On Monday, June 29 the crew crowded on the deck of the Pacific Hope like immigrants clapping eyes on the Statue of Liberty for the first time. They gazed hopefully at the sun-speckled ocean that stretched out to the islands as the ship plowed toward open sea.
The Pacific Hope was finally out of port and sailing toward the islands.
Before casting off the lines, the crew and the Marine Reach team in Tauranga sang praises to the Lord for His grace in allowing the mission to finally launch. The old Japanese merchant ship floated faithfully forward as a new boat with a redeemed purpose. But before the first jagged hills of Fiji were spotted, there was testing on the high seas.
It began just after the calm water of the channel turned into choppier swells. Before long, buckets were being passed around for sick stomachs and the mess hall was empty when the dinner bell rang. The rise and fall of the swelling waves – while not excessively rough – was just enough to churn the stomachs and weaken the knees of almost everyone on board. The ship was mostly quiet for the first 24 hours. Few volunteers braved the topsy-turvy motion and gained their sea legs, and most of the crew periodically haunted the halls in search of a better spot to lie down and ease their sea sickness.
Yet despite the dizziness, puking and headaches, God had a plan in mind.
Bruna Rosa, one of the ship’s nurses from Brazil, did not succumb to the seemingly contagious sea sickness. She was able to stay awake and take care of the volunteers confined to their bunks, administering nausea medication, water and much-needed compassion. The other ship’s nurse, Stephanie Frei of Switzerland, battled fatigue and the sea sickness for four out of the six days. But by the fifth day both nurses were sharing shifts and working together to provide care for the rest of the crew.
Donell Turner, the ship’s head cook, worked tirelessly to serve every meal during the voyage. Her sea legs proved up to the task as she prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner no matter how few sea-sick sailors decided to battle their way to the mess hall. Michelle Woodcock, Divina Cassiano and Michelle Wanhill – other members of the meal team – also braved the galley despite the tossing waves.
For the electricians, carpenters, and engineers staying in bed was not an option. Crew members such as Glenn Buckley, Mike Mears, Jeremy Wanhill, Patrick Amos and Megan Stewart (to name only a few) were up on their feet day and night keeping the ship running smoothly. From carpentry and electrical work to navigating in the wheel house, they diligently chipped away at unseen tasks. Captain Roger Connolly and his wife Eugenie provided leadership and encouragement for the volunteers.
In the midst of the battling their stomachs and completing their tasks, the volunteers also found time for entertainment and fun during the voyage. Games of UNO, movies and popcorn filled the long nights, but the main form of passing time was simply talking. From sipping countless cups of coffee and tea to playing guitar together, hours were spent getting to know one another.
In spite of the sea sickness, the Lord was honored through the service and unity on the Pacific Hope.
Devotions and small worship services were also held in the lounge twice a day, and the beauty of the Lord’s creation was evident by simply stepping outside and feeling the salt spray of the south Pacific. As the volunteers trickled into the lounge to gather and worship the Lord, it was obvious that sickness had no grip on their desire to praise. Lying vertically or balancing on shaky legs, the crew lifted their voices in praise every night.
And when land was finally sighted, it became evident that sea sickness is no match for the unshakable joy of the Lord.