Mission to Seafarers
The Mission to Seafarers sought to help seafarers by offering practical, emotional and spiritual support through ship visits, drop-in centres and a range of welfare and emergency support services.
The Mission to Seafarers Centre in Newcastle is one of over 260 centres based in ports all over the world, caring for seafarers of all ranks, nationalities and beliefs.
The Flying Angel /Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre provides a ‘home away from home’ for seafarers who may have been at sea for up to two years. Here they can enjoy time away from their ship and use internet and phone facilities to get in touch with loved ones after months away.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me” Matthew 25: 35-36
In an emergency, the MtS is often the only help on offer. No matter what problem a seafarer is facing, be it injury, abandonment, non-payment of wages or personal difficulties, they know they can turn to the local Mission for help, advice and support. Our chaplains and volunteers offer practical and financial support, advocacy services, family liaison or simply a space to talk in a time of crisis.
The Mission to Seafarers was founded in 1856 and is entirely funded by voluntary donations.
Mission to Seafarers provide:
- free transport
- free internet
- free clothing
- free food
- free entertainment
- free pastoral care
- free books/bibles/etc
- free ship visiting
- free hospital visits
… and many more services.
Flying Angel Centre/Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre
Contact: The Rev’d Garry Dodd (Chaplain)96 Hannell Street Wickham NSW 2293 PO Box 3 WickhamNSW 2293 (02) 4961 5007 | Mobile: 0409 033 558 firstname.lastname@example.org www.mts.org.au/newcastle.html
I believe the ministry of the Mission to Seafarers is a really important part of the Church’s caring work and a great witness to the generosity of God in Jesus Christ, and I love being a Mission to Seafarers chaplain.
Shortly after commencing my ministry with the Mission to Seafarers, I was asked to care for a Chinese seafarer who had been injured on his ship and would need some surgery in Newcastle. This man had very limited ability with English so I accompanied him to see the specialist and then helped him communicate with the nursing staff and fill in various forms. All along, I could see that this poor guy was quite anxious and confused about what was going on. I tried to put myself in his shoes: here he was in an unfamiliar country with a very different health system from China’s; he was separated from his family and friends, and he couldn’t communicate easily how he was feeling, nor could he understand what people were saying to him. But I was able to stay with him as his chaplain through the day and support him through this traumatic experience.
As I prepared to leave him at the end of a long day, what really encouraged me was this seafarer’s comment in stammering English that the “Seaman’s Club” (which is what seafarers usually call us) is very kind. That, for me, sums up our mission and the purpose of our ministry: to demonstrate to visiting seafarers from around the world the kindness of God that we’ve experienced through Jesus Christ.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
My continuing hope and prayer for the Chinese seafarer I was looking after (and for all our visiting seafarers) is that my caring for them will help them to connect further with God in the future and discover for themselves the kindness of God that flows through Jesus Christ and is available to all.
To help seafarers connect with God, we make Chinese, Filipino, Hindi and English Bibles and other Christian literature available for free in our Centre. We also have in our Centre a beautiful chapel where seafarers can sit and pray in a quiet space and reflect on their lives. I, as a chaplain (along with many of our volunteers), am always ready to spend time in conversation with the seafarers and share my Christian faith with them.
Many seafarers, of course, are already followers of Jesus and members of his Church. Some follow other religions such as Islam or Hinduism. Others have no religious affiliation. But, whatever their background, our aim at the Mission to Seafarers is to help all seafarers recognise that Jesus is traveling with them, and is always ready to engage with them. We want to help seafarers know that Jesus is always alongside them on their journey across huge, lonely and often dangerous distances at sea.
In my ministry as a chaplain, I’m always conscious of the fact that these seafarers probably won’t see their families for nine months at a time (the normal length of their contract), which must place a terrible strain on their marriages and other family relationships. Seafarers have a really tough working life and regularly have to battle feelings of loneliness. They know that their wives and children miss them terribly while they’re away, and they feel really powerless when difficult things happen at home.
So an important part of my role as chaplain is to be attentive to the stories the seafarers share and to support them in whatever way I can. Sometimes I find myself advocating for a seafarer who has been treated unjustly or placed in a dangerous situation. Sometimes I help them find recreation and refreshment in Newcastle. Most of the time I’m just here to listen and give the seafarers an opportunity to share their burden with another human being. Communication is not always easy, of course, as very few seafarers speak fluent English, but I do my best. It’s amazing how much a welcoming ear, a smile and a handshake can communicate something of God’s goodness to another person and open the way to a deeper conversation about our relationship to our heavenly Father.
By The Rev’d Peter Middleton
Mission to seafarers Chaplain