Journey to Pinipel: The Open Ocean & Storm

Our most recent medical outreach on the m/v YWAM Liberty was to Nissan atoll. Nissan is a small isolated atoll (shaped much like Maui’s hook) right above Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

Often on our outreaches to these isolated locations, we will run mobile clinics to bring immunizations to the more isolated villages around the island, while the main clinic still carries on in the central location. 

On this particular day, Emily, I, and our mobile clinic journeyed to the small atoll of Pinipel. The journey was an adventure, to say the least. 

Early that morning we packed our immunization and dental team into 2 small dingy boats (that belonged to a few of the locals of a nearby village, Balil) to travel across the open ocean, out of our safe lagoon, to go to the isolated atoll of Pinipel.

When we came out of our ship to get onto the dingy boats to start the 1-hour journey to Pinipel, we found a raging storm. Even though the skies were pouring down rain, we knew that God had plans for us to meet the needs of this isolated atoll. We assessed that it was safe enough to make the journey and we climbed into the boats. We secured our medical supplies well and set out for Pinipel.

I will never forget the feeling of that journey. 

As I clung to a little 2×6 bench on the very edge of the boat, I was filled with a sense of adventure. The waves crashed and the thunder roared. I still can’t decide if we were more soaking wet from the rain or from the waves slamming into us. I kept wondering if a fish would land in my lap from one of the waves crashing onto me.

As we left our safer lagoon to travel out into the open ocean, the waves began crashing harder. 

To be honest, sometimes I feel like wearing a life jacket in a dingy boat is a bit of overkill, but this was not one of those moments. I have never felt so comforted by a ridiculously thick, bright yellow life jacket. In that exact moment of the journey, I felt the reality of what we are doing here. We were going through so much to get to these isolated people. 

The ocean and the storm would not keep us away. These people had real health problems and even greater than their health needs, they needed to know they are not forgotten and that they are worth us traveling through hardship to get to them. This is the heart of who we are here at YWAM Ships.

This is what I was made for. 

Have you ever gotten the feeling that you were fully where God wanted you to be and doing fully what He wanted you to do? This is how I felt at that moment; as the rainwater hit my face and I rode with my team to Pinipel. 

Even in the midst of the raging storm, I felt no fear. The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will for your life. I knew that was exactly where I was.

As we traveled around the reef surrounding the island, we found a small opening that was just wide enough for our boat. The storm, the waves crashing and the shallow reef are three things that don’t usually mix well together.  

To my delight we passed through safely, leaving the open deep ocean behind us and the atoll of Pinipel before us. The land was beautiful. The rain stopped and a rainbow appeared behind us. As we waded through the shallow reef to get to the shore, I looked down to see a royal blue starfish under our boat.

Once we got to the shore, many smiling faces welcomed us. We greeted the villagers and proceeded to find the best spot on shore to set up the clinic. We set up immunizations under a small tent outside while the dental team was inside a small aid post nearby. 

Usually, the maximum number of children we can immunize in a day is about 50 or less. On this particular day, we were somehow able to immunize 74 children before 2 pm! 

Every young child brought to our clinic was able to receive their healthy baby checkup and shots. Most children needed at least 4 shots and 2 oral immunizations each. While our immunization clinic was running, our dental clinic saw patients from all over the island.

Lives were changed on this day. 

We ventured through the storms and saw patients who may never be able to leave the safety of their reef and receive medical care elsewhere. Each smiling face helped us through our clinics and made the wild journey worth it. 

Sometimes we have to be willing to face the storm to get to the blessing on the other side. 

What storm are you facing in your life? Are you willing to press through it to get to the blessing on the other side?

This is the story of only one journey on our outreach to this area. We traveled all over the island with immunizations, dental, eye surgery, eyeglasses, primary health care, wound care, community health care teachings, and more. 

The stories to be told by the members of our ship team are endless. God is moving in amazing ways and lives are being changed!

Jeff West
PNG Outreach Team Co-Lead

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