A Port Chaplain's Reflections

Bill Wong /Tuesday, February 4, 2020

 

After reading Psalms 107:23, “Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters,” one might wonder why people go out on the sea in the first place?

Well, people have gone to sea for many different reasons – for some there is still a sense of adventure, for others the challenge, while the majority are there for the money.

From a commercial perspective, roughly 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea. Shipping is the life blood of the global economy. Without shipping, the bulk transport of raw materials and the import/export of foodstuff and manufactured goods would simply not be possible.

However, do we ever think of and pray for the seafarers who work on those ships?

The reality is these courageous men and woman are part of an invisible workforce, a workforce that’s almost forgotten by society, and so are the lives that they lead.

Seafarers & Chaplains

For many seafarers, working on the high seas is their means of supporting their families back home, but that choice comes at a price.

You see, they are far away from their homes and loved ones for up to nine months at a time. That’s a big sacrifice, especially if they have young families, because many don’t get the chance to watch their young ones grow up. They miss out on many family occasions; not just the celebrations but the normal day-to-day living which we sometimes take for granted.

For these seafarers, it’s either life at sea or a family life at home. It’s impossible to have both. And while at sea, their fellow crew members become their family.

“They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep” - Psalm 107:24

The seafarers have a special opportunity to witness the works of God – the manifestations of His power which are not seen on land. And none is more obvious than when they encounter bad weather.

“For He spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.” - Psalm 107:25

Some seafarers that I’ve met can recall what it’s like to encounter stormy weather – “There were massive waves at least 30 feet high, breaking over the bow of the ship, and sometimes over the bridge, which can go on for days. It’s scary and not pleasant!”

No matter how large or safe a ship is meant to be, it’s still tiny and insignificant compared to the sea.

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of elders.” - Psalm 107:29-32

We know there’s one true companion for the seafarers and that’s our Lord Jesus Christ.

He’s the only one who can calm the storms both on the seas and on the sea of life and bring them to a safe haven.

The Good News is that, on the cross, Jesus dealt with the pain, stress, sin and sickness of all humanity, once and for all, and in doing so, He offers everyone who trusts in Him eternal life.

Everyone needs to know this, even the seafarers.

That’s the role of the port chaplains.

Every day, port chaplains are reaching out to seafarers that arrive on ships to the Port of Vancouver, sharing the love of God and the Good News with them.

And we know that Jesus didn’t just calm the storms on the lake and see His disciples swiftly to shore in troubled seas. He also dealt with the storms of life on the cross and secured for us a desired haven with Him – forever!

 

*This article was originally published in the Lighthouse Harbour Ministries newsletter, and has been republished with permission.

 

Prior to serving as a chaplain with Outreach Canada, Bill was a professional engineer, working 10 years as superintendent at a large manufacturing plant with over 500 employees, and then 20 years as an engineering consultant managing projects at marine terminals all over the world. He enjoyed the travels and meeting people in different countries. It’s amazing how God is now using Bill in his current chaplaincy ministry, having gone full circle to now serving in the marketplace and at the Port of Vancouver, where he had previously worked as a consultant.

 

 



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