Caption: A UK MtS Chaplain reaches out – Sydney’s MtS Chaplains can also arrange for their counterparts to be ready to help at the next port.
At our Mission in Sydney, we recently welcomed a distressed seafarer who couldn’t bear to go back on board his vessel. He was feeling frustrated and helpless. His wife had suffered a miscarriage and then their pet dog died and he couldn’t be there for them. He sought our help. We explained the situation to Border Force and contacted the ship agent who was able to arrange a flight home so that he could be safely reunited with his wife and family.
Sometimes fatalities occur on ships and everyone needs to find a way to cope. I spent four days on one vessel reassuring various crew members that the suicide of their officer was not their fault. He hadn’t told anyone of his intention so they couldn’t have done anything more than what they had already done. Sessions with the officer’s regular team, the security guards who discovered the body and the medical team, enabled people to say what they needed to say as well as encourage one another. People were able to move on from shock and begin the grieving process. Sadly seafarer suicides are over 10 times more likely to occur than the Australian average.
Another time an electrician had been caught in the elevator shaft when a big swell hit. He was fatally injured despite the best efforts of his crewmates to rescue him. His best friend only made it to his side as he breathed his last. We held a service for the crew who were still in shock and much reserved. Thankfully the friend did take up our offer to talk about it one on one afterwards. I was able to assure him that the situation was out of his control and he was in no way to blame for his friend’s death.
The majority of conversations on board vessels are much lighter than the above examples. We visit crews at berth, informing them of our bus service and our Centre, provide SIM cards, gifts and listening to their needs. Life at sea is tough and we provide a warm welcome and key services for all our visitors. I am available if anyone wants to call on my counselling skills – just send a note telling me which day you are in Sydney via the WhatsApp link at the top of our website, via Facebook or visit our Mission. We can also liaise to arrange follow up support at any Mission to Seafarers Centre at future ports.
Chaplain Jim has a BTh from Moore College, experience in pastoring two churches and in prison fellowship, and a Diploma in Counselling.
Hear Chaplain Jim’s recent interview on Hope 103.2 FM here: