NEWSLETTER SPRING-EDITION 2018 Nr. 152
From the desk
“Why did you not come earlier?” These kind of greetings have been coming to us by the mouths of the sailors for the last 43 years. Most times we have no proper answer to this question. But that we are welcome is certain. We would like to visit your church or fellowship or house meeting to tell you more about our Mission. We want to stay in contact with our readers and that is why you may contact us. We wish you much pleasure in reading the reports.
“Thank you so much for everything. I’m so grateful to have met you on-board our ship”. The Philippino who had said this later, had been sitting in the corner of the mess room with two of his colleagues. When I entered, they didn’t look happy. God made it clear to me that I must first go to them. I was able to encourage these men with the Word of God. With many a “thank you” they received a Bible as well as a calendar with other material. Afterwards all three accompanied me down to my car to receive a gift of warm clothing. So in the end their sadness had turned to joy! “Hello pastor”, said the Norwegian captain in a loud voice. It came from the far end of the room I had just entered, welcoming me in his jovial way. “ I had already heard of your coming”. At that moment the cook appeared, placing a lovely meal before me. Yes, that happens at times and during mealtime conversations often go real deep. So happy was a person who had been given a biblical concordance to help him with his bible study. “I want to share this with my wife!” Yes, we as workers of Het Havenlicht often maintain contact with the family members back home. Mission work among seafarers is a worldwide mission!
A hearty thanks for your prayers and other tokens of fellowship.
Theo and Yvonne van Zuilekom.
Since the beginning of January until now we have visited 6 cargo ships, be it under “pain and strain “ because Anneke was not being well. Arriving at the ship that we want to visit, Anneke stays in the car because she is not fit enough to climb the gangway. You must be in full control of your limbs in order to gain the deck with all the gear you are carrying. Often you have to push aside greasy steel cables or try to slip under them. I’m still reasonably fit so that is no problem for me. A former colleague of us, Wim van der Leer ( he is now with the Lord) often remarked: “The Lord will refresh my bones”. So in this way, when visiting sailors, I meet them in their own environment to encourage and pray for them on a one to one basis or as a group. A great amount of Bibles, text cards and literature found their way in the cabins of the crewmembers.
Some captains also received a ship in a bottle.
Last week Anneke was having a real bad time struggling with her health. Even ambulance people were involved, needing to come to our house, for I had called the emergency number. At a certain moment, at the urging of Anneke, we asked the dentist to remove her canine from her left upper jaw. This could be arranged the same day. The following two days were worse than ever. But since Thursday, surprisingly enough, she started to feel better. Praise the Lord! She is feeling better and is picking up. Her heart no longer has this irregular beat and her eyes are showing that brightness again. We have started to make plans again to visit ships. She still isn’t her old self but we are thankful towards the Lord that a health improvement can be noticed. So continue to pray for us. We do so appreciate it. With friendly greetings and may God bless you!
Jan and Anneke Best.
The main target for the Havenlicht Port mission is to tell the Gospel to the seafarers. In other words: sharing the Good Message of Jesus Christ. It is often challenging to me to just start talking about Jesus after beginning a
conversation. Sometimes I can do this in a direct way by asking: “what does Jesus mean to you?”. At other times you need to be more subtle and there are times you better keep your mouth shut! There is this language barrier, then the culture barrier and sometimes the lack of training is there to cope with this kind of work. Passing on the Gospel is often being hampered by these issues. After all, the Gospel is a “foolish message”, something the average earth dweller isn’t really waiting for. In 1 Cor.16:9 the apostle Paul writes that he needed to stay longer in Ephesus…” because in this city a wide door for effective work has been opened to me”. It is not clear what is being meant by this door. Several explanations are possible. But the fact that Ephesus is a port brings this to my mind : can it be that St Paul may be the inventor of port mission work? A curious way of thinking but we too need the leading of the Spirit in a strong way. He opens the gates for us and leads us to the right people and also giving us the right words to speak. This I have experienced in the past period on several occasions. Last year I was on a ship with a Syrian crew, together with Theo. In the beginning of January this same ship was again in port , now in Rotterdam. To me it seemed a good idea to visit this ship again because our previous visit was really appreciated. Also I had kept contact with some crewmembers via Facebook.
