In January this year I returned home from Papua New Guinea where I had been serving on the medical ship the YWAM PNG since July last year. As I have shared in my previous columns the time that I spent in this ministry was life changing.
The experiences that I had during my time on board were amazing. The people that I had the pleasure of working with came from all around the world and brought the whole operation to life. The shipboard environment gave me the opportunity to dwell on things of the Lord and develop my faith and spiritual understanding.
Since returning home I have had time to reflect on my experiences. I have thought a lot about both how the time onboard affected me and how it affected the people that I went to serve. From this time of reflection I have had a few realizations that I would like to share.
Serving the servers
I knew that going to serve on the YWAM PNG for six months would have an effect on my life and I obviously hoped that it would have an effect on the people of PNG. I had been on board the ship for about a month however, when I realised that I was not only there to serve the people of PNG but also the people of the YWAM PNG.
As the head of the ship’s deck department I was responsible for organising a team of around 10 people at any given time. They came from many backgrounds and stayed onboard for anywhere from one to six months. Most of the people joining the deck department had little to no experience in the shipping industry prior to joining.
The individuals serving in the deck department looked to me for guidance and leadership. I was blessed to be able to share my knowledge and experience of shipboard operations with them. As a result I built good working relationships with these individuals.
These relationships then gave me a position of influence from which to share my faith. For the extent of my time onboard the Lord blessed me in my work, creating what was for me an unexpected opportunity of service within this mission field.
Long term commitment
The volunteers joining the YWAM PNG come onboard for a range of different time periods. Many join for a single, two week outreach, whilst others stay for several months at a time. The demands of life on the ship mean that year round service on board is difficult and only a few people call the ship home.
Whilst everybody who comes onboard plays a crucial role in the success of the ship’s outreach, it is a handful of people who have dedicated their lives to the management and operation of the vessel that make the whole operation possible.
These people are based in Townsville and have been involved with the ship since its purchase in 2014. They work tirelessly behind the scenes and without them this mission would not exist.
I have realized that for any mission like this to be successful it needs people dedicated long term. Seeing this group’s commitment to God’s work and how it has impacted this ship’s ministry, has driven me to look towards long term mission involvement for my future.
Whilst working on the YWAM PNG I felt that there was a constant push from the management team for the ship to be effective in its ministry. You would think that a drive to be effective would be an obvious part of any mission organisation. I think however that it is easy and all too common for mission organisations to fall into the trap of being ineffective in their field of ministry.
An operation that runs smoothly and efficiently with a prevalent presence in a field, may still fail to have a positive impact on the people that it is there to serve. When an organisation dedicates resources (finance, volunteers or assets) towards a ministry they have a responsibility to ensure that the ministry is effective.
I believe that over its time of running ships YWAM Townsville has done a tremendous job of ensuring its operations remain accountable for the resources they occupy. Their drive to succeed and be successful in their mission field has comes from a love for the people of PNG. They desire to see a change through what they are doing and are not satisfied with just showing up.
A servant heart
Finally I have realized that there is one thing that stands out above all else in achieving an effective mission outreach. That is to have a servant heart. Whatever an individual’s job is within a mission organisation they will always do more good if they are there to serve others in love.
These few realizations that I have had from this time of reflection will be a guide to me in the future. I think that the Lord will use these ideas of mine to put me in the mission field that is right for me. I also hope that this may be some fuel for thought to others that are looking at being involved in missions work.
Matthew Fryer is a professional seafarer with a love of the ocean. After a career working on merchant ships Matthew has recently ventured into the mission field, most recently serving with YWAM onboard their medical and training vessel the ‘YWAM PNG’. When Matthew is not working away at sea he resides on the Gold Coast with his wife Clara and their two children Harold 6 and Jane 5.