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Alaska Christian Ministry to Seafarers
Seward Seaman's Mission
February 2009 Newsletter
The attractive pictures of sea birds, on the postcard from the Falkland Islands, captured my attention, but it was the message written on the reverse that got me thinking. "The copy of the Bible with your stamp on the cover was in the library of our cruise ship," wrote a passenger. She explained how her initial searches aboard, and ashore, had only turned up books from a different religion. She went on to say, how "delighted" she was to find it, and thanked us "for spreading the Lord's word to the far corners of the world!" The Gideons would have been proud of us. We do indeed cast the bread upon the waters when we are focused upon sharing God's word. Just last month I was in the Mess Room of a bulk carrier in Seward, when I noticed one our mission's world maps taped to the bulkhead. This came as a surprise for two reasons. First, the ship had never been to Alaska before. It seems that some years ago this ship had been tied up in Hong Kong alongside another vessel from the same country of origin. This is where the map had come from, but why it was transferred, or how it got there in the first place, I was unable to discover. One thing for sure, the Bible verse it contains, is well travelled and well read. Secondly, this ship was Turkish owned, with an almost entirely Muslim crew. One would have supposed that the message on the map would have been offensive. Not so. In fact, the crew members eagerly accepted, and sought after, New Testaments in their language and other Christian materials. The degree of my surprise was decreased considerably the next day when I read this report from Iran in the latest issue of Mission Frontiers, "One lady, who has personally distributed 20,000 Bibles, says never once did anyone turn her down. Rather, the vast majority received it as the greatest treasure they had ever been given." Different country, maybe, but the same response. On a final note on spreading the word, the new President of Alaska Bible College, Nick Ringger, has a desire to develop a ministry of teaching for the personnel working aboard the cruise ships. In this day of electronic wizardry, it was a simple matter for us to put him in touch with the fellowship leader on the ship he and his wife shall be travelling aboard next month. Your prayers for this new aspect of outreach would be much appreciated. None of these incongruous occurrences in our ministry could have been initiated by ourselves, but they certainly do reinforce our trust in God's power, wisdom and planning. We just have to be available.
Not All Days Are This Tough by Jeannette Seale
It is always hard to answer the question, "what do you do at the mission?" because there are no two days the same. However, once in awhile we get a day that none of us will ever forget. The day started with an onboard memorial service for an Italian officer who had just left the ship two weeks earlier and gone home. One of the first days he was home, he took his big motorcycle out for a spin and did not return home alive. His friends and co-workers on board were in shock. David, our director, and Betsy, who plays guitar, did a wonderful job at the service. The rest of the day proceeded normally at top speed, with meeting on board Christian leaders, visiting crew all day and then at 6pm David was at the head of the bay baptizing a crew member who had put his trust in Jesus Christ. While he was there, 8 college age Turkish Muslim fish processors came into the mission and said they had seen the sign that we were to have a church service that night. They wanted to attend and see what Christians do and how they pray! I sat with them and answered their questions until David was back and the service began. We handed out several Turkish new testaments so they could follow along. I am sure there was a wish on their part to convert us as I contemplate the direction of their questions. We were very crowded in that tiny room, shoulder to shoulder. It also ran through my mind that at this time in the world that terrorism can occur anywhere, even in Whittier. As I sang along with everyone, I asked myself, "If they have knives and decide to use them, am I willing to die for my faith?" How would the headline read the next morning?
While this was going on in one apartment, Joe was in the other helping two young women, one from Mongolia and one from Vietnam, download pictures to a memory stick. After the volunteers rushed to hop into the van and leave for Seward, two more young men from Kazakhstan came to the door asking to purchase calling cards.
After they left Joe and I tried to make a list of the countries touched by the mission in one day. We have 34 countries on the list. Those people either came into the mission or David and I had contact with them on the ship. In such a small place like Whittier, no one would ever guess that the God of the universe is bringing his light to the world, one person at a time.
