NEWSLETTER WINTER EDITION NO 159.
Should you have a wish to know more about the work or want to react to one of the articles, feel free to contact us. We’d love to tell you more about our work in the ports by coming to visit your church or fellowship. On the website you can read how to contact us.
In the Summer newsletter of 2019 I wrote about celebrating the Lord’s Supper during the lunch-break in the crews mess room of a containership. Anneke had passed on some parcels to the crew. Last week I learned via an E-mail that one of the crewmembers present that time had given his heart to the Lord. Praise God! For that reason we do board the ships!
An Ukrainian sailor is ready to go on leave but needs spiritual help. It is so good to know than in Odessa a SCFS port missionary is also at work. By means of an E-mail one can contact one another. This is also part of our work, for it is a worldwide activity. At TATA Steelworks a Bulk carrier under German flag is moored. Its deck is almost at the same level as the pier which enables us this time to get an easy access to the ship. For that reason Anneke decides to join me this time, something which didn’t happen for a long time because of her condition.
We speak to the First Officer in his deck office. In the beginning he was quite formal to us, keeping a certain distance. He tells us he is rather stressed because of the work pressure on-board and the cares about safety conditions on the ship.
Therefore he has no time for us. When I suggest to pray for him, he answers: “Yes please”. With my hand on his shoulder we pray for him and his wife and two children at home.
Then his attitude changes….with tears in his eyes he starts to show us a little film on his mobile phone which his wife had made of the children playing in the bathtub before going to bed. We know of such situations, for as a seaman you miss out on so many things. When we leave he says: ” Early this morning I didn’t think this day would pass like this. I thank you so much for your visit”.
A Rumanian captain on a Coal carrier has two Customs Officers visiting him in his cabin. He is open to the Gospel message that I am explaining using an English NIV translation. The Officers aren’t looking at me directly but I gather from their halting conversation that they are listening in at the same time. Also for this reason we visit ships!
Please continue to pray for Anneke’s health which isn’t the best and is greatly hampering to bring our calling to its full strength.
Jan en Anneke Best
Amsterdam 1 - I know WHO goes before me
This year I was able to distribute nearly 200 parcels on the ships but also received help from all sides. God knows exactly what we need and provides means and co-workers at the right moment. I am so grateful for it all. The time now when Christmas is nearing we always receive a warm welcome the moment we step onboard with our Christmas parcels. Every crewmember accepts his parcel in a happy mood. This is often the occasion to share the Gospel with them. However, without the parcels it would be much harder. Oftentimes crews are too busy or it happens that their ship that is almost ready to sail. A language barrier can also present itself when a sailor doesn’t speak English. Sometimes the crew has gone to the city. Some are overtired and others aren’t interested or don’t trust you. It also happens that when we have come to visit a ship , that we had no chance to talk about the Lord Jesus or give away a Bible. As a rule, when wanting to reach people with the Gospel it is necessary to have an understanding or a relationship with the group you want to reach. With port mission work this is difficult because of the onetime and short encounters we have with the sailors. Aftercare then is hardly possible. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be discouraged by this. Therefore, as a testimony, below you’ll find some nice reports from the last period. In leaving a ship, a Chinese Officer comes after me with the question if I have a Bible for him. Yes I do, even in his own language. He reacts ever so friendly, thanking me again and again.
Boarding another ship, it seems almost deserted. I can wander through all the passages without seeing anybody. Till the moment I pass the pantry and find the cook there. He can only speak Russian so a conversation is not possible but he would like to receive a Bible. Then he continues on with his work. After looking around some more I decide to leave the ship. Passing the pantry again, I see the cook there, sitting on a drum reading his Bible! On yet another ship the Ukrainian captain is not happy to see me but is curious to know more about the cube puzzle I have with me. I use it to explain the Gospel message step by step. Quite enthusiastically he starts turning the sides of the cube and explains what he sees. To the surprise of the crew. Has the captain become a clergyman now? But with some help the captain manages to finish the story.
It is surprising to notice, in hindsight, how every port visit developed. It is encouraging to me also, giving me a good feeling that we are being guided by the Holy spirit during these visits.
Thank you for your help and tokens of fellowship during the year.
It is early in the morning and all seems quiet on the deck of a Container ship. Then a young Officer from the Ukraine invites me to come along and follow him to a table. After explaining the reason for my visit, he in turn explains me some of his difficulties. I then have a chance to encourage him with the eternal Word of God. I pray for him and his family, still not knowing his real problem. But I leave the ship in a thankful mood.
