It’s not everyday a person gets to serve alongside someone who has travelled to over 140 sovereign states, been captured by Columbian pirates, served in the Vietnam War, and met presidents and dignitaries of nations around the world. Captain John McDonnell, a volunteer mariner with YWAM Medical Ships Australia (YWAM MSA), has done that and so much more.
From his early childhood, John was drawn to a seafaring life. Between world wars, his parents travelled the world by ship, so he grew up in a household full of books about life at sea. In 1965, John graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point Long Island, New York. Serving in the Merchant Navy during the Vietnam War, his career was expedited and he became a captain in 1971.
After hearing positive reports of YWAM MSA’s work in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Captain John contacted Captain Jeremy Schierer. He said he was excited to serve with the organisation and alongside Captain Jeremy. In 2012, he volunteered on board the Medical Ship.
Of all of the places he has travelled in the world, PNG is one of John’s favourites. It was the people of PNG that drew him in. He said he loves how the people of PNG want to grow, learn, and help themselves. He appreciated the attitudes, even in the poorest regions, and how they were so generous, despite having so little.
John was also drawn to the volunteers and crew on board the Ship. He was impressed with the hearts of the volunteers and each of their stories. It has been a desire in his life to give back, and has served since 2000 with other ship-based not for profit organisations.
More than anything, Captain John was excited to serve with Captain Jeremy on three of the four outreaches he was a part of. He praised Captain Jeremy’s dedication to YWAM MSA’s work. “I’ve been sailing for 50 years and have never seen a captain with the ability to navigate hard to reach areas the way that Captain Jeremy can. His navigational skills and use of hydro graphic survey equipment are both brave and amazing.”
Captain John is eager to have the opportunity to serve again, and looks forward to working with YWAM MSA in the future. He hopes that soon his wife, a doctor, will also be able to join him.