It’s something between work and vacation. The Seventh-Day Adventist group Cruise With a Mission combines cruises and one-day mission projects at each of its ports. Most of the trips have been in the Caribbean, but in its second trip to Alaska the group made its first stop in Ketchikan on Tuesday.
After disembarking from the Oosterdam and a brief orientation, the group of about 50 volunteers began wading through a pile of coveralls at the Ketchikan Youth Initiative headquarters.
The volunteers happily zipped into donated crew uniforms with name patches such as Juan and Oscar, and got to work clearing out the KYI building under the leadership of Bobbie McCreary.
“We’re taking advantage of this group while they’re here. We’re taking all the stuff out and we’ll put back in what we really want. The rest, we’ll have a take it or make a donation kind of thing. This is wonderful because it takes numbers of people and they come ready to work.
Paige Edberg and Sydney Wallace, both 20 and from Orange County, California, cut insulation for the bare basement walls. “I don’t know what it sounds like, but it looks like we’re cutting through fat. That’s just what I compare it to. Like if a plastic surgeon was doing liposuction. It’s kind of satisfying. It’s a good feeling.”
Edberg and Wallace said they have been best friends since age 2 and do almost everything together, including a Carribean Cruise With a Mission six months ago.
“We were on a cruise so it was kind of like vacation as well, and we got to do mission work on the side. Every port we stopped at we were able to help out the community in whatever way they needed. It was just like a good feeling to be able to help people that really needed it.”
Other projects in Ketchikan included cutting down alder trees at Pioneer Heights senior housing, and clearing brush off the side of the creek behind the skate park.
Project leader Jos Govaars said since he was young, the spot on the creek with thick foliage has been a place to brew trouble.
“Right down there. Right now there is probably at least four or five liquor bottles and I don’t think that’s healthy environment for the kids. So, the thought process was if we make it so you can see everything from the bridge downstream that chances are there will be less hoodlums hanging out at the point. So we’re clearing everything down as low as we can get in the hopes that next year it will be a little easier to clear.
Within about an hour and a half, Govaars had to make his first run to the dump.
“Finding good help is a difficult thing. Especially free labor. They just came off the ship and boy they’re ready to work. I’m ecstatic. This is more than what I was expecting and we’ve still got a couple of hours to go.”
The volunteers finished early, which left time for some more typical activities, such as sightseeing and shopping.
Mission Director Vern Byrd said you can get a lot done in six hours, and the one-day mission trips combine the benefits of traveling to new places with giving back.
“It’s just one avenue of people can get together. You’re on a boat you can eat as much as you want or you can sleep, but you can have fun off ship at the mission projects.”
The group also hosts Christian programming aboard the ship in the evening. Byrd says occasionally other passengers attend their programs and sometimes even choose to accompany them off the ship to volunteer.
The group also will make stops in Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia.