Gently bobbing in the port of Suva, the Pacific Hope’s white hull stands out in stark contrast to the green hills and hazy skies of Fiji. The humidity parts like a thick, invisible curtain to let the sea breeze peek through. It makes the palm trees dance and sway, giving the large wharf a lazy attitude. And underneath its seemingly quiet deck, there is a myriad of hands working to repair and restore the Pacific Hope.
On the evening of July 3 – en route to pick up an outreach team in Latouka, Fiji – the ship’s air compressor failed, leaving the engine with no way of starting up again if it stopped. The Pacific Hope was able to continue sailing without the use of the compressor, but because the repairs required immediate attention the destination was switched to the port city of Suva instead of Latoka.
Yet even a failed engine compressor could not dim the radiance of the sunset that greeted the ship as it limped into Fiji. As the ship docked, the hills glowed with the sun that rested just behind their jagged outlines – a reminder that God has plans beyond what we can see.
On Sunday, July 4, five new volunteers from the Marine Reach Fiji met the Pacific Hope in Suva. They had originally planned to be picked up in Latouka before sailing two days to Samoa for the first medical outreach. Now they are living on board the ship with the New Zealand volunteers, and going out into Suva every day to meet and talk to Fijians about the Lord.
The original plan to only stay in Fiji for one night was interrupted, but the plans of God are never caught off guard.
Before the ship even left Tauranga, Desmond and Sacha Olson – the team coordinators on the Pacific Hope – flew ahead to Samoa to meet the first medical team. They had to fly ahead because the delays in getting the ship out of port were overlapping with the outreach team’s arrival. While they were not happy to miss the Pacific Hope’s first voyage, Desmond and Sacha were able to prepare the way for the medical outreach in Samoa.
Similarly, after the detoured and delayed stop in Suva, medical leaders Marcos Garcia and Stephanie (Steffy) Frei made the decision to fly to Samoa. Because much of the medical supplies and leadership on the outreach rested on their shoulders, Garcia and Frei made the difficult transition from living on board the ship to gathering their belongings and heading to Samoa.
This was an especially trying time for Steffy, as she will leave to go home to Switzerland after this outreach and may not see the rest of the Pacific Hope team before then.
Her impact on the ship and with the volunteers was felt and seen through every wall she diligently painted, all of the medical supplies she helped organize, and the many tears that were shed when she left. From making warm pans of Swiss bread for the team to pulling on coveralls and doing construction work, Steffy’s role was more than that of a nurse during her time on the Pacific Hope.
Even so, the Lord placed Marcos and Steffy in Samoa as the leaders of the medical team for a purpose. And holding the Pacific Hope in Suva for longer than expected is a part of His mysterious plan as well.
Flexibility and adaptability play significant roles in missions work.
God has a tendency to revamp and rework the way we plan on going about serving Him. In our imperfect way of following His commands, it is easy to forget that there is always a purpose behind the monkey wrench God sometimes throws into our plans.
Marcos and Steffy displayed flexibility through their willingness to leave the Pacific Hope and strike out on faith to bring health to Samoa. The crew and volunteers on the ship are graciously adapting to staying in Suva, Fiji as well. They are looking forward to the ministry opportunities provided in Suva, while also praying and working toward fixing the ship in time to make the outreach in Samoa.
As the ship sits in the port of Suva receiving the necessary repairs and attention it needs, the volunteers and team from Marine Reach are making the most of God’s updated version of their plans.