Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Palau, Tonga, Samoa…Just hearing the names of those islands conjures up travel brochure images of a warm tropical sun setting in the distance over blue turquoise waters, palm trees, secluded white sandy beaches, and air-conditioned hotels, calling to your inner most desires. As real and appealing as those images may be, there is another calling in the South Pacific that few hear or know about. It's an urgent call for help.
Answering the call
Having sailed in the South Pacific, University Church of Eugene members Richard and Stephanie Hackett witnessed both the incredible beauty and hardships faced by those living on the remote islands. Seeing the need, and having the hearts of disciples, they began reaching out to the island nations’ governments to learn more about the initiatives they had for their remote island citizens. The feedback they received moved them to take action.
Richard said this about what they had learned:
"Although the island nations were striving to build a modern infrastructure on their larger, more populated primary islands, there was no service delivery mechanism in place, or funds available to try and connect their thousands of inhabited remote islands to even the most basic health care, education and economic development services. That was when we learned the reality of the situation there."
Richard and Stephanie understood that the need was urgent and with God behind them, anything was possible. They embraced the promise of Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." They prayed, planned and then stepped out on faith.
In 2012, they launched a non-profit organization called Sea Mercy (www.seamercy.org). Their first "step" was to create a volunteer fleet of "free" Floating Health Care Clinics (large sailing catamarans) staffed by international based health care volunteers who were willing to answer that call for help. Working under Memorandum of Understandings with their island nation partners (currently Tonga and Fiji), God has truly blessed their faith and efforts. Since 2013 their vessels and volunteers have visited over 150 remote islands, evaluated and treated over 11,500 patients, tested and provided over 4,500 reading glasses, and treated over 1,500 dental patients.
With the South Pacific sitting in the heart of "The Ring of Fire," the most active earthquake and cyclone area of the world, God then called Sea Mercy to meet another remote island need following natural disasters. In 2014 following Cyclone Ian in Tonga, and in 2015 following Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, Sea Mercy sent eight vessels to deliver aid and medical care to the devastated and often neglected remote islands following a natural disaster.
In October 2015, they cast their volunteer vessel net further out and formed partnerships with the international yachting community. This enabled them to launch their First Response Fleet program to deliver international aid to those on the remote islands following a natural disaster.
Restoring hope and a future in paradise
Climate change, natural disasters, government dependence, diabetes...
After three years of serving these remote island communities, there was a growing reality that without urgent help, the very lives and culture of the people living on the thousands of "at risk" remote islands spread across the South Pacific will slowly fade from existence. What were once proud, self-sustaining and thriving communities are now deeply dependent on government support, a support that is destroying their very culture, health and way of life. It is also creating a mass exodus of their youth and talent.
"We felt God had placed our program exactly where we needed to be to try and address this remote island issue," said Richard. In October 2015, with the support and assistance of a local SuperYacht, Sea Mercy sent a team of water, health, education, agriculture and economic development experts to evaluate and assess the needs on each remote island in the remote Lau Group of Fiji. They also assessed the potential for self-sustaining short, medium and long-term health, agriculture and economic development programs, designed to return the islands to the growing and thriving communities they once were.
With the support and approval of the Fijian government and local island leaders, God opened the necessary doors for Sea Mercy to launch the 2016 Global Mercy Armada (GMA) to implement those much-needed programs. From June 8th through July 27, Sea Mercy will be sending out their GMA vessels and volunteers to the remote island of Tuvuca in the northern Lau Group of Fiji, where they will work alongside the local islanders to help train and support their efforts.
Volunteer with Sea Mercy in Fiji!
Please keep the Sea Mercy volunteers, vessel captains, and the people of the South Pacific in your prayers.