Colin Jenkins tells of the dangers and hardships seamen face on a daily basis

Colin Jenkins in Cork, tells of the variety of his ship visits and the dangers and hardships seamen face on a daily basis.

On a ship there can be from 5 to 30 different people. Each represents a different family and often 2-6 different nationalities are represented. On a cruise liner this is magnified and can be likened to visiting a whole village made up of different nationalities. My average in Cork each day is to visit 5/6 different ships which can come to any 9 different areas of the port. However sometimes I may spend all day (or evening) visiting one or two ships. It all depends on the needs of the people I meet and how much time they have free. It is important that as many of the ships can be touched in some way by God's love through human hands.

Please pray for my SCFS colleagues in other ports which are much busier than Cork.

On one ship, the men were so excited and really touched not only by the Christmas presents but also by letters, drawings, stories and poems which had been included by some local children.

One Chinese ship was surrounded by barbed wire! I was shocked and wondered if this was some kind of 'prison ship'. No, "it is to prevent pirates from Africa", I was told. There is also an armed guard aboard the ship who has to fire warning shots.

On another Chinese ship, one man who only spoke Chinese took me to his cabin. He was beside himself with joy as he showed me his open Bible and notebook on the table. Also, there was a Chinese booklet I had left the last time the ship was in Cork. Please pray for him – the only English word he could say and kept repeating was "Halleluiah!" He sang Psalm 96 to me in Chinese and cried. I let him phone his wife from my mobile phone.

Finally I boarded an LPG tanker with 16 presents and found 16 Filipino crew. On the notice board it said, "No provisions… food for today, but none for tomorrow… no soap etc. Please Help!" They were quite desperate, and all we could do was bring more presents and groceries as well as a bag of rice from home. They were overcome with gratitude.

SCFS returns to Malta after 42 years!

Monday 10 August 2009 leaders of The Evangelical Alliance of Malta (TEAM) announced the launch of Maritime Ministries of Malta (MMM).  As a special meeting held in Malta the Constitution was signed to signal the commencement of this new ministry to seafarers.  Said Pastor Edwin Caruana, acting President of MMM:

‘Valletta is a busy port and commercial shipping is important to this island of Malta.  But we also welcome approximately 300 cruise ships every year.  This means we are visited by thousands of seafarers, often without our realizing they are even here.’

MMM exists to help seafarers in practical ways, and this gives the churches in Malta an opportunity to demonstrate their care and concern.

This new initiative has been helped by the return to Malta, after an absence of 42 years, of the Seamen’s Christian Friend Society (SCFS).  It was the SCFS which built and administered the King George V Seamen’s Memorial from 1921 to 1967.

The SCFS is an international, non-denominational seamen’s mission, and they have been happy to return to Malta to lend their support and expertise to the new ministry of MMM.

Notes to Editors:

  1. MMM has already appointed a number of volunteer ship visitors who will be spending time with ships’ crew and helping them in practical ways including the provision of general and spiritual welfare.
  2. The SCFS was established in England in 1846 and has a solid reputation internationally in the care of seafarers – see www.scfs.org
  3. The King George V Seamen’s Memorial Hospital was destroyed by a bomb in the last war and was rebuilt and reopened in 1948.  When Malta was granted independence and the British Navy left, the hospital was transferred to the Maltese government, and the SCFS finally handed over the hospital in 1967.
  4. MMM is grateful for the assistance of Martin Otto, SCFS Director of training from Germany; and Michael Wilson, SCFS International Director form England, for the practical help and advice they are continuing to provide.
  5. MMM plans to hold special training for its ship visitors in December.  This will be organized through the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW) – see www.seafarerswelfare.org.  The training course will be accredited by the Nautical Institute.  The course prepares ship visitors to go about their duties in a safe and considerate manner.

Fred Merry goes shopping!

There are times when all that is really wanted by seafarers is some practical help and understanding.  One day recently Fred collected two seamen from their ship and took them along to the seafarers' centre.  He then took them onto the large shopping centre at Lakeside where he helped out by taking them around some of the computer shops; getting their money changed; and then back to the shops to complete the purchases.  All very time consuming but greatly appreciated by the men!

Denis Taylor makes time to listen to lonely seafarers

Sometimes Denis comments to us that "nothing spectacular has happened" for a while.  Well, we happen to think the sheer fact that God has called people to visit ships on a regular basis is reasonably spectacular.  It isn't a glamorous job.  But SCFS workers visit ships in all weathers, and occasionally at very antisocial hours.  Sometimes a ship visit consists of little more than seeing to some ordinary welfare need – or simply time spent lending an ear to a lonely or worried seafarer.  The fact that someone has boarded that ship with the sole intention of being there for the benefit of the crew is pretty spectacular as far as the crew are concerned!  We believe that God can use these simple encounters in ways we might never fully understand.

John Barnard from Grimsby tells of a well loved and well travelled Bible

"I visited a ship crewed by Filipinos.  It was my second visit to this ship and I sat in the mess room talking.  I offered a man a Bible, "No! wait!" he said, and left the mess room.  It was not long before he had returned, saying, "Do you know Volker?"

He then showed me the Bible that Volker had given him back in 1994.  He went on to say that he takes his Bible with him always and he remembers a Christian friend called Volker."  In case you don't know, Volker is one of the SCFS workers in Hamburg.

We may never know the outcome of our encounters on the ships we visit, but they are so important and we must carry on faithfully in the work God has called us all to do, to his glory.

Sam Cowan reports from Belfast

A Baseball Cap, A Tee-shirt, Trousers and Trainers!

