing aroma.

K encouraged us to be a Coffee Bean Shift, to make a difference through preparing meals for the ship’s company.

Lord, I want to be like a coffee bean! In times of difficulty, let us not crumble like the carrot, nor harden like the egg, but like the coffee bean, bring changes to adverse situations and glorify You.

The Lord’s purpose prevails
July to September 2005

I was called to meet the personnel manager and was offered a job change. “Would you like to be the Director’s secretary?” he asked.

I laughed. Didn’t see that one coming.

Wherever You lead, I will follow.

A fresh graduate with no office experience working closely with the Doulos Director? I’m not good enough.

Yet, I was their first choice.

As the manager explained the job scope, these thoughts battled within me, “The title sounds impressive. I’ll get office hours, which means no more shift work! But will I still have regular ministry opportunities, or will I be tied up behind a desk?”

Oh, it is so tempting to say ‘yes’. Though I’ve reminded myself to wait on God’s timing. I really want a job change. Especially when I see people leaving the Coffee Bean Shift and taking ‘higher positioned’ jobs.

Doulos Open Day in 2006.

Lord, thank You for hearing my prayer for a job change. But I don’t want to jump at this chance to leave the Catering department and say ‘yes’ for the wrong reasons. Please show me if being Director’s secretary is what You will for me.

Two months later, my third job offer was taken away – part-time Info girl and part-time teacher for the Doulos toddlers’ class – when I was ready to say ‘yes’. “Sorry … your job is no longer available because the places have been filled.”

All of my expectations are dashed. Did I make a wrong decision along the way?

How could my job be given away, when I was given time to think about it till I returned from the 10-day onshore ministry trip?

I don’t know, Lord. Three job offers came and went. All of my expectations are dashed. Did I make a wrong decision along the way? Should I have agreed to be pantry shift leader or Director’s secretary? But I had no peace about the jobs. No motivation either.

And now, as I poured out my heart to my cabin mates, I choose to trust that Your ways are perfect and I will wait on You.

Lord, thank You for working in me. Help Your servant find joy in the midst of these tears.

New season of growth
December 2005 to January 2006

About three months later, I met up with the associate personnel manager to discuss job options. Told her I hope to join the Public Relations department as I enjoy interacting with the ship’s visitors.

There’s only one life to live, and I can only choose one road at a time.

Was surprised when she said, “I’m confident that you’ll do a good job in public relations. But that would be a comfort zone for you. If you want to be stretched, go to Line-up department. You have been asked to join them. It’ll be a good place for you to grow.”

I have two weeks to pray about this.

Should I join Line-up and extend another year on Doulos? Or return home in February 2007 as planned?

Many things are good and beneficial. But there’s only one life to live, and I can only choose one road at a time.

Line-up seems to be the toughest department on board. Line-up people are the advance parties sent ahead of Doulos to various countries to make preparations for the ship’s arrival.

Port Klang, Malaysia, 2006: With George Verwer, OM’s founder (second from right).

Am I prepared to take up that kind of responsibility? I am but a little girl. I don’t know much about working in the secular world, not to mention dealing with ‘important people’ in society.

Yet Line-up is all of this and more.

The parable of the talents has been on my mind for the past two days. I’m responsible for using the talents God has given me to serve Him and others.

My brother told me, “Give God more than five talents!”

I sense that God is calling me to say ‘yes’ to Line-up.

If this is true, I believe He will pave the way for my family’s blessings and my church’s support.

Lord, I want to honour You with every talent You have entrusted in my care. May I be a good and faithful servant who finds favour in Your eyes.

Called my family and told them everything about the Line-up offer, the extension required and the parable of the talents that God has been using to speak to me.

My brother told me, “Give God more than five talents!”

That moved me deeply.

A transformed attitude
January 2006

It had now been about a year since I had served in Catering.

On shift one day while deliberating on the Line-up offer, the food macerator vomited on me as it was full. My clothes stank of food waste. I scooped out a bucket of cloudy brown water with chunky food bits.

The galley people felt sorry for me.

Niigata, Japan, 2007: Ship’s Tour.

But surprisingly, I found myself saying, “That’s all right!” I wasn’t upset or frustrated. Didn’t even feel like throwing up despite the gross sight that would have made any stomach churn.

Joy rose from within and I finished cleaning the food macerator with a smile of satisfaction.

This is amazing. God is changing my attitude at work!

Saying ‘yes’
January to March 2006

Over the week, God has been showing me the big picture of the Doulos ministry, and I have peace about joining Line-up. The answer is clear and I said ‘yes’!

As I started learning the ropes of Line-up, God opened my eyes to how much unseen effort goes into running Doulos. It was a big paradigm shift.

Mauritius, 2005: Performing Swing dance at International Night.

The task of preparing for the ship’s arrival is enormous and difficult, especially since Line-up teams are mostly made up of inexperienced young people.

But by God’s sovereign power, the Line-up teams have been able to make preparations to bring Doulos successfully into port, even through seemingly impossible situations.

All-surpassing God
March 2009

God has surpassed all my expectations.

I came to the ship desiring to serve my Creator in the days of my youth.

I didn’t know I would get to witness so many of His mighty works around me and in me.

This excerpt from Jiamin Choo-Fong’s book, Out of the Harbour, published by LifeHope Books, is republished with permission.

In conjunction with the launch of Doulos Hope on May 5, 2023 in Singapore, saltandlight is running a series of stories on the men and women who have served or are serving with OM Ships.

You can be involved in OM Ships’ ministry by partnering with Doulos Hope in prayer, giving, or by volunteering. For more information, follow OM Ships on Facebook or Instagram or visit the OM website


Stormy seas, blinding fogs and near-collisions, yet this 70-year-old cancer survivor is still sailing on OM ships

George Verwer has reached his final port of call – but the work of Operation Mobilisation goes on

MV Doulos’ faithful journey before beginning a new life next month

105-year-old grand dame, MV Doulos, to re-open as hotel

The second edition of Out of the Harbour was released on May 10, 2023, and is available for $19.90 at the following places:

Doulos Hope book fair (at VivoCity, May 7 to 21, 2023)
OM Singapore office 
SKS Books 

About the author

Jiamin Choo-Fong

As a life coach, itinerant speaker and mentor to young women, Jiamin enjoys journeying with people and seeing them grow. She has been journalling since she was 14 and has written two books: Out of the Harbour (outoftheharbour.com) and A Daughter's Faith (adaughtersfaith.com). Jiamin and her husband, Minghui, are now based in the countryside of Mie, Japan, serving with OM there, to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.