Hundreds of people came out to Kailua Pier Saturday evening to celebrate a 74-foot sailboat that will bring the next wave of missionaries to remote islands in Micronesia. The ship’s arrival in the bay was met with great fanfare by onlookers who were excited about the ship’s mission and its noted occupants — descendants of Henry Opukahaia, the first Hawaiian Christian.
The day was called historic by several speakers who reflected on the contributions of Opukahaia, a 19th century Hawaii Island resident credited for inspiring the American missionary movement that changed the course of history in the Polynesian islands. They looked forward to this new chapter of those willing to study, sail and serve.
The featured sailboat is owned by Youth With A Mission, an international Christian missionary organization founded in 1960 “dedicated to presenting Jesus personally to this generation, to mobilizing as many as possible to help in this task, and to the training and equipping of believers for their part in fulfilling the Great Commission.” It has centers in more than 110 nations. YWAM Ships, a ministry, began 23 years ago with the purpose of giving humanitarian aid and education to the poorer, more isolated island communities across the Pacific. It also strives to share the messages of hope and salvation, said YWAM Ships co-director Brett Curtis.
YWAM Ships operates 15 vessels, ranging from ships equipped with surgical facilities to small river boats. These vessels are stationed in various places, including Papua New Guinea, the Amazon, and Russia. Aboard is an all-volunteer crew, consisting of University of the Nations and Youth With A Mission members, as well as various health care professionals and educators. All are committed to helping those with limited or no access to resources, Curtis said.
The sailboat, celebrated Saturday, does not yet have a name and YWAM Ships is asking the public to submit suggestions that reflect the essence of Hawaii and the ministry’s purpose. The ministry is also getting input from area kupuna, kahu and pastors. Suggestions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is one of two ships, owned by YWAM Ships, that will call Kona home port. The other ship is anticipated to arrive by the year’s end. YWAM Ships wants both vessels to be of community pride, Curtis said.
Prior to coming to Kona, the sailboat was known as the Caribbean Reach and had been ministering in the Eastern Caribbean Sea for the last decade. To get here, it traveled through seven time zones and along the path of the Thaddeus, the well-known American brig that carried Hawaii’s first missionaries. This repositioning has occurred since January, Curtis said. Bringing the sailboat to Kona made sense, particularly when considering it takes about five to seven days to reach Micronesia from here and the presence of University of Nations Kona, he added.
For three months, the sailboat will be used by the University of the Nations Kona’s School of Navigation and Seamanship, operating out of the former Hukilau Hotel on Alii Drive. University of Nations Kona began leasing the facility, now called Port YWAM - Kona, this summer. The school’s first class begins Sept. 26 and has nearly 60 students. Students learn about and apply navigation and seamanship principles, including survival at sea techniques and the logistics of what it takes to bring a ship into port.
Upon completion of the three-month lecture, which costs $4,250, they can serve aboard any YWAM ship. However, all crew members must raise their own travel and living expenses to go on a mission. Such expenses may cost between $300 and $350 a month, Curtis said.
The sailboat will depart Kona in December for a nine-month mission to Micronesia, where numerous hardships and challenges exist. For instance, one in seven women die during childbirth and a one in 13 children die before age 5. There is also a lack of fresh water and the available well water is contaminated and masked with sugar, creating health issues like diabetes and dental diseases, Curtis said.
The goal is to be at Christmas Island by Christmas and to actively serve the region over the next five to 10 years. Volunteers will assist with various water, agriculture, medical, linguistics, humanitarian, nutrition, immunization and sports initiatives. There’s also a major emphasis on training the trainer. Opportunities are offered to island residents to not only learn principles and practices, but also know how to pass these techniques onto others in their community. This type of engagement is empowering and helps generate long-lasting change, Curtis said. All donations made to YWAM Ships goes directly to providing such experiences and aid, Curtis said.
If there is enough interest, The School of Navigation and Seamanship will offer mini-seminars as a way to get others in the Big Island community involved. In particular, YWAM Ships is eager to have local Hawaiian youth join the ministry during its missions. It also wants to offer scholarships, but needs the public’s help, Curtis said.
To get involved or for more information, visit ywamships.net.