On another ship I come in contact with many crewmembers from India. The fact that the ship has been in Port for some days, gives the men ample time for a relaxed talk. I am happy to see that the literature in their language is a welcome item. On the next ship I visit I meet a Russian speaking crew. The men were open and happy with the literature about God. I also had with me some woollen hats and these were a welcome item.
Men from the Philippines, we do meet them quite often and sometimes they wonder about the material we have with us: ”Is it really for free?”, to which we simply nod as a confirmation.
How good it is that people care for sailors. We think then about the ladies who knit all those woollen hats and about the persons involved in preparing the Christmas parcels. It struck me to hear that many sailors were mostly at sea during previous Christmas celebrations. So good to hear then that the nicely wrapped shoe carton boxes are greeted with: ”It this for us?”. With beaming faces and thankful hearts they even accompany us to the gangway. In this way we can get a glimpse into the hearts and lives of sailors coming from the South-East-Asian countries. They sometimes want to let their “Home front” know that visitors have come aboard their ship to be friends with them. And what can you wish for a friend more than for them to have a real life with Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer. Thank you Lord, it is all because of YOU and we want to honour you for this.
Wishing you a blessed New Year, also on behalf of my wife Hanny.
Wout de Vries
Being a trainee ship visitor is a real privilege. I have been with the port missionaries many times during which I could “listen-in“ to their talking while at work and in this way could learn from them. It has been a great time for me with more than a hundred visits to ships and having driven more than three thousand km’s with the car. I had at least a thousand encounters with seafarers of many nationalities. The Gospel, so to say , has been spread from the Bridge to the Engine room. Entering now the last phase of my “apprenticeship”, we distributed some 2000 Christmas parcels. I now shall venture out on my own with a stronger base than before I started, using the Word of God.
One day stands out. The 5th of December was a long day of 12 hours. It started rather in a non-efficient way by waiting for a ship that had to change its moorings, but it was worth the trouble. Once on-board with the engine –noise throbbing in my ears ,I sat down a bit uncomfortably but I had some good talks on this friendly ship. A second ship was also on my list with the possibility of a bible-study but at that time it didn’t fit in. Not long after I went to the next ship and here I knew some people and received a hearty welcome from Philippinos and Russians. I stayed there quite a long time. It was lunchtime and the crewmembers turned up one after another. The last man had heard from a colleague that “Mass” was being held on-board, meaning of course the preaching of the Word. “Only Jesus is the Saviour. Would you dare to trust Him only? “
When questions are being asked, people often want a Bible. Well, we had a good supply with us.
The last ship I visited was a Container ship which we could finally board thanks to the necessary team efforts. It was bunkering LNG and no one was allowed to come aboard first. The crew had just received a warning from an Inspector. His task is to train the crew to say “no“ when the situation requires it. But they were happy with their Christmas parcels. We could also pass on a Russian Bible. In my mind I can still see the dark stack of containers, the gates and pools of rainwater!
With warmly greetings.
Delfzijl and Eemshaven
During the last months a new Cruise ship was moored in Eemshaven. It had arrived from the Meyerwerf shipyard in Germany. These great ships being built there come for a short while to Eemshaven for short trials at sea and the finishing touches. She is the Norwegian Encore and is 333 meters long, having a crew of 2100. It was a challenging call for me to get on board of this ship. But this is not a light matter. The security is extremely tight . Until now I have come no further than the security barrier. One of the questions they ask is: ” What is your business here?” I answered: “to encourage people, talk to them about the Christian faith, handing out Bibles”. The answer then was , “Is there still a need for it nowadays?”, and it evolved in a long conversation about the Bible. In the end I still was not allowed to board the ship. I had to officially apply for it beforehand at the Agency. I didn’t have 2100 Bibles stuck in my rucksack anyway! But I must declare: every Bible that sails along with a ship and is being read is worth all the trouble. To enter a next Cruise ship, I know the way now. In the Eemshaven I have seen many closed gates opening for me. Would you please pray with me for removals of barriers?
God is good!
