Mission mandate: ‘To promote and provide for the spiritual, physical and mental needs of all seafarers (Vancouver 2016)
Welcome to this Fall edition of ‘Ship to Shore’ which as the title suggests seeks to share with you the story of the seafarer and to bridge the gap that exists between those who work at sea and those of us who live our lives on the land. I took this picture of this ship towards the end of September 2020 and as you can see it has been through a lot and the storms have made their mark. This picture really spoke to me of the effect that Covid-19 has had on seafarers and gives me the opportunity to share how the Mission has responded and what shape we are in now. If you cast your minds back to the lockdown in BC in March 2020 everything came to a halt and in the interest of safety we closed our centres. My Chaplain colleagues and I were determined not to abandon the seafarers but rather and this developed as time went on,visit with the seafarers from the top of the gangways with masks etc . We put together ‘care packages’ made up of chocolate, chips, popcorn,stickers, a thank you message, prayer cards and other material offering guidance and encouragement.As the months went by the strain on seafarers increased, contracts which are on average 8-10 months became 1 year, 14 months and even 17 months as borders closed. The stress was made worse by them not being permitted to go ashore . Seafarers spoke of it being like a prison.Those who did get to go home were faced with up to 1 month in quarantine esp. in the Philippines and India.A real concern now is the safety onboard as fatigue and stress sets in.The Mission was receiving more cries for help to be able to go home, for groceries and every day items like phone chargers. The coordinated response to the plight of seafarers brought the Mission into closer working partnership with the ITF (International Transport Federation) and ultimately the formation of a ‘Vancouver Port Welfare Committee’ made of those with a stake in the welfare of seafarers to work to provide good shore based facilities for seafarers.This committee has been working to produce guidelines that assist seafarers right to go home and to shore leave, to put pressure on those with the influence be it the shipping company, the captain, the port, the local or national government. The result is that some seafarers are visiting our centres which reopened in July with all the precautions in place. There are more crew changes but as with shore leave it has a long way to go. Covid 19 has made it necessary as a Mission to look at what we do and how we do it and so we are reviewing our Strategic Plan.Like the ship in the picture it was time for a refit, a good paint job so we can continue to fulfill our care of the seafarer. We see the need to provide more onboard services such as shopping online as well as improving how we communicate with the seafarers via different forms of social media. Many of the seafarers I continue to meet look tired and yet they remain resilient , putting on a brave face because they are out there providing for their families.They have also been a saving grace in that when we went into lockdown it was these men and women of the sea who were a life line in keeping the supplies we needed coming.The crisis as with Covid 19 is not over and likely won’t be for a while yet so please keep the seafarers and the Missions work in your prayers and enjoy the rest of this News-sheet. For those who go down to the sea in ships God protect them.Peter Smyth Senior Chaplain, Port of Vancouver,BC
Change at the Mission- In October the internship of Vincent NG came to an end. Vincent has shown great dedication to the seafarers and esp. the Chinese. Vincent has also expanded our support of the seafarers coming to Port Moody. We also are preparing for the move of Chaplain Ernst DeVries of the Christian Reformed Church and wife Winnie to be with family in Alberta. Ernst has been serving the seafarers for many years by bringing fresh vegetables, bread and other goodies to the ships as well as offering comfort and encouragement and in more recent years working in the Roberts Bank Seafarers Centre. Ernst has always been willing to help the seafarers in whatever capacity. We pray for God’s continued blessing on Vincent and Ernst in the knowledge that there will always be a gangway waiting for them with a seafarer happy to see them.
Congratulations to Miranda a former intern at the Mission to Seafarers in Vancouver who is moving back to London to join the Community of St. Anselm at Lambeth Palace! The Community of St. Anselm is ecumenical and focuses on prayer, study, and service. Miranda was selected from hundreds of applicants to live there from January-August 2021 alongside 15 other young people from across the world for a year of silent contemplation, service work with London-based charities, and theological study. Community members live by a rule of life that is designed to create a strong spiritual foundation and equip them to live lives of integrity.
Looking for a guest speaker to lead a webinar, preach online on a Sunday or another time then the Rev’d Peter Smyth, Chaplain to the Seafarers in Vancouver would welcome the opportunity to speak about the seafarers and the response of the Mission esp. during this time of Covid 19. If such an opportunity is there to connect online then please do get in touch.The Mission to the Seafarers is a ministry of the Diocese of New Westminster something for people to know about and take part in with the support of the seafarers gratefully received.