NEWSLETTER SUMMER EDITION NO 157
From the desk
Once again we had the privilege this season to reach the seafarers with the Gospel. In this Newsletter we want to tell you more about it. We hope when reading these stories you will enjoy reading them as much as we do. Should you want to comment about them in any way or want to know about the work we are doing, feel free to contact us. It’ll be a pleasure to come to your church or fellowship and speak more extensively about our work. On the Web-site you can read how to contact us.
On a bright sunny morning in Spring we start by registering at the main entrance of the Steel Works of IJmuiden. We are then given permission to enter the premises by car but not before a security officer checks our car for any eventual “contra band”. He sees the crates packed with Bibles in several languages and briefly we explain how we distribute them and our plan: passing on the Word of God to the sailors. So here is our first opportunity to give our testimony, in plain Dutch! Before arriving at the pier where the large Bulk carriers with coal and iron ore are being unloaded, we pass another check-point. A security man asks: ”What actually is your business here?”. Now a second opportunity is there to witness for the Lord and we haven’t even boarded a ship yet. Once on deck we notice that everybody is occupied: lifesaving equipment is being inspected. Only the first Officer has time to listen to us and we hear he is a believer in Christ. He offers to give out the Bibles to the crew and accompanies us to the pier where Anneke is waiting beside the car with a bag of clothing, a present for the crew. Our friend tells us he has become the father of a little daughter and that he has already seen her on his mobile phone. We pray for him and his wife and the little girl in Manilla.
On a Mega Cruise ship in Amsterdam we visit the crew (1350 persons) in a gigantic mess room during their lunch break. To a mixed crew of Indonesians and Philippinos we pass on many Bibles and literature in Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia. We ask if people wish to be prayed for and we almost run out of time. The crewmembers come and go during their quarter- hour break during which great plates with rice with chicken are being consumed. Yes, their work is hard and that costs lots of energy. But in this way we are able to come in contact with a lot of crewmembers. Tired and happy we drive home again. Thank you Lord for a blessed day! We wish you God’s blessing and please continue to pray for Anneke’s health.
Jan and Anneke Best
Amsterdam 1, The Great Commission
Before and after celebrating Ascension day in our church we talked a lot about The Great Commission for Christians: …” and Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying: All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. ( Matth.28: 18,19).
Jesus gave this command to his disciples and this command stands to the present day and not only for the select group of the disciples of Jesus! Maybe you are busy and doing this already in your own environment, but if not, I hope that the stories in this Newsletter will start you off. In the past period I have been to the ports at night. In this way I was able to meet seafarers from India, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany, Ghana, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Rumania, Russia and the Maldives. One evening, on the way to the port, my car broke down on the Motorway. It troubled me some, for I was all focussed on the preparation to visit the ships and this had now come to an abrupt end. While I was waiting for help, a driver suddenly stopped behind me. Probably worried about my plight. A flood of words came over me like: How is it, what is the problem, can I help? I answered calmly and in the ensuing conversation with this Turkish man I said : ”there is a large book on the dashboard of your car. Is it a telephone book? “ He answered: “No, it is my Koran- I read it a lot”. My questions seemed maybe a bit too straightforward but I hoped to make it good by presenting him a large Turkish Bible, thanking him for his concern.
This of course was the last thing he expected, receiving a Bible by the side of a motorway. But he appreciated it. We couldn’t talk any further for in the meanwhile the Roadside Assistance car had arrived and we quickly said goodbye. Still, it was a nice encounter on the Motorway. Because of the quick work of the mechanic I could still make it to the port that evening.
