I clearly remember the first time I stepped onboard the MV Pacific Link. I was on a Discipleship Training School course at YWAM Townsville, Australia and the Ship’s crew were taking her on a public relations and fundraising tour around Australia.
They came and chatted to us at dinner about the work they do in Fiji – using a medical ship to reach isolated places and provide health care to those in need. I had heard the vision before, loved it, and jumped at the chance to have a tour.
I rode my bike down to the wharf that weekend with a couple of my DTS mates to get a sneak peek onboard. We toured through with heaps of visitors, and I tried to imagine myself on this sort of adventure.
She was rustic at best and by the time we made it down to the cabins, and I saw the tiny, stacked bunks, clustered in narrow passageways and tiny lockers to hold weeks worth of clothes and personal belongings, all I could think was, “Wow – these are the really committed people who love people way more than I ever could.”
I was in awe of the sacrifice they were making and there was no way I imagined myself able to live like that.
Little did I know that seven years later, that same ship would be given to YWAM Townsville and I would find my passion and calling in helping to determine where the ship should go, how we’d pay for it, and who could actually sail the thing to help people in need.
I went from asking silly questions like where we would “park the boat” to learning a whole new set of jargon and legislation… along with the fact that I am one of the many who suffer from seasickness.
Its been a wild five years using this beautiful little ship to help the people of Papua New Guinea, culminating late last year in the miracle of a new ship which will now serve the Pacific. I am totally honest when I say I much prefer the more comfortable beds and a whole host of other things this new ship maintains (not the least of which is the greatly expanded capacity to deliver life-saving training and medical care).
When I stepped onboard this weekend it was yet again someone else’s vessel. We decided to give the Pacific Link away last week, just as it had been given to us years prior. The amount of joy and affection I felt as I walked the narrow passageways and steep stairways was so much deeper than the naive judgement of the ship I felt 12 years prior.
This time I reminisced about the places I paced with an upset baby during the night, the memories of designing a cabin for my small family to sleep, cooking and sharing meals in the galley and mess hall… and most sweetly, the places where I watched a child crying in pain from an infected leg, a tooth restored in someone’s mouth, and prayed for mamas while I cradled their babies.
I am overjoyed that this vessel now has plans to continue serving in the Pacific, helping to radically change the lives its commissioned to visit, but also the lives of those who choose to live onboard… just like she changed mine.