Even though New Year was well behind us, I decided to prepare some Christmas parcels for them as well. However, the site where the ship was moored was not open for public on Saturdays. Accepting this for a fact, I still decided to try and get a bit closer to the ship. But even from another angle I saw that it was hermetically closed. But then I met a crewmember in the street. He showed me a way leading to a side entrance where it was allowed to enter the area.
The crew was happy with my coming. Later we shared some photos we had taken during our visit in Amsterdam. I was on the ship for three hours! Whenever I wanted to leave, I became involved in a talk with another person. All kind of topics did we touch and even jokes were shared. I heard from the men that many of them had found temporary housing in Egypt or Turkey because of the war in Syria. I did have some chances to talk about my faith, about Jesus and the Bible, but that was not often the case. The crew was completely Muslim. It is good to take in account that a certain group pressure can be present. It so happened that I had brought 5 Bibles with me ( N T) in my bag and was thinking the whole time in what way I could pass them on. In the end it proved that three copies had already been “nicked” while I was busy talking and wondering what to do about handing them out. So luckily, it didn’t have to depend on me how things run. But it does happen that sometimes sailors want to talk about spiritual matters themselves. Like that one evening when I decided to go to the ports. A young Cadet (apprentice Officer) from Croatia was on duty as Watchman on deck. He offered me his chair straightaway, so glad he was to meet someone to have a talk with. After touching some topics about renting a house in Holland compared to one in Croatia, he soon turned the conversation to his personal look on life. He believed in Mother Nature, New Age and that being dead is the end of things. To him the church had become a bad institution because of the abuse of authority of which he had seen a lot in his country. When he had finished this debate he straightened his back, expecting me to quickly denounce all his views. I’m sorry to say, but I had no straightforward answers for him. But I experienced it all as a nice opportunity to tell him about my personal faith, about who Jesus is for me. That He is the Victor over death, that I may know that my sins are forgiven and have eternal life. Just by chance (?) I had a gospel tract in Croatian with me. I then took my leave, in the hope to meet him again. It is such a good thing that on-board ships situations lend themselves often as a lead- on for a talk. Like that time being on the Bridge of a ship where I had a chat with the Second Officer who was planning the route to the next destination. Large ocean charts were spread out before him. A route needed to be set out according to a timetable and all critical passages were taken notice of. Quite enthusiastically he explained it all to me and in that spirit of enthusiasm I continued in the same line of explaining spiritual things. “Our life is also a journey. Sometimes we encounter storms, we need to watch out for shallow ground and better keep far away from it. Sometimes we have favourable winds, sometimes not but at last we reach our destination. It is essentially important to think about your life’s destination and to sail the right course in your life. In all of this the Bible is the compass! “
We are blessed to have Bibles in different languages which we can handout on-board together with brochures .One has as title: “ How am I reaching my destination? “ It gives a short but clear explanation of the Gospel. I’m grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way during our port mission work and am always thankful for the sailors that have come in contact with the Gospel. The combination of a job, having a family and other engagements do not allow me to go to the ports very often. Would you pray with me for all the sailors we have reached with the Gospel? Also for me to have more opportunities to visit ships. Last but not least: do not forget to pray for more ship visitors!
With friendly greetings,
I chose to visit Anthony’s ship first. I met him on ships twice before already. Anthony is eager to learn more about the Bible. We sit face to face in the mess room with its small tables. I listen to what is on his heart. He wants to believe in a God that helps and supports. I learned during this visit that many changes are confronting him. Not only in his private life but also concerning his family. The booklet that I have given him is about how to learn more about God and is well received. Having this meeting with Anthony, it feels as if there is a heavenly “Stage manager” at work here. Anthony tells me more and he is all smiles as he relates about this certitude, of having found security in his faith that he has found in the Lord. In leaving his ship and with a hearty farewell, I silently wonder, will I ever see Anthony again?Other sailors of course, also needed my attention before I left the ship. I feel thankful and relieved in having been on Anthony’s ship once again. The next ship to visit is also one which I am familiar with. Here also are some sailors I ( by chance?) have spoken to before.