The ship I visited was due to sail that night so I was just in time. I had been on this ship before and the attending Officer recognised me. “Ah, there you are again. Welcome on board”, and he accompanied me to the mess room. After some small talk I started telling him about Abraham and the command he receives from God to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Muslims are quick to recognise this story and sometimes help me, in an enthusiastic way, to finish the story. They know about it because one of their feasts is named after it the feast of the sacrifice. Only they believe that Ishmael was the one to be sacrificed and not Isaac. These kind of details I leave for what they are, going to the heart of the story , namely that God provides for a sacrifice. And 2000 years later God again provided for it by providing the most ultimate sacrificial LAMB: JESUS. Often- times we are busy with all kinds of “sacrifices”, during which, in the bushes behind, Jesus offers himself as THE Sacrifice. So on this ship I tell my story. I try to be careful and tactful but the sailors listen attentively and the seed is being sown.
During another evening on a small ship I receive a warm welcome from the German captain and his Officer. It just happens that we are of the same age. They are not Christians but they believe the work of the port missionaries to be very important. The ship’s Engineer has also joined us and is from Ghana. The cook is also from Ghana and had just left his bed to meet the visitors. Both Ghanese are Christians. When the conversation turns to Christian matters, the captain and the Officer leave the room but the captain came back later to listen in at the background. We hold a short bible study meeting about Jesus from Matthew chapter 8 about Jesus rebuking the storm at sea. The Engineer shares his storm experiences at sea with us, the real and figurative ones. “There are moments when the social and emotional problems become too big for us”. He had experienced on some occasions that fellow sailors had committed suicide because they couldn’t handle things anymore. The question then arises: is there a hiding place for me? What consolation it is then to know that there is a hiding place: Jesus is in control! He knows about the storms in our life! In leaving we pray for one another. The captain is still there and I pray for him as well. As a token of appreciation he hands me a large sea chart.
When Jesus gives “The Great Commission “ to his disciples, He also says: “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world”. To be honest, sometimes I feel one with the doubtful ones among the disciples but especially during ship visiting times I have experienced that Jesus is present and that all power has been given unto Him!
Having been aboard the ship for some time I had met already sailors from 4 countries like Ghana and Rumania. In the end the cook crossed my path named, Charley. It was good to hand over some gospel literature. I also met others from Myanmar.
The gospel is for everybody. These seamen from Myanmar wanted very much to receive de literature and dvd’s in the Birmese language. They told me they were going to read my brochures later on. At times crew are hard at work during a visit, also on this ship. This meant putting down some literature for them in the mess room. Things to read are always welcome to the sailors. On a ship with only Philippinos as a crew, the captain asks me for a Bible. I was sitting in the mess room talking to a crewmember when on the other side of the table some men were reading an English booklet called: God’s answers to your life. A pocketbook with answers from the Bible to many different questions. My sailor friend asks me to also give him such a booklet. It appears that people have a real hunger for the Gospel. On the North side of the river “Nieuwe Maas” a small ship is moored with a complete Russian crew . Standing on the deck later with some of the men, a Russian Bible and a bottle ship are passed on to a thankful receiver. On three ships I contacted some young Philippino sailors. Harry is a young apprentice Officer. Then there were Edgar and Danny. They work on ships that call into port on a regular basis. I also met Gerome on a large Containership. People to remember in prayer.
I close with words from that well-known song: “Together in the name of Jesus”.
With hearty greetings,
Wout de Vries.
Itinerant ship visitation
On a ship with an Indian crew I learn that the captain is a Christian. He said :”the boys are away in their cabins so often, therefore I can hardly know if something is bothering them”. The crewmen, also some Hindus, speak highly of their captain but some moved away from us when they heard us mention the name Jesus. The cook is one of the two Muslims aboard. He said: “Jesus is not the Son of God” We countered by saying: “But the Koran states clearly that you ought to study Jesus”. Later this Muslim was happy to receive a copy of the Jesus movie and accepted a St. John’s gospel and a tract with the title: “differences”.
After conferring with the Boatswain and the Captain we decided to leave behind a USB stick with Bible passages and a Bible movie.
We are about to enter an Arabian vessel.
On the quay-side I have a conversation with a Fork-lift driver about Franciscus who went with the 5th Crusade, not armed with a sword but with the Bible in order to go to the enemy camp to preach the Gospel to the Sultan. Are we to go on this Arabian ship in the same manner ?
