I have always had a love for the ocean. As a child I spent every moment that I could down at the beach, fishing in the creek or out in the bay on my grandfather’s boat. As soon as I had finished my schooling I left home and moved away to begin my studies as a maritime officer. I was soon working at sea as a navigational officer. A lot of my career was spent working for a Canadian company on self-discharging bulk carriers. It was a tough environment with long hours and hard work but I enjoyed it. I progressed quickly through the ranks and after 5 years with the company I was qualified and working as Chief Mate.
I have been a born again Christian since I was 7 years old. I always had a positive Christian influence on my life through my parents, siblings and church. When I was 20 years old I married my beautiful wife Clara. She is a strong Christian woman who has handled the life of seafarer’s wife with ease.
Time for change
A couple of years ago I made the decision to leave the company I was with. Changes in management and conflicting views with people on-board made this an easy decision. I spent the following months working locally from home in the construction industry and spending time with the family.
After several months of being land bound, I came home one day from working on a building site. I stood in my living room and I thought to myself ‘I want to be at sea.’ For me there is something very alluring and hard to describe about sailing at sea and being surrounded by nothing but the ocean.
That afternoon I grabbed my phone and made a call. I called the man in charge of the technical operations at YWAM Ships Townsville. He told me that they were in need of an officer and for someone with carpentry skills. It was a Wednesday afternoon when I made the call and by Sunday I was on a flight to join the medical and training vessel ‘YWAM PNG’
M/V YWAM PNG
The YWAM PNG is a 60 metre long catamaran that was originally built as a boutique luxury cruise ship. YWAM (Youth With A Mission) Townsville bought the vessel in 2014 and converted it into a specialized medical and training vessel.
The ship has berths for 130 people. It has a specially designed dental clinic, ophthalmology clinic and laboratory. Its mission is to serve the people of Papua New Guinea by bringing health care and health related training to the remote and inaccessible regions of the country.
YWAM Ships Townsville operate the vessel in partnership with the national, provincial and district health authorities of PNG.
My time onboard
My first experience onboard the vessel was in July 2018. I joined the vessel in Townsville. Each year the vessel is brought back from PNG to Australia for maintenance and restock.
After the maintenance period I sailed with the vessel to PNG and spent 2 months onboard serving as a navigational officer. Being involved with the ship’s outreach was a profound experience.
I was unexpectedly impressed by the quality of the ship’s management. I have the opinion that sometimes in mission people feel accomplished just by showing up. For the management team of the YWAM PNG there is a constant push for the ministry to be effective, constantly holding themselves accountable for the resources that the vessel consumes.
Time to commit
After my initial time onboard the ship I again returned in January 2019 to PNG for a 1 month period onboard the vessel. I found that my work on board was not only beneficial to the operation of the vessel, but it was also an encouragement to my own faith.
I returned home from this trip with the passion seeded in me to follow the calling of God whatever it may be. After being home for a couple of months I got a call asking if I would be available to serve onboard the ‘YWAM PNG’ for the second half of 2019.
This was a big commitment for me. With a wife and two beautiful kids (Harold 5 and Jane 4) six months was a long time to be away from home. Our financial situation, also meant that I would need to rely on the grace of others to fund the trip.
I put a lot of prayer into the decision to go, I fasted and sought the Lord’s calling. My wife was supportive and gracious, even organizing fund raising for the trip, something that I was too proud to do myself.
In time it became clear to me that I was to go and serve on board for this six month period. On the 13th of July 2019 I headed off to join the ship. In my next column I will share my experiences during this six months and how it changed my entire perspective on life.
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.