An overwhelming welcome from the coast has convinced Mercy Ships to make Mississippi its homeport.
The formal announcement came at Thursday's commission meeting of the Mississippi State Port Authority.
Mercy Ships is an international fleet of hospital ships that brings medical care to the poorest nations. The Carribean Mercy will return to Gulfport December 6th.
The new homeport relationship should benefit both Mercy Ships and Mississippi.
The Caribbean Mercy's mission field is Central America and the Caribbean. You may recall WLOX News shared stories of the ship's summer visit to Honduras. Now, Mississippi will have an ongoing role in helping reach out to those in need.
"And we hope to be the hands of Mississippians reaching to the south and making a difference," said Craig Snow as he addrssed the port commission.
The Mississippi State Port Authority approved the homeport agreement. The Caribbean Mercy will return to Gulfport in early December.
"The purpose of coming back is to deepen our relationships with people along the coast. To host the public through tours onboard the ship, special receptions for the medical community and other parts of the community here," explained Snow.
Some 65 Mississippians signed up to volunteer for mission work the last time the Caribbean Mercy visited Gulfport. Craig Snow says hurricanes over the years have helped give the coast a a special understanding of those who are hurting.
"They can connect at a level of compassion and I think that has helped to build. I think the tragedies in the past, the difficulties in the past have helped contribute to a strength along these communities. A strength of compassion," he said.
The homeport arrangement will allow more Mississippians to find out about the mission of the Caribbean Mercy and perhaps participate in future outreach efforts.
The Mercy Ship will make annual visits to the State Port at Gulfport for the next three years.