The Faroe Cargo ship is a rather elegant one. The men however seem to maintain a reserved attitude. The Faroe Islands, isn’t that language on the 5 fish card? We’ve heard that even on these small islands that there are quite some churches with different denominations. A Georgian Engineer and his Bulgarian colleague became friends because of “common ground”, namely the Orthodox church. The Georgian sailor was impressed when we gave him “a letter for you” in his own language. He felt sorry for not being able to spend much time with us because of his urgent work. Suddenly his eyes lighted up: “Wait here, I’m right back”. There he was again with a present for Wout and me. A parcel with 7 beeswax candles from his church. We gratefully accepted this gift.
On the Shortsea Container Terminal it is always busy. Some ships sail to England two, three times a week. In the galley the cook, in between times, has a short moment to chat with us. One of the cooks, we learned, had been studying the Word more deeply and thereby had discovered that it is not the church with its rituals that saves, but Jesus Christ, as revealed in His Word. In a tactful way he tries to share this with his family and colleagues and his efforts are starting to bear fruit. He himself in turn had been directed to these truths by an elderly colleague on board, teaching him some about the Word. This cook had so many questions to ask and was happy that we had come to visit him.
With hearty greetings and God’s blessing,
The Port of Rotterdam never stops. Daily, as a team, we have a range of some 80 large ocean -going ships to choose from. With two of us in full-time service and two volunteers we can only visit a small percentage of that number. For that reason we are so glad that, since the beginning of the year, to welcome a new volunteer in our midst: Johan Egas. He is 33 and is employed as a captain on the heavy-cargo ships of RollDock. He is three months on board and then three months at home. He has a wife and a little daughter. And they live in Dirksland. Johan is a committed and born again Christian and contacted me, asking if he could work with us as a volunteer. In July he has to start work again as a captain but already spends two days a week with me and René visiting ships. We are happy to be able to work together in this way and are grateful towards the Lord that our team is growing in number!
Together with René and Johan and me we often visit a Tanker. This ship has been taken “in custody” by the authorities. The crew is a complete Philippino one. The captain and two sailors are Christian. James, a young man with a Baptist background, has come to a personal faith in Christ through watching the movie : American Gospel “in Christ alone”. I had given him this tape and then he had watched it. The next three nights he couldn’t sleep because he had discovered that he was no real Christian. But through further talks with me and listening to the Gospel and helped by the working of the Holy Spirit, this all led to his conversion. Now he wants to share the Gospel with his colleagues and his family members. God is at work on this ship! During the past three Sundays we could hold a Christian service on-board and so we could explain the Gospel to the whole crew. Some of the crew members are open for it and we trust God to continue working in their hearts in order for them to come to a personal saving knowledge in Christ.
With hearty greetings,
Delfzijl and Eemshaven, a story worth telling
Last week I was asked to prepare an introductory lecture for the Youth Alpha Bible course, to be held in our church, starting next September. We expect 25 young people to register. The topic I was asked to speak on is: how do I tell it to others? Of course it is a nice subject to talk about but how am I to explain this to the young people? How do I, myself, bring people in contact with the Gospel? Am I a true evangelist? Do I want to convert people to my own church or denomination? Certainly not. What then is the message that I have on my heart when climbing up many a gangway in the ports? What do I tell the captain and crewmembers coming from so many nations and backgrounds? Well now, it’s all about Jesus! It is Him of whom I want to talk about!
With me it mostly starts with ordinary conversation. I want to show concern, asking about their families, where they live and about their hobby’s. I also try to tell something about myself. But in the end I always ask the question: “Do you believe in God, are you a Christian?“ The conversation then takes a different direction but still remains personal. Sometimes people want to discuss the question if God exists. But then I tell my friends that God reveals Himself in nature around us and in the Bible. If people have an eye for it already, then you can see how perfectly everything has been made. The human being is also a wonder to behold. I often tell that God has made us in His Image. And the “Big Bang”? Well, mankind has blown up a lot, through which a deep abyss has been created between Him and us.
