By Madison Bartsch
A mission’s trip is usually a great time. The experience of travelling to a new place, serving the people there, and seeing the transformation in the lives of the other team members is a real rewarding time.
Now imagine doing this aboard a seventy-four foot sailboat!
YWAM Ships’ vessel the Caribbean Reach is travelling the Pacific and looking for YWAM outreach teams with a sense of adventure to partner with it. This vessel has the capacity to sleep eighteen people and with only a few crew members. That means everyone will be put to work. Not only do you get the opportunity to bring the gospel to isolated places, but on top of that you will get the experience of a lifetime doing things like hoisting sails and being a lookout on your night-watches.
To give you a sense of what it’s like to live aboard I’ll share a few stories from my recent time leading an outreach team on the Caribbean Reach. With the boat just recently donated to us in the Caribbean we’re on a mission to get the ship to Kona, Hawaii, and then down to the islands of Micronesia. The team flew to meet the CR in Panama City just after it had come through the Panama Canal. After getting settled, oriented to life onboard, and buying provisions we set off on a three day sail. It took us a day or two to get our sea-legs but it was a great time.
We were greeted by dolphins jumping and swimming alongside of us. One of my favourite sights was at night, when the water the boat would stir up, glowed green from the bioluminescent plankton. Another highlight was catching a five foot wahoo, providing us with some excitement, killing and gutting it, and giving us a few good meals including fresh sashimi!
We ended up in Golfito, Costa Rica where we spent three weeks and had the chance to do some cool ministries. Working with a project in Costa Rica to provide a Bible to every house in the country, we hit the ground running, going door-to-door distributing bibles and praying with the people we met. This was a fantastic form of evangelism where we were able to give the lasting truth of God, build relationship with the people we met, and we saw many people asking questions and accepting Jesus as their saviour.
We were also able to speak and share testimonies at every school in Golfito, speak at different churches, and do some manual labour helping fix the house of a new friend there.
After Costa Rica we set off again for Guatemala. A five day sail took us to the next level. We spent times where we weren’t on watch playing games, worshipping, praying, and studying the bible together, and simply enjoying the ride. We got to witness some more amazing sights sailing by hundreds of sea turtles, huge manta rays, and schools of stingrays jumping sometimes six feet in the air. Everyone on board also had the chance to try their hand at the helm to maneuver the eighty-six ton beast and keep her in a straight line. Some people were naturals; others, after some zig-zagging and a few unintentional figure-eights, realized they could use some more practice. Either way it was a unique and invaluable experience. We even had the chance to stop and hop in the water about seventy miles off the coast of El Salvador, flipping, diving, and swimming with turtles with no land in sight which was extraordinary.
Arriving in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we were greeted by the captain of the port and a congressman. The relationship that we formed with the congressman turned out to be really cool. He was inspired by the work we were doing and took care of us during our time there. We were able to work alongside him in blessing the people of his country by praying for them at hospitals as well as feeding the homeless drug addicts, and even playing soccer in the streets with them. After more time ministering in Guatemala it was again time to hit the seas.
Our final sail was again another five days: this time taking us up the coast of Mexico about a hundred miles north of Acapulco to a little port called Vicente Guerrero. On all of our sails we needed to watch the helm 24 hours a day and were split into watch teams with the different crew members. Working our shifts at the helm we had to watch the gauges, check our heading with the GPS and compass, trim the sails, and be on the lookout for other ships. Again, this was another unrivaled time getting to know your new family exceptionally well and gaining experience in navigating a ship across the ocean.
The town of Coyuquilla is where we stayed and worked with the only church there. Once more, an opportunity like no other where we got to go into a town that was run by a drug cartel and spread the gospel, even getting to talk about Jesus with a sicario (hitman) with a handgun in the back of his pants.
You never know the places that you’ll go with God as the real captain of the ship.
All in all, I will never forget the experiences I had on the Caribbean Reach. The places that it took us to and the people that we got to meet there were incredible. I feel extremely privileged to be involved in the story of YWAM Ships that God is writing right now. Every single day I have been able to see His faithfulness to the ministry, the vessel, and the people involved.
Are you ready to sail, study, and serve? This is not for those with a weak stomach. Are you willing to risk getting sea-sick to bring the good news to isolated people? We don’t do boring, you never know what is going to happen next. Is it worth it? Are you ready for an adventure?