Karen and I were married in 1982 and it was one year later in 1983 that we saw the Anastasis, YWAM's first ship, come into Tauranga. We took a tour, heard stories of spreading the gospel around the world, receiving training and extending acts of compassion and mercy to those hurting and we got hooked.
Our plan was to leave for just six months, combine some overseas adventure along with receiving Bible training. Well, be careful what you commit to short term! That is how you end up as long term missionaries. It all starts out by dipping your toe in the water to try it out! The result – we LOVED it. What an amazing calling we are privileged to have.
We have served now in over 70 countries, seen countless people come to Christ, have helped thousands of others receive the same Discipleship Training as we did, have raised five children and since 2011 founded YWAM Ships Kona where we operate four vessels, located in Papua New Guinea, Panama, Marshall Islands and one in Kona, Hawaii.
I think Karen and I have the best job in the world! I know a lot of people say that, so you will have to judge! We see in front of our eyes some amazing life changing moments with people stunned that someone took time to care and help where they felt most vulnerable. Can I tell you one from a few weeks ago?
We are 85 miles up the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, and this particular morning I flew in with a good friend Murray McBride, his wife Necia, along with several others. We landed on the river in a float plane at Moim village and tied up right next to YWAM's training and medical ship the m/v PACIFIC LINK. There are no roads or airports in many of the remote locations our ships reach.
We climbed out, walked around the village and this is where I met Wily Kasu. His caregiver was his son-in-law who was standing behind him watching everything closely. Wily sat on a wooden bench waiting with all the other post-operative patients. We often do up to 28 surgeries a day so the line can take a while to get through. He had arrived by canoe from his village up river. So often is the case, they come in from all directions.
For years, Mr. Kasu lived and worked on Kar Kar Island in a faroff province called Madang. His son-in-law wasn't sure exactly when he started having eye problems, but in 2006 he finally had to return home to his family's village on the Sepik River. He had lost his long battle with this infirmity, but at least being home meant he now felt safer and he was in familiar surroundings.
When his family heard the m/v PACIFIC LINK was sailing up the Sepik River and bringing eye care, they decided to bring Wily to the vessel in the hope the doctors on board could help his sight improve. After Wily was screened and chosen to receive surgery, Dr. Palau decided to operate on both eyes. Immediately after completing the two eye operations — while still in the sterile operating room — they placed two patches over his eyes. These would remain there until the following day when they would be cleaned out and removed.
So it is now the morning after. His fellow patients from the previous day's surgeries are sitting next to him on this long wooden bench all quietly waiting for us to remove the patches. This is the best time of day, first thing in the morning. Always a crowd of people and excited chatter coming from those gathered.
They each wait patiently for the patches to come off. The wait can be long and the anticipation of recovering their vision again mounts, especially when they hear the one sitting next to them cry out as they begin seeing again. It is quite an emotional moment and it's common to overhear discussions about their anticipated fresh new start at life again.
In many cases, patients have one of their immediate family members with them waiting for their big moment when they can look at each other and reacquaint themselves. Incredible hope floods in as they begin to plan together what they will do after their canoe ride home. Walking without a stick, or not needing help from someone, being able to cook again, perhaps work in the gardens. In many cases the sight of new children
or grandchildren is the most anticipated "first thing" they speak of. One lady named Makasi paddled for two weeks and had never seen any of her children. Imagine that day!
Now can you imagine how easy it is at that point to say to Wily, or Makasi or anyone of those sitting on that bench; the operation you just received was a gift. You didn't do anything to earn it, you didn't act in a certain way to deserve it, it was free and this gift will now give you a new life. So too is another gift I want to tell you about. It is also free. You cannot pay for it,n do anything to deserve it, and just like the eye surgery this gift will give you a fresh start in life. The gift is Jesus!
We call this the two hands of the gospel. One ministering to their felt need and the other to their deeper spiritual need. The conversation like that with Wily has happened many times after an act of compassion or kindness. It is a great model. Really, it's the model of Jesus. It has endured for over 2000 years. He too went about healing and speaking of a way to the Father.
Let me encourage you reading this today. Do something kind for someone. When people are surprised by kindness, their hearts are more open and they engage in conversation. It's easy to share with them what motivates us.
May you be encouraged today to be a missionary in your neighbourhood. You don't have to travel across the ocean to use this Jesus model.
If you would like to join our teams and serve on one of our missionary ships then email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing a BIG thank you to all those who support us especially for the SD cards from the hugs campaign. We are putting the Bible and the Jesus Film on the cards and sharing them with everyone waiting in our clinic lines.
Thank you New Zealand!