The Trip From Italy to New Orleans by Capt Cesar as told to Joe and Jeannette Seale
Capt. Cesar visited the port of Anchorage on a bulk carrier unloading cement. His story follows.
I came onboard the bulkship M/V CSK UNITY, a Panamax ship at La Spezia, Italy to work as Chief Officer on May 16, 2005. After a trip to Puerto Drummond, Colombia, we came back to Italy in Brindisi where the captain and chief engineer were replaced. We were 6 Filipino officers and 18 Chinese junior officers and ratings.
The vessel sailed Italy for Port Layounne, Morocco and loaded phosphate for Louisiana. The day after the vessel left Morocco, it was the captain’s birthday July 28, 2005. On July 29th he was playing basketball with the Chinese crew when he fell down flat under the basketball board. I was called immediately by the crew to the basketball court which is a deck below the bridge. I tried to revive him applying CPR but he was gone. He was only 15 days onboard. I had to stow his body in the cooler and I took over the command of the ship. My officers and crew were very much afraid. I took the ship to Geismar in Louisiana for discharging. My ship was boarded by the USCG-PSC for inspection, ISPS Audit while she laid anchored in the Mississippi River which was a tough time for us. After that, another group of USCG came up and did an investigation, cross examined me and my crew as well to find out the real cause of the captain’s death. Initially it was established as natural death, no foul play. The vessel then moved to her berth to discharge her cargo. The following day at lunchtime, I’m looking at the table across from me, waiting on the Chief Engineer for us to have lunch together. Several calls were made in his room, at the engine and somewhere else, he couldn’t be found. Finally, I rose to see him in his cabin together with some engineers. I found him dead, lying on the floor of his bedroom. This happened 15 days after the captain’s death. I called my agent, USCG and everyone else who needs notification. The ship immediately was sealed with those yellow stripes like you see on crime scenes and nobody was allowed to come or go. Mutiny was suspected as well as outbreak of highly contagious disease. Doctors from the Public Health of the State of Louisiana came and did a lot of things to see if there was really highly communicable disease on board, but they did not find any sign to prove that. The USCG came again for another series of investigations to see what’s going on. After that, the Coast Guard kept calling me and asking all sorts of questions. Again, they did not see any foul play but natural cause of death, both guys did have heart attacks. Even then, no one was allowed on the wharf except me, and the times of crew going on deck and coming back to the accommodation was logged on, daily checked by the USCG and every eight o’clock in the morning I had to make a roll call and report it to the USCG, also at the evenings until the ship left Geismar. These two guys came onboard together at Italy alive and they both went home still together, but cold. And you know, something really strange happened when we were about to leave. With the pilot onboard, I was about to cast off lines when both radars displayed everything in Japanese characters we did not know what to do. I prayed to God to help us in that predicament, advised the pilot and he was scared as well, he had heard of two deaths onboard previously. After an hour, the display came to normal again and we left finally.
After a voyage to France, we were back to the Mississippi to load grain in New Orleans. Then we set sail for China via the Panama Canal. Three hours before our arrival in Cristobal (the Atlantic entrance of the canal) I was told that the Filipino oiler was having stomach pain. He was given pain reliever but his situation was getting worse. I prayed asking God to help this Oiler. I called a doctor via Inmarsat phone to see if there was something we could do while waiting to arrive where an emergency medical team would be meeting us on the way shortly. I saw this Filipino Oiler die in my arms with the emergency team close in sight, minutes before doctors came onboard. We left the Oiler’s remains at Cristobal, Panama. This happened one and a half months after the Chief Engineer died at New Orleans. The ship transited Panama Canal the following day for China.
I was really amazed how short life is. My crew were Buddhists, but I tried to communicate to them their need of salvation available through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I stayed on board CSK UNITY for 6 months. It was very stressful, but the Lord has really blessed me. With regards to being captain of the ship, they said it was my baptism of fire and I was really tried. Above all, God be praised! Amen.