They know it is about the Gospel. Roy has asked me for a Bible and I have given him one. Even if it’s 2 months that have gone by since we were aboard with Christmas parcels, I just know they still have vivid memories of that special occasion. The many items we have put in these parcels, it was such a surprise to them. I didn’t meet Roy this time but other sailors instead. When I heared that the ship is about to be shifted to another mooring, I said goodbye to them, hoping for a next possible visit and encounter, With friendly greetings,
Wout de Vries.
I personally think that one of the highlights in our ministry is meeting Muslim sailors. They are earnestly seeking the truth and are open to the Gospel. In this report I want to share with you some of these experiences. It so happened that my colleague René was handing out Christmas parcels on board a Tanker where the crew mostly consisted of Pakistani sailors. As you may know, I lived as a teenager in Pakistan for 5 years and therefore wanted so much to meet some of these people. I decided to visit the Tanker next day and I had taken quite an amount of literature in the Urdu language with me. Once on board I was invited to come to the office. There everybody was busy with their affairs and I was asked to take a seat in the corner. There I was seeking God’s face to open a door for me. So I addressed the Third Officer who was busy with his computer and had his back turned towards me. I asked what his name was and from what area he came from. “I come from Abbotabat”, he answered. I knew this was a town far away from the sea. “That’s funny”, I said, “I lived in a village not far from there, in Qalandarabad”. Then it was quiet for a moment. He turned towards me and the young Pakistani asked in surprise: “are you serious? ”Yes”, I said, “My parents were missionaries. Do you know the Christian hospital?” “Of course “, he said, my family goes there. It is the best hospital in the region and many of my cousins were born there. Just before signing up I went there for my medical check”. What an extra ordinary meeting that was, chatting to a young Pakistani on his ship in that immense port of Rotterdam. The Lord had his hand in this! During lunch we had some more conversation and in parting he stood there with a Bible which he had gladly accepted. “I shall treat this present as a Holy Book”, he said. Let us pray that he may find the One and True God by reading His Word.
On a Syrian ship that had already been visited once by our Amsterdam colleagues, I had quite an exceptional conversation with the captain. His point in arguing was to defend the Muslim doctrine against the Christian faith. He wasn’t really open to anything else and we didn’t get much farther during our two meetings that followed. But there were moments when I could have a say in explaining the Gospel. Now during our conversation the First Officer was mostly listening in the background. When we were silent for a moment, this man said: “I am Muslim because my parents are Muslim. I would like however to read the Bible and study the brochures you have given us”.I was so grateful that Abel had an open mind to what I had been saying. What a pity we didn’t have a chance to go to any depth in a further conversation because of the presence of this dominant captain. But I believe we hadn’t boarded this ship in vain, having found such an attentive listener.
Ten years ago during my apprenticeship with Rudy, many Iranian Tankers used to call in at Rotterdam and the Iranian sailors were open to the Gospel. Through the International Sanctions imposed on Iran, the ships no longer came to the Rotterdam ports. It was my prayer to God if He would lead once again these ships to our ports. On a certain day in February, René and I were together to visit some ships. After having been on a Tanker with a Philippino crew, having had some good talks with them about the Gospel, we decided to visit the ship moored next to it. Once aboard we met the First Officer who happened to come from Iran and together with him half the crew! One of the crewmembers, Mahmoud, discovered our literature and started to search enthusiastically for something in his own language. When I noticed that, I decided to come back the next day with literature in the Farsi language. When I arrived, Mahmoud was glad to see me again and promptly invited me to have lunch with him. Afterwards I showed him the literature I had brought with me in which also the cook was interested. They were both keen to have a Bible and nearly took all the other available booklets. The cook in halting English said: ”This Book is forbidden in my land. But I want to read it”. Mahmoud asked me to leave some literature behind for the other crewmembers who had gone to the city. The Lord had led us to this ship! Maybe it is for them the only opportunity to come in contact with the Bible and so have a chance to read it.
In Bible College
My report is rather short for I haven’t been on the ships but am attending Bible College full time. It is not only a school for theoretical knowledge but is actually a Leadership Training College. In this kind of teaching, like in an Obstacle Run, the training is to achieve greater heights. For there is an enemy to face, a roaring lion as Scripture says, wanting to devour someone. All areas in my life, ( some not even being aware of ) everything that was not in order, now rise to the surface to be dealt with. At the same time it is a School of Prayer like as in a workshop, where we build the House of God. Sometimes it means chipping away at concrete to renew foundations, some