Controversy fills the air whenever the relationship between personal freedom and the extent of the law is discussed. Well, nothing illustrates this better than the sentiments surrounding the frustrating travel restrictions put in place globally. The Bible makes it clear that while God is sovereign in demanding worship, we are to be law-abiding citizens bearing witness of mature discipline.
This principle applies to the workplace, even workplaces that happen to be your home, as in the case of seafarers. It is challenging to understand how seafaring is both “working from home” and “working away from home” at the same time. Seafarers – mature men and women – are free to be at home, but are subject to their “Masters” as long as they are on board. For Christian seafarers, the discipline of worship takes a whole new perspective depending on their “Masters.”
During the last two months, I have visited ships where Christian crew were overjoyed to share fellowship with me. On a few ships, there were Christian crew who longed for fellowship but could not even have a socially-distanced chat with a Chaplain due to “company policy” or “Master’s instruction” concerning COVID restrictions. This situation needs prayer.
However, it is such a joy to see smiles on Christian crew when their Master is a Christian! There is, invariably, a very warm welcome aboard the vessel, requests to visit again, request to hold a Bible study or conduct a service, and multiple requests for gospel literature. During these times, I am personally attracted to the “pre-COVID-like conditions” on board when Christian brothers from different households sit around the dining table to eat, pray and study God’s Word. I had to constantly remind myself that I had to be socially-distanced from these brothers. It is fair to say that I have experienced this “troubled pleasure” a few times in the last few months. Thanks be to God! Amen!
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
On board the “Victor” I met a Christian Captain who was seriously considering retiring from seafaring to serve God in a pastoral capacity in his home town. It was fascinating to learn that he has been friends with Brother Dave for many years and always thanked God for the work of MCM in Liverpool. When his crew (who were all born-again Christians) found that I was a chaplain, they pushed out their gangway – they were berthed in the scarp dock after a busy rainy day. The Captain radioed all the crew for prayer as soon as he learned that I was the Chaplain from MCM.
It is worth giving our time in prayer for Christian seafarers at this time. Many do not have shore leave to worship at a Church or the permission to invite a Chaplain to conduct a service on board.