The lockdowns and restrictions of 2020 have helped us appreciate the many things we take for granted in life – such as the freedom to physically meet and hold loved ones, and to make friends with strangers while waiting in the que or while watching a football match in a pub. As Christians, it is fair to say that we now – more than ever – very much appreciate the joy of being able to fellowship in person at our Churches.
Well, Christian Brothers and Sisters at sea have always felt this way! When I first realised this, I had to stop in my tracks and dwell on that thought for a moment. Whoa! On a busy afternoon, I was on “Alpha,” a bulk carrier berthed in Garston. The ship had just had her produce delivered at port and the crew were busy stocking it. The Chief Officer welcomed me in and let me wait for the crew at the mess room. After some time of waiting, I started to lay out a few Bibles, some literature and woolly hats on the small table at the corner. I found that the busy Cookie in the galley across the table was watching all this. All of a sudden he marched towards me and said in a stern loud voice, “I don’t need a Bible!” I was shocked for a moment. And then, he smirked! I got it then – he was just being funny! We bumped fists and laughed about it. What a cool guy! Marinel (pic: above), the Cookie, is a Christian and always carried a Bible with him everywhere. He was all smiles when he learnt that I was a born-again Christian too! We had a great chat and prayed together in the galley.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
On my way home, I pondered on the privilege we have, even during lockdowns, to be able to meet virtually. For seafarers who cannot access the internet at sea, worship on Sundays becomes lonely. During my next vistit to Garston docks, I met a Captain and Crew, both named “Andrei” (pic: bottom left). When they learnt that I was a Chaplain, they introduced themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians. To break the (perceived) ice, I threw a few gospel questions in our conversation. This led to a more deeper converstation about God’s common grace to all men everywhere, and His special grace to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation. The woolly hats and chest warmers I had with me came in handy during this visit. The Captain was glad to accept Russian Bibles and gospel literature as well. I offered to pray, and prayed the gospel, as I always do. As I finished praying, something amazing happened. The Captain hurried off inside as Andrei stood there thanking me (repeatedly) for the time and the gifts. Suddenly, Captain Andrei emerged with a bag in his hand saying, “this is my thanks to you for praying.” The bag had a box full of Coke cans. I was startled at the gesture. As I walked back to the car, I realised what joy a small act of kindness brings to seafarers who are in desperate need of fellowship. On many occassions last month, I had the privilege of sharing Christian fellowship with men at sea. Jan, Rolly and their friend (pic: bottom right) were also glad to receive Bibles on board the “Charlie” berthed at Garston docks.