“We know that it was God’s plan to be here and be used by God to bless three different countries in these three months.”
At the end of December 2017, six of our current and former OM Ireland team set off for a three country, three-month charter of the first OM Riverboat The Andante. Colm* and Catherine* (Ireland), Rafa* and Mari* (Brazil), Ciara* (Ireland-Canada), and YuJin* (South Korea) trusted that God’s plans and timing had led them to join the team of 78 people from 28 different countries.
Once aboard, Mari and Colm joined the Café Team in the Global Café. Rafa became the Events Coordinator to organise groups coming aboard. Catherine took over as Housekeeper. Ciara and YuJin joined the team running 'The Agency'.
Colm’s love for boat life and people amply prepared him for the new ministry. “When the idea of a riverboat in Europe came up December 2016, I got very excited.”
The vision was presented “to operate a river boat on the European rivers to share the Gospel and mobilise the Church.” A vessel smaller than the Logos Hope could reach a new, mostly untouched geographic and demographic of people for God’s kingdom. Contrary to what most people may think or know, Europe is one of the fastest growing (receiving) mission fields.
The prospect of serving on a boat wasn’t new to Catherine either. “With the River Shannon here in Ireland, we’d already thought ‘What could you do with a boat? What would that ministry look like?’ The type of life that happens on rivers is slower. We thought ‘this is a natural way to evangelise’ [in Europe].”
While Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, the number of Christians in Europe is declining. On average, only half the population believe in God and 25.4% directly say they have no religion. ‘Despite the low rate of belief in God, 49.5% say they are Catholic Christian, 12.7% say they’re Protestant Christian, and 8.6% say they’re Orthodox Christian’.
“I wanted to be involved in missions in mainland Europe,” Ciara shared, “so I looked up OM Europe and saw that there was a Riverboat Project in Strasbourg. I was intrigued by what that was, so I looked up the Riverboat. I joined because it was such a unique way to reach people in Europe.”
“Europe is lost and needs prayer!” Rafa urged. “Germany was a shock to me personally. It seems that we were a kind of “awakening” to the church on how they can go out from their comfortable buildings and be light on the streets. Evangelism isn’t something that the churches are doing anymore. We’ve lost the sense of working together as the body of Christ—apart from denominations—for the sake of the Gospel. We can and must do more, wherever God places us.”
“When you’re out on the street, there are people who cross your path and conversations you have that make you say ‘wow,’” Catherine said. “I’m learning that everyone is searching.”
‘The Agency’ (the main ministry and mobilising tool of the Riverboat) was a challenging escape room experience. The storyline experience (built around a parable) sought to give participants (mostly church members or youth groups) a sense of their mission as Christians and a better idea of how God is part of our entire lives.
Throughout her time onboard, Ciara heard stories from groups who had gone through the escape room experience and felt the urgency to go out and tell their friends and family about what they had learned. For her, it was encouraging to see young people facing their fears and realising the necessity of reaching the least reached with the good news.
“When God calls, and His plan is in place,” Mari believes, “He will make it happen no matter what. It’s so beautiful to see how many different tools that we can use to share His love.”
The Riverboat trial is now complete, and the international team has returned home. If you’d like to learn more, mission stories are available on the Facebook page (OM Riverboats) or online.
Please pray for discernment about the continuation of this ministry in the future. The spiritual need has not gone away. There’s always more to be done with a mission, a family, and a boat.
* Surname not included for security reasons