But God still loves us humans. His love reaches out to everyone, how different we may be. Every person is unique and we all have different backgrounds. Can you imagine to be a sailor yourself? How it is to be thousands of miles from home and many, many months away from family members and friends? Most sailors are proud of their own land but also of their families. Often they are connected via WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Skype or E-mail. In this way they can speak to each other and even see one another. Fathers see their children grow up and hear all the news. And sailors on ships have to deal with worries and sicknesses at home all the same. So there is a difference between skyping and the real thing.
There is however still another way to connect people . It goes farther than skyping and brings about lasting change. This form of communication rises above everything and is called: PRAYER. God is always present and He so wants to connect up with us. How marvellous that we can tell of the love of our Creator who loved us so much that he gave us His only Son. And whosoever believes on Him may call himself Gods very own child. He is a caring God, consoles us, heals and encourages us. In speaking about these truths, every believer can be a Lightbearer. And that story is very much worth telling. There are many people praying for our work in the ports, supporting us with knitting and making bottle ships and wooden crosses, not forgetting those who enable us by their gifts to make it possible that we can pass on Bibles and other material! In this way everyone can make his or her contribution. What a wonderful blessing! God is good!
Jan Peter and José Kapteijn.
On a ship that I visited one morning I quickly noticed that everyone was busy at work. Even though they indicated that I was a welcome visitor, they asked me in a friendly way to come back that evening. We also do ship visitation at night for then sailors are free from work. We always pray that the Lord will lead us to the right persons. It happens sometimes during a visit that we end up seeing only one person,- the one who needed it!
During this past season we have spoken to seafarers coming from different countries, like Congo, Guinea Bissau, France, India, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia, England, Ireland and of course the Netherlands.
During our time of conversation with the crew, much literature had been accepted but also CD’s and Bibles in different languages and with the sailors we had several opportunities to pray for one another. This is always appreciated by them. We prefer to hand out Bibles in someone’s own language. Many times we could open the Scriptures with them and pray. Some sailors on-board made arrangements for their home journey, to be united with their families again. In this way we met a Philippino sailor who later sent us a message from home in Facebook. We have left out his name but on the picture you can see what he wrote us.
When I asked some Dutch sailors on-board a large fishing vessel if they had a Bible with them, a young sailor replied: “of course, my Bible is always the first thing I put in my bag”. It made me happy to hear that. One day I wasn’t sure whether to go to the ports or not, be it not for my wife’s urging to go! Later that day on-board another Dutch fishing vessel, a senior sailor said to me: “I am convinced that God has sent you to see me”. He was so grateful for my visit, he told me, ” and so was my wife! ”. Yes, lots of things happen in the Dutch seaports. Thank you so much for your prayers and other tokens of fellowship.
With hearty greetings,
Theo and Yvonne van Zuilekom.
The seafarers mentioned in this newsletter do have in actual life different names. For privacy reasons the proper names are not mentioned. The photo’s in this bulletin are printed with permission. Our deep thanks to: “WIN-NL Seafarers’ Ministry”, Dutch Seamen Society, Seamen's Centre Amsterdam, Global Recordings Network, Ark Mission, Evangelism Foreigners Service, The Bible Society, Pocket Testament League, Christian Aid Ministries, Operation Mobilization, Sailor Society and other unnamed organizations, who all in their own specific way, contribute to do the job well.
We would like to ask prayer for the health of all co-workers and their families but especially for: Anneke Best and Jan Peter Kapteijn to continue and endure in the ministry God has given them to do.
A hearty thanks for all you valuable prayers and other tokens of fellowship. In this way God is working, also through you, in order that sailors can hear His Word and accept it. We are grateful towards God for the many chances to be a blessing to seafarers.
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