It was a very cold January day, I saw a Filipino seafarer walking along the harbour. He was only wearing a baseball cap, a tee-shirt, trousers and trainers. He looked lost. I saw him talk to some of the contractors working at the harbour and they shook their heads in a negative way. I thought he may have been looking for the mission, so I caught up with him and introduced myself. I was correct – he was looking for the mission. He told me that his name was Ricky and that he had no coat. I took him to the mission where he was able to telephone home. I then went to the office and got together some bags of clothes and toiletries for him and the rest of the crew. I then drove Ricky back to his ship. I was very warmly greeted and it was a joy to see the delight on the crew's faces with all the bags that Ricky and I carried on board.

I returned to the ship the following day with more supplies as there was not enough to go round on the first visit. This time I was told a very heart rending story. The crew had been 20 days at sea coming to Belfast. Before that they were 10 days in Brazil loading and they had had no shore leave. But before that, they had been a full month at anchor before entering Brazil for the cargo. After explaining this to me the 2nd officer, who was Filipino, also explained that for three months they had not been paid and that none of the crew had soap, toothpaste, shower gel etc, and that they were so grateful for my coming to them. One crew member said "I was sent from heaven."

What's In the News?

Wilbert and I really look forward to visiting the crew from the Cape Verde Islands as their ship visits Belfast. During one visit, I asked the crew if there was any way that we could improve our visits to them. Many felt that what was important was the fact that we visited them as often as we could. The cook also confirmed that he personally had been on contracts for 9 months and had not been on shore or seen a seafarer's Chaplain/Pastor in all that time.

Yet one thing they all agreed on that would benefit all the Cape Verde crew, was if I could print off articles from a Cape Verde newspaper on the internet, and take these to the crew when I visit. I was able to do this. Now as a regular feature of my visit, I take them the latest articles from the web site. It is wonderful to see them smiling as they read the articles and talk about them. This is a very easy way to help them keep informed about what is happening back at home.

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is comingThis is a busy time of the year for SCFS Chaplains as they get ready to distribute hundreds of Christmas parcels on board ships.  Here is a report from Belfast about their activities last year.

At the end of November we once again were grateful for the help of our local home church family. Around 50 adults and children came and in 2 hours wrapped up 600 presents. This was a tremendous start to the Christmas Wrap. We hit December running and it never eased until Boxing Day.

On Saturday 24th we had over 50 people including children who came to make parcels. The hall was buzzing with eager excitement as we began to wrap. Soon there were piles and piles of brightly coloured wrapped presents lined up against one of the walls. When we finished about 2 hours later the church family had made over 600 presents. We are so grateful to these willing helpers who give up their time to help in this way.

The Best Film Ever Made!

John Barnard Writes…

The large vessel was waiting to discharge its cargo.  All the crew were Filipino.  I laid out Bibles, tracts and hats on a table.  I was told by many of the crew as they came in that they have Bible study and prayer meetings on Sundays, led by a seaman named Robin.  I could not wait to meet Robin.  He must have been the last one to arrive; it was good to meet him.  Robin could only stay for a few minutes because of his work.  He said he would return later.

While I waited, I started to share with the rest of the crew, giving some the Jesus DVD.  One man put it on to play in their language, on the TV in the mess room.  I don't think I have seen a reaction like this before!  As the crew came in for their lunch, they just sat and watched; there was no talking.  No one seemed to want to leave, even when their food was finished.

Robin came back smiling and said, "We had our meeting last Sunday.  I made an appeal and many accepted Jesus as their Saviour".

Now I understood the reaction.

When it was time for me to leave, Robin stopped me, asking, "Please will you pray for me?"  He told me that in the six months of his contract he had no Christian fellowship from the outside world.  It is so sad that there are still so many ports in the world that do not have a Christian missionary or chaplain.  We prayed and cried; we were both so blessed.

The next day was the SCFS day of prayer.  I joined my son Nathan at his church, which is situated looking out to sea, where the ships at anchor can be seen waiting to come into the port of Immingham.  It was an ideal place to pray.  It was a blessed time bringing everything to God in prayer – our family, the SCFS and all the seamen.  Looking at my son I knew the best way to finish this time of prayer – we decided we would go and visit a ship and a "pastor" called Robin.  What a wonderful day of prayer we had, Robin was encouraged to carry on the work God had given him, and Nathan and I were doubly encouraged.

A Floating Video Library!

Rob Flinders reports about some well travelled DVDs.

Faustino is the second mate onboard a ship. He is a Christian, along with Rolando, the ship's Bosun. Faustino told me that last voyage his wife Regie traveled from their home in Iloilo in the southern Philippines to Manila so that she might be with him while the ship was in port. Unfortunately the ship was only in Manila for eight hours and for six of those Faustino was working on deck supervising the loading of cargo!

I asked Faustino how his wife passed the time while he was working on deck. He told me that he gave Regie two DVDs to watch that I had loaned to him the last time he visited Port Botany. The DVDs were evangelistic films provided to SCFS Australia some time ago by the Film Ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It is of course a great disappointment that Faustino and Regie were able to have so little time together but I was pleased to learn that our DVDs were used to good effect. Read more about A Floating Video Library!

Imprisoned For Seven Months!

Some seafarers find it very difficult to get shore leave. This can make them feel like prisoners!

I was speaking to a Christian on a fuel carrier who had not been ashore for 7 months. The ship comes in, loads and unloads, and is off again. He has probably stood on the dock side – but often the docks are too far from the towns and there is no time to go ashore. He was very grateful for the visit and the encouragement plus literature and Bible study.

Other times there is the equipping of the Christians on board to be a witness to the rest of the crew. There was one Indonesian crew who had just joined the ship with only 2 Christians on board. Their gentle witness would do far more good than my efforts. So I left literature to equip the Christians and encouraged them in their walk with God and for the praying for the rest of the crew.

Alan Offord, Falmouth.

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