When Hannah Lau signed up for a Youth With A Mission discipleship school in Townsville, Australia, she didn’t expect that her classroom would be mobile. When she participated in a pre-arrival conference call with the school’s staff and students, she received a major surprise.
“I logged onto the Skype and they told us ‘You guys are going to be living on the PACIFIC LINK.’ I was terrified,” said Lau, 21, of Minnesota. “I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve never lived on a ship and I’m scared of fish.’ But it ended up being amazing.”
She said spending time aboard the 283-ton motor vessel — the vehicle for dozens of medical-aid missions which was gifted to YWAM Ships Kona in March — was a discipleship experience in itself.
“Being a part of that was special,” said Lau, who was aboard the ship in 2013. “I got to see and hear stories about all that had happened on the PACIFIC LINK and hear about the hope the PACIFIC LINK brought to Papua New Guinea. Hearing about the miracles and lives changed on the ship takes on a greater significance when you live on the ship.”
Six months after Lau’s time on the PACIFIC LINK ended, Robbert van Schuylenburg became a part of its story. About halfway into the classroom phase of his discipleship schooling in Townsville, he participated in a three-week outreach aboard the vessel. It sailed to Papua New Guinea and the villages surrounding Port Moresby, the nation’s capital. There, he worked as an assistant to dentists who performed exams and treated teeth on the ship.
“I didn’t have any dental experience whatsoever, so it was awesome that I could actually contribute something to that effort,” said van Schuylenburg, 27, who now works with YWAM Ships Kona. “We had awesome dentists that really taught us well.”
Van Schuylenburg’s first reaction to finding out he would work aboard the ship was opposite to Lau’s.
“I was anticipating the moment of going on the ship for more than a year. When we got to Port Moresby, I got on the PACIFIC LINK and euphoria came over me,” van Schuylenburg said. “I thought ‘Yes! Finally.’ I realized ‘This is really happening. Tomorrow, we go to the villages to give people practical help. We can extend our hands to help them out and learn from them.’ The importance of what we were doing really hit me right then and there.”
Camaraderie Aboard the Pacific Link
Kimberly Ward, a registered nurse, sailed with the PACIFIC LINK in 2012. The ship traveled for 36 hours from Port Moresby up the Bamu River en route to remote villages where volunteers set up mobile medical clinics. Ward said every bed was occupied during her time on board — 55 volunteers in all. She said the camaraderie experienced among the volunteers is one of her fondest memories from her three weeks on the ship.
“It was amazing to be with a community of people who had the same interests and passions as you to go out and serve the underprivileged and needy and to share the love of Christ with others,” she said.
Sought After Medical Care
Ward said the PACIFIC LINK regularly attracted large crowds eager to receive long-awaited medical attention for themselves or ailing family members. That meant volunteers sometimes had to put aside other tasks to help people who had no other hope of health care.
“One Sunday a lot of the volunteers had gone off the ship for church in the village, but there were a few of us who were assigned to stay back and prepare the meals on board. That day a dugout canoe full of people came up to the door. They were carrying some folks who were pretty sick and they had come requesting medical care,” Ward recalled. “We hosted them on the ship and did some treatment and training for them in regard to communicable diseases and how to prevent diseases by washing your hands.”
Lau said she has consistently heard positive reviews about PACIFIC LINK outreaches from those she has met in Townsville and at Port YWAM Kona where she did a health-care school.
“I never met any volunteer who went and wasn’t moved by their experience. I haven’t met a volunteer who didn’t come back with a story or wouldn’t say ‘It’s so worth it.'”