"What About My Job--Is It Good or Bad?" by Jeannette Seale
"If any one would be first he must be last of all and servant of all." Mk 9:35
As I sat with some shy Muslim Indonesian crew galley workers, one asked me this question. Since I had already been talking with them for a few minutes, I knew they were very well spoken which indicated a good education. I realized he wanted me to assess his job, which was at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to working on ships. I already sensed how he felt about this low level job of serving up food in the crew galley. When he accepted the job, he probably had something completely different in mind. We talked about the economic situation in his country and how so many men and women are driven to sea to feed their families. We also discussed that the job on board had nothing to do with their levels of education and they all agreed. If he stayed at home he could barely feed himself, but on the ship his earnings could take care of many more family members. He interrupted with a smile and said "14." Then he had to go off to work again. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to also tell him how important his job is to the crew. If the crew mess is dirty or the service is slow, all the crew is unhappy. His job on the ship not only feeds 14 at home, but is central to the happiness of the entire crew, which numbers more than 800.
From a Local Perspective by Rhonda Hubbard
When I committed to volunteer at the Seaman’s Mission, for my own personal preparedness, I asked Director David what I should expect. He said, “just come with no expectations”. For a woman who likes to know ahead of time what she is to be doing and why she will be doing it, I thought this might be tough. It was not until later that I realized David was putting my human condition to rest.
My excuses for expecting, planning, and knowing were legitimate. I am a parent who has on-going expectations of her children, who are now young adults. I run a business, which takes planning and preparation, and my quest for knowledge is important to me. While my experience-earned skill set may have come in handy working some jobs at the mission, it had little to do with me really understanding God's handy work at the Mission . So often we allow our own expectations, our plans and even our knowledge to get in the way of God’s calling and our relationship with others.
I realized quickly that I needed to better identify myself in Christ’s humility. In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul purports to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
While this passage resonated with me all summer, I was better able to relax and enjoy getting to know people who came to the mission from all over the world as visitors and volunteers. My duties had nothing to do with me, but everything I could do for God and the people I encountered. As a born and bred local gal of Seward, I appreciated the adventure of meeting new people and learning about their lives.
My world changed at the Seaman’s Mission because so much of the world came to me. In welcome spirit I toured Nicaragua, many Baltic countries, Australia, Indonesia, most of the Philippines, parts of South America and India, all with hardly leaving the lunch table. Volunteering at the Seaman’s Mission reminded me that no matter where you go in the world, many different languages are spoken, but the cares and concerns of people and their families are common. Most common however is how the words of Christ strike a universal chord with his people, no matter what corners of the earth one may travel. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at the Mission and look forward to serving again.
Now Tell Me About Christianity by Cheryl Reichman
"I deeply think about u and at that day. I show your recorded movie hundreds of times. Thanks y and yr husband ……. Really now realise that someone is there who thinks about me."
We just received this email from Ram from northern India who was so happy to be working on a ship where he could visit places like Alaska. Mostly he wanted to tell me life experiences of his home and family. No one in his community of 8-10,000 had the opportunity for education or jobs, but for some reason he was selected to be schooled..
When he said this, I remembered friends from a supporting church sending us a bulletin asking prayer for the Dalits, the low untouchable caste in India, denied opportunities for education or jobs. "Are you a 'Dalit?' I blurted out. Stunned, he said, “Yes I am.” “I have prayed for you and your people,” I answered. He told me that for some reason he had been selected for a term at school. He did so well that he kept getting selected to study. But he was still a 'Dalit', and in his country, even with a Bachelor's Degree, jobs were not available to him. Later he found the opportunity to work on the ship. His community told him to go out in the world and come back and tell what he found.
With his digital movie camera, Ram set out to do just that. He asked a lot of questions and took many pictures. By a glacier stream, he set his camera on a rock. He pointed to another rock, "You sit there and I'll sit here. Now, tell me about Christianity."
