Capt. John McDonnell wants to help ensure that upstanding sailors can continue serving aboard the m/v PACIFIC LINK, a YWAM medical vessel. To further that cause, he has created — and become the first donor to — the PNG Mariner Support Fund. The fund is intended to assist marine crew to continue working full-time on the live-in ship that has 50 beds on board.
McDonnell, 72, said although the fund is open to people of all nationalities, he was inspired to start it mainly by the Papua New Guinea crew who he says have been doing indispensable work. He said it is important to have nationals travelling with the ship because they help bridge the cultural gap between expatriate volunteers and locals.
“It helps to build trust when you have those going with us who can speak the language of the people and explain what we’re trying to do for them when we set anchor near their homes,” said McDonnell, of Missouri City, Texas. “They help us establish credibility more quickly than we could without them.”
“We have crew here who have graduated from quality programs like the Madang Maritime College, so we’re really getting the best of the best in terms of skill levels on board,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1965. He has been sailing for 51 years commercially and, since 2000, frequently for humanitarian missions. He has served at least eight stints aboard of the PACIFIC LINK since 2012. He said he hopes to continue working with the ship.
“It’s wonderful to work with a ministry associated with young people and to watch them serve God so passionately,” McDonnell said. “And, from a personal standpoint, I don’t see anything in the Bible about retirement. We should use our skills to serve God however we can until He calls us home.”
He also said it has been a pleasure to work with the nationals currently serving aboard the PACIFIC LINK — one of the primary inspirations behind the PNG Mariner Support Fund.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting them. John Mala, who is a deck cadet, and deckhands like Allen Mocke are outstanding. Ben Joseph is not only a great crew member, but he also skillfully leads worship for us on the ship.”
The captain — who plans to donate $200 per month to the fund — hopes others will follow his lead.
“I feel happy about this program. I prayed about it and felt that this was something I should initiate. I hope it will be a big help in the future.”