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Called to uncharted waters

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Tall ship project for Oregon aims to see
vessel utilized in a wide range of ministry

By JOHN FORTMEYER

CNNW publisher

SALEM — With an obvious big interest in nautical life, local resident Matthew McDaniel has been compelled to invest much time and money in a challenging project. But his equal interest in the things of God means his efforts also could create a unique opportunity in Oregon for Christian youth.

McDaniel for several years has sought to bring a “tall ship” — a large, traditionally-rigged sailing vessel — to the state. While the vessel will venture out of Portland and other Northwest ports, plans call for it to be based out of Newport for quick access to the sea.
According to McDaniel, Oregon and Mississippi are the only two states with no tall ship sail program.

Last year he spent $65,000 of his own funds to purchase a 63-foot, two-masted all-steel ketch from an estate after the owner died and the owner’s brother sold it. Since then, McDaniel has spent another $15,000 on it, and about $3,000 to $4,000 was donated, in exchange for time spent on the boat, to a non-profit that he has established. McDaniel is replacing the only wood mast with an aluminum one and all new stainless rigging according to U.S. Coast Guard specifications.

“As in setting out on ventures on the sea of uncharted waters, it is my goal to have Jesus use both I and this ship in any way, with a hope to help people learn discipleship and build up their own ministry, engaging people to go into service, to find their vision,” McDaniel said. “I see the ship as a communicator, a way to reach out to people, both young and old.”

McDaniel has several goals tor the ship. They include:

•having churches and ministries see it as an available tool to engage youth;

•bolstering interest in outreach to the rest of Oregon, the Northwest and other locales including the South Pacific, parts of Asia, the Mediterranean and Israel;

•distribution of free Bibles;

•specific outreach to the Akha people, a special interest of McDaniel, who coordinates the Akha Heritage Foundation (www.akha.org) The Akha are an indigenous hill tribe who live in small villages at higher elevations in Thailand, Burma, Laos, and  other parts of southeast Asia.  As an ethnic minority with little easily accessible legal recourse, Akha have long been subject to rights abuses.

“I hope to offer some sail training opportunities to Akha young people who are able to get a travel visa to the U.S.,” he said. “There also are children of Akha marriages in the U.S. Our goal is to publicize their plight while also working with Oregon young people and Asian migrants in Oregon who tend to be isolated in urban areas.”

On the recommendation of business people in Oregon, the project last year was split into two sides. The private purchase of the ship is under the name Oregon Tall Ship Project LLC. On the non-profit side, Sail for Freedom (www.sailforfree-dom.org) provides an opportunity for individuals to donate to a scholarship fund for young people to gain sail training.

The overall future of the project and the vessel remains to be pinned down, and the level of interest from churches and ministries will be a big factor, said McDaniel.

“I do not have a real rigid plan of how the ship will assist people, but intend to develop that along the way,” he said. “The ship offers an opportunity currently not available to people in Oregon.”

McDaniel is in his third year of publicizing the project and has promoted it at both the Seattle Boat Show and Portland Boat Show.

For more information, phone 971-388-7185, or go to the two websites mentioned above.