Quickly, I told him about God's one way to rescue a lost world through His Deliverer, Jesus Christ. I told him that it seemed that God had chosen him to hear this "Good News of Jesus" so he could go home and tell his people. He agreed. This is the movie he is referring to in the e-mail. On his last visit, he left with a New Testament and some other material from the Mission to help him understand who this God is and why he needed to be rescued. He gave me his e-mail so we might write to him.
After the season was over, I was praying for him and his people one day and wondering how that weak little witness could help anyone. My eyes caught Romans 15:21 and I praised God for His power at work in those who trust Him.
"..as it is written: Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand." We wait for the day when Ram knows The Someone who thinks about him is Jesus.
In God's Time by Betsy Arehart
As a result of serving with the Seaman's Mission, God has enabled me to develop my abilities in singing and playing the guitar. I did not start to sing or learn to play the guitar until a couple years after I received Christ in 1983, so I can truly give Him the credit for motivating me to develop these musical abilities. I never dreamed that my simple wish to sing and play the guitar and offering that to Him would lead to this very unique ministry God has given me with seafarers.
Through the years, various people, including professional musicians, have encouraged me to record the Christian songs in other languages which we sing there. I always had many excuses not to do that .My real desire is to be a painter! I have always thanked them for the compliment and gave God the glory for giving me the talent to sing.
God had other ideas, and in His marvelous timing I made a recording of 14 favorite Christian songs. It’s a wonderful example of how God will make something that has been "stewing" in the background come into being in a way we could never have dreamed.
The project began when I was discussing the Mission's music ministry with Kate, a Christian singer from a ship. I told her that many crew had suggested that I make a sound recording as a companion to our songbooks but that did not seem feasible. She mentioned that her friend and coworker might be willing to help. This was the only time she was able to visit the mission.
Two weeks later her coworker Gil, a vocalist and music producer, came and told me that he could help with a recording. Soon we were in the music room with his laptop, my songbook on the table, my guitar in my lap and a microphone duct taped to a flimsy music stand. I believe we recorded all the songs on one take, repeating only one of them. He assured me that even though this seemed quite unprofessional and haphazard, he could add some other instruments and engineer it to make it sound "pretty good." While we were recording, the mission activities were swirling around us on a very busy day. This was not at all my idea of how a recording would be made. Gil said it would be fun for him to see what he could do with it and he did a marvelous job.
The result is a lovely CD of Christian songs in Indonesian, Spanish, Tagalog and English which we look forward to making available to the seafarers when they tell me "You should make a recording!"
I would like to thank the Lord for the readings that the seamission sent to Ruby Princess Christian fellowship. Philippines
It is so good to hear about all that our Lord is doing in the lives of men around the world, especially when we can join the angels and saints in their rejoicing when a soul is saved to the Salvation of Christ Jesus. India
Keep it up you really help people from your words of encouragement and words of god! I can still remember the time I can't sleep eat and come to work because of what happened, but with your help I gain confidence and you really helped me a lot. Philippines
Last time I talked with you I told you we had no shore leave. Two days later my boss called me and said shore leave was now granted. Surely that was a gift of God. Nepal
The fellowship here are having difficulties in work schedule for each and everyone have been added side duty on board so this is our prayer concern. Philippines
I have been sitting here listening to you talk to that girl from Poland. While you talked with her, this is not you speaking, it is God because his spirit in here. Mexico
Thank you for everything, for sharing your time & words - you've been nothing short of gracious and nothing but kind to me. I appreciate so much how you've shown me the GOSPEL & given me something I needed - fellowship - both one on one morning time together & the time with your friends around the table. USA
I am so behind in my work and I am under so much stress but it is absolutely necessary that you come to talk and pray with me. You are like an angel from God. S. Africa
You all are in the right place at the right time doing what God has put on your heart reaching out to the men and women who leave the comfort of their homes to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones, even though sometimes it leads them to fall in sin. India
|Joe and Jeannette
|PO Box 2742
||PO Box 143316
|Seward, AK 99664
||Anchorage, AK 99514
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