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October 2002
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The Gospel Ship docks at St. James.

On Monday, August 26th, the Gospel Ship Glory to Thee arrived at the Yacht Dock with its crew, husband and wife missionary captains John and Gaydean Nolte and their Bernese Mountain Dog Silas. They had conducted a typical outdoor service in Charlevoix the day before, and came to see what he fuss over Beaver Island was about. After taking their message from port to port for three years, they figured it was about time.

In Charlevoix they had tied up, prayed, and then sat back to see what transpired. Because of the way their 44’- trawler is rigged out with their cross and message, it never takes long for other boaters to mosey over and quiz them. Just to start the ball rolling John might get out his 12-string and sing some of the songs he's written about the seas, songs that always convey his faith. Sunday night was typical: after initially scoffing, a passer-by came back and poured out his heart full of troubles. "He went away much relieved," John said. "Not that we have any special talent. God just seems to place us where we're needed."

Despite the $80,000 note they're carrying on their 22-year-old boat, they don't take a collection or ask for money--"everything we do must be free"--but they will accept a donation. Instead, they both work near their home in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin to make enough money during the off-season to support their missionary cruises. He is a carpenter, she a drywall finisher. Their life wasn't always thus. He was an engineer who ran his own company while earning his seminary degree, and she managed her own bass fishing business. When both of their spouses passed away, they began to look for something that would make a difference. What they found was each other.
It hasn't been easy. The brain cancer that took John's wife took five years to run its course, and cost him everything he owned. After the loss of her first husband, Gaydean became a missionary in Lebanon, where she was taken captive by the militia. For awhile she didn’t know if she’d make it out alive. But then their paths intersected, and six years ago they were married. Now their lives are filled with purpose: bringing their message that the path to God lies through opening oneself to Him, not earning salvation by following a list of good works. Along the way they are researching Captain Bundy, whose missionary ships (all called Good Tidings) plied the same waters over a hundred years ago. “The more I learn about him, the more I feel I’m ploughing the same field,” he said.

John has his eye out for a studio to turn the songs he has written into a CD. He's also working on a book about the unusual experiences they have had ("Every day is like Christmas morning," Gaydean said. "We never know what God has in store for us.") Time will tell if he has enough interesting experiences on his planned return trips to Beaver Island for the Emerald Isle to wind up with a chapter of its own. In the meantime, their adventures will be reported on their website,

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