When the idea of a river-sailing ministry in Europe became reality at the start of 2018, 78 passionate individuals arrived on board from all over the world to participate in the vision. The cold wintry months did not deter the Riverboat community from sailing port-to-port with a simple but compelling goal – to mobilise believers into missions and share the Hope of God together.
During the three months of ministry, the Riverboat welcomed thousands of visitors up its gangway. Teenagers, elderly people and families came on board to take in the atmosphere of a closely-knitted and vibrant Christian community. “I sensed the presence of God immediate as I stepped in,” commented one visitor.
Many also came to experience ‘The Agency’, a creative ministry which made use of an escape room game concept. It was a hit with the youths and many took their first step to share the gospel with a stranger through the challenge. In the seven port cities visited, the Riverboat quickly became a key platform and location for gatherings to take place – whether it was for the purpose of sharing gospel tools with fellow believers, sharing of the Riverboat’s vision and mission with church leaders, or sharing of faith with strangers turned friends.
Given that this was a trial run for OM to identify the Riverboat’s potential as a long-term mission field, the project came to completion at the end of March. However, connections that have been made with locals, believers or non-believers, continue to grow. The line-up team leader in Mainz, Germany, is in regular contact with 23 people through social media to pray and engage with for local Christian events. In Mannheim, Germany, another local leader connected with a small group of people who were so excited at reaching out in a new and refreshing way for God that they have set up a ‘Have a beer with God’ regular gathering in a local pub to bring God to those who do not know they need Him.
Feedback from churches have also been largely encouraging and positive. “We definitely thought this was a very well-organised project; it has really motivated the young people to think deeper,” said a church leader from Dordrecht, Netherlands, who participated in the escape room with 60 young people. “It challenged and pointed out to us that we need help to put sharing the gospel into practice.”
As for the onboard community that had grown into a family, departure from the Riverboat also meant arrival of new beginnings in life. Community member Harm Jan Willem (Netherlands) put it aptly during the Riverboat’s farewell dinner, saying “We are not meant to stay here and stick together, despite how much we would like that. We need to go back to the corners of earth where we came from to share what we have learnt here on the Riverboat.”
Till date, community members continue to constantly update and pray for one another over ministry and personal matters. The private Facebook group is filled with stories, pictures and videos of their lives back home, as well as testimonies of God’s guidance as they apply what they have gained on board at home.
“A girl on the plane noticed my One Wish wristband, a method to share the gospel that I had learnt on the Riverboat”, shared Tota Akursmørk (Faroe Islands), who was on her way to the Hillsong Colour Conference in London with her family. “I got to explain the four pictures on the wristband to her and explained how God wants to have fellowship and a true friendship with her.” By sharing the story, Tota mobilised community members on the Riverboat group to pray for this girl.
Other community members have noticed a significant change in themselves after their stint on the Riverboat and are being ‘agents’ of God in their own ways and capacity. “Because of what God did in me on the Riverboat, I see a huge difference in myself since coming home,” shared Catherine Ó Brolcháin (Ireland), who spoke about her faith in a deep way for the first time with her friend of 40 years and even sent her a book of Bible readings. “I am less fearful of man and am way more open about being a believer.”
Another community member, Maysa Monte (Brazil) has been volunteering at a shelter for children at risk after the Riverboat, believing that “if you share the gospel with children, you don’t have to reach out to adults in drugs and crime later on!”
Indeed, community members have kept their lights burning in their respective communities, just like a song they sung often on the Riverboat, “This Little Light of Mine” – a favourite with the creator of the One Wish Gospel tool, Richard Sharp (USA), who held One Wish training classes with many groups during his time on board and continues to do so.
For some community members, their life direction have been changed since the Riverboat. Two community members will be joining OM’s ocean-sailing ship, Logos Hope, this year. “I’m so excited; I can’t wait to be on the ship,” shared Francesco Antonacci (Netherlands). “I’m very curious about what other things God is going to do.”
Marc Grimston (UK), who has been exploring mission opportunities with OM Ireland since returning home, shared that God has been pursuing him to serve for 30 years, but he was too busy carrying out other roles in life – husband, father and manager at work. “Thirty years in the making and now, I can say that my identity is a missionary,” he proclaimed. “Here I am Lord, send me.”
The impact of the Riverboat is far-reaching and continues beyond one’s knowledge. Leadership teams in OM are currently discussing on OM Riverboats’ future and the feasibility of it being a long-term mission field. With the positive results from the trial run, made possible by the giving of funds and time from supporters and volunteers, the leadership is hopeful about the future of OM Riverboats.
Please pray along with us as discussions continue to take place about key decisions on the Riverboat. If you would like to know more, you may download a copy of the summary report on the website, www.om.org/riverboats. Thank you so much for your support and prayers!