A Journey of Compassion, Connection, & Song

Mission to Seafarers Sydney volunteer Lisa C with Chef on cruise visit Feb 2024

Social entrepreneur Lisa Cotton shares about how her first visit to a cruise ship with Rev Tay inspired her to become a committed supporter.

I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit the Celebrity Edge cruise ship with Principal Chaplain Rev Tay. It was a transformative experience that touched my heart as I saw personally how the Mission’s work brings people together through their compassionate service.

During my visit, I had the privilege of delivering packages, greeting the hardworking crew, and sharing a meal with the crew and seeing how Chaplain Rev. Tay brings laughter and joy of the Lord whenever he visits. A highlight was meeting the talented head chef who was busy with an extravagant onboard wedding celebration. She was so grateful for our visit as we were able to deliver much needed personal supplies as she had been too overwhelmed with tasks onboard to leave the ship.

I also met the head of crew catering who prepares food from around the world for the many nationalities onboard together with beautifully decorated cakes and desserts. The warmth and hospitality extended to us by the crew as we sorted and delivered their Amazon orders was so encouraging and a testament to the passion and dedication that goes into creating unforgettable cruising experiences for their guests.

Engaging with various departments, I listened to the crew’s experiences and learned about their families and their own hopes and dreams for the future as they work to sacrifice to bring joy to passengers’ lives. I met a crew member who had been with the ship for many years, but also owned a coconut farm in his native country. We enjoyed looking at photos of various fruits on his farm and enjoyed a song together called ‘The Coconut Song’. It highlighted to me of the importance of supporting them in any way we can by making long lasting connections as many of been working decades with Celebrity Edge for as long as the ship has been at sea.

This visit to the Celebrity Edge cruise ship was a profound reminder of the impact Mission To Seafarers has on the lives of those who serve at sea so I decided to set aside regular time every week to support them however needed. It continues to be an honour to witness the transformation that happens when compassion and connection bring us together in sharing the message of love and support.

I never dreamed this would be the result when I came across the Centre after a client meeting near the city and felt the urge to find out more. I entered and was personally welcomed by the CEO, Clayton who gave me a tour and took the time to explain how the Mission provided practical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care. As the founder of the Torchlight Foundation, which for over seven years has been help families and their communities through crisis, I could understand the need.

Issues including domestic violence, financial hardship, illness, legal and parenting issues are just some of the difficulties families both close and apart can face. I could see seafarers’ long journeys away from family would add an extra burden to the challenges many families face. As an ordained Christian minister, I have also seen how meeting the spiritual needs of an individual is vital to their wellbeing. Guidance for those who are needing prayer support has been something I’ve also been passionate about for my entire adult life. As I returned to the Mission several times, I continued to be inspired by the work of the entire Mission to Seafarers team whose priority it is to see lives changed for the better through the work at the mission.

I have now had the privilege of being touched by insights into the lives of the men and women on board tirelessly serving the immense needs of the huge number of passengers on vessels like Viking Sky, Queen Elizabeth, Celebrity Edge, and Ovation of Sea (which caters for close to 5000 passengers with around 1000 crew onboard). As we talk with waitstaff, engineers, cleaners, and entertainers, I continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of the hardworking Mission chaplains and staff managing with such few resources themselves. It is my absolute pleasure to support the chaplains in the role on the frontline supporting so many and look forward to hearing more stories of hearts changed and lives transformed through the great work at Mission to Seafarers.

“Lisa’s incredible passion and extensive range of skills has been a great blessing to all our team. She helps me with chaplaincy support on the cruise ships and also shares her knowledge and skills at the Centre. Her many years of experience in various charities including her own not-for-profit organisation which deals with family crisis gives her a special insight into seafarers’ needs and our work. Lisa is passionate about showing the love of God in practical ways to people from all walks of life. An accomplished singer, she can often be found in cafes and other venues performing jazz and inspirational songs and it’s a special blessing when we hear her joining seafarers in song.” – Rev Tay

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