Day in and day out men and women — many of them daddies and mamas — labor long hours to support themselves and their families. One of those daddies is the young man from Bali who served us dinner every evening on our cruise. He is such a joy that seeing him at dinner became a highlight of every day. He is married and has a daughter who is four years old. While he is traveling for months at a time on the ship, he leaves his young family with his mama and daddy.
Our waiter is one of thousands of crew members who travel on the oceans of the world. Our one mid-sized cruise ship had a staff of 473. I can only imagine what the total staff is on the almost 6,000 container ships of the world, plus the cruise ships and fishing boats and all the other boats and ships this dry land girl from the middle of America doesn’t know anything about.
Our first Canadian port was Saint John, New Brunswick. A few steps from the gangplank was this sign, requesting donations for the local Seafarers’ Mission.
One of the last things I saw in Saint John was this line of cruise ship crew members intent on the screens of their smart phones (I modified the photo to an ink drawing to protect their privacy). One of the must-dos when a crew member has a few hours off during port stops is connecting electronically with their loved ones back home.
On board, our friends Garth and Terry met a passenger who lives in the northwest of the U.S. where he serves as a missionary to cruise ship crew members. His purpose is similar to the purpose of the Seafarers’ Mission in Saint John. Its purpose is:
“To enable the love of Jesus Christ, in ecumenical Christian fellowship to meet the spiritual, mental, social, and physical needs of Seafarers from all nations.”
The modern Seafarers’ Mission of Saint John builds on the work of missionary Stuart Smith who once shared Jesus with both seafarers and longshoremen, walking the docks and terminals of Saint John and going on board ships seeking the lost. Today the mission has a meeting place, a chapel, vehicles to transport seafarers, and a chaplain. The mission offers prayer, free transportation, access to the Internet, phone cards, shopping, and a place to rest and unwind.
Each Christmas, when seafaring men and women are especially lonely, the mission gives them gift boxes or bags with items such as toiletries, gloves, socks, scarves, and (as their website says) “A Little Something Extra,” such as playing cards, a Canadian souvenir, or candy.
It feels hard sometimes to fit in service projects on top of a busy homeschool schedule. The secret is to count those service projects as school. Children learn so much by serving others and that is education, too.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give His life a ransom for many.