Jan Peter and José Kapteijn
These last three months we again had been able to visit many ships and we want to share with you in this newsletter a few reports. We experienced great times during the time of passing-on Christmas parcels, followed by good and hearty conversation and praying with some persons. The regular ship visits also continue as usual. One day I should have gone to the ports but lack of energy kept me back. I thought: maybe the day after, but instead something else came along concerning Havenlicht matters. The third day I did go to the ports and apart from other ships I also visited two Cruise ships, a big and a small one. As a matter of fact, I often don’t really know when exactly I must go to the ports. But the good and remarkable thing about it is, when I go to the ports, every time it proves to be the right moment in God’s timing!
On board the big Cruise ship, the Ukrainian Crew co-ordinator invited me to a meal right away. Sometime later, unexpectedly, I ran into an Indonesian friend of some years back (2017) and it was great to see each other again. Before he had been employed on another Cruise ship and during that time had received a Bible from me and I remember how he had pressed it to his chest. He has continued his walk with the Lord! Many 5fish cards were available, all being accepted by curious and interested crewmembers. On this App, the Gospel is available in 6400 languages and we port missionaries only speak a few of them. These cards in fact are a great tool for us to spread the Gospel.
On board the smaller Cruise ship the Philippine Security Officer met me at the entry and gave me a hearty welcome. Some moments later more Philippino crewmembers passed me on the way to the mess room and I had the chance to speak to many of them. I could pass on some Gospel material and handed everybody a 5fish card. The following Saturday Yvonne and I were on board both ships , by invitation , to have lunch there. We of course couldn’t be on board two ships at once within the same couple of hours but we managed it. We had set a time for one ship at 11 am and went to the smaller ship at 15 hrs pm. Seafarers enjoy it when we share a meal with them. They always have stories to tell and questions to ask. For us it is a great opportunity to tell about the Lord Jesus and to pray for them. Many Bibles and Christian literature could be given to thankful persons. All in all, we spoke to many crewmembers this season, coming from Nepal, Myanmar, India, the Ukraine, France and many other countries. We always go on our way well prepared, for it is important that everybody hears the Gospel and comes to accept Jesus in his or her life.
A warmly thanks for your faithful prayers and other tokens of fellowship.
Theo and Yvonne van Zuilekom
Rotterdam 2 - Christmas-parcel time 2019
Each year our team of full-timers and volunteers hand out Christmas parcels on the many ships that call in at the port of Rotterdam. Thanks to a small army of enthusiastic supporters in Holland and Germany woollen hats were knitted, gifts donated and shoe cartons filled and wrapped. A church in Rotterdam prepared over a hundred parcels. In a storage room in Dirksland we could put together, with a great group of volunteers from different churches, some 1250 parcels, thanks to the gifts we received. In total this year some 2000 Christmas parcels found their way to the ships. Who were the ones that distributed them? There were for instance René Riefel, Wout de Vries, Johan Egas, Michiel Kramers and Felix Henrichs. In or with every parcel there is an envelope with gospel material in English. Apart from the Christmas parcels we could distribute Bibles and tracts in several languages. A Christmas parcel still is something special: it opens hearts and doors. The response of the sailors is always an enthusiastic and happy one. We were able to meet people from all over the world and from every religious background. With many of them we could talk about the Gospel message. A highlight this year happened on a small Cruise ship with a crew of 270. It had docked in for repairs and we met people from over 27 different countries. We could provide them with nice Christmas parcels and in this way were able to reach them with the Gospel message. A group of 20 volunteers helped us to carry all the parcels on-board. They had never experienced anything like it. On the ship we encountered people from Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Vietnam. People who normally speaking have no access to a Bible or a Gospel portion. What a privilege it is to be a fellow-worker in God’s Vineyard. The Christians are also being encouraged by this action.
On a Bulk carrier we met Manuel. He is a pensioned captain from the Philippines and is also a member of the Seamen’s Christian Friend Society, in Manilla. He has followed classes called “Church on the oceans”. Ever since then he holds Bible study classes on-board ships which many crewmembers attend. We could encourage this brother, pray with him and provide him with good study material. What a happy occasion to meet him.
Now when the last Christmas parcels are being delivered we can look back on a very blessed Christmas-parcel time. We pray that God will bless the hearts of the sailors who have received a parcel and that they may come to know the Lord. All praises to God only! A warmly thanks for your support.
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: City-Bibles, “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 you to keep on praying for the health of all co-workers and their families but especially for: Anneke Best and Jan Peter Kapteijn to continue in the ministry God has given.
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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