I met some sailors today who literally spend weeks, if not months at sea. That makes experiences on land pretty few and far between. As the young crewman led my friend and me on a tour of their ship today, he was so excited to show off the bridge, the galley and his cabin. My friend asked what his aspirations are, “to be a captain who provides for his crew, treats them well and makes the ship a good place to work.” With a smile from ear to ear he shared how he wants the men who will one day serve under his lead to know that they are cared for and not abused.
As we left the ship, four of the crew followed us off with grins ear to ear to hop in the van for a ride to Walmart. When was the last time you were excited about a trip to Wallyworld? Can’t say it’s my favorite spot. For these guys, a chance to stretch their legs and pick up a few of their most longed for treats and necessities was a long anticipated reprieve from the cold, hard reality of life on the ship. As we climbed the five steep floors of metal stairs to the bridge, I thought of how many times these men must climb up and down each day. As we walked the narrow halls my friend stretched his arms out to get a feel for the intimate space. Walls are elbow to elbow. Private cabins, not much larger.
For men who spend the vast majority of a 3-10 month contract on board a vessel like this, the Ministry of the International Seaman’s Center offers a breath of fresh air, a place to relax on a sofa, play some pool and enjoy meaningful conversation with someone new, not one of the 8-12 men they see 24/7. I just know some of those conversations are life changing. The long hours spent on the water feed a hunger for something meaningful. Of the 8 – 10 Christian pamphlets left in the anxious hands of men on the ship, I didn’t see one man tuck the booklet away. Rather, he quickly opened and started reading.
Coming from Catholic, Muslim, Christian and other backgrounds, the Seaman’s Center offers an opportunity for volunteers to show the love of Christ, even if it’s only for a few hours at the time, with men who will literally sail the seven seas never to be seen in Wilmington again. Who knows what the hospitality of the Lord’s people will do in the lives of men who are hungry for something more meaningful and inviting than the steel that greets them from top to bottom of their ship.
Won’t you join me in praying for the men on the ship docked at Birth Eight today? Let’s pray that as they leave port this evening at midnight, that they have experienced the Love of Christ by way of a few hours of reprieve on shore with a volunteer serving with the International Seaman’s Center. May the seeds planted today take root and grow into a large sheltering tree in their home ports of the Philippines and Manila.
Where are you serving? Looking for an international ministry without leaving Wilmington? Maybe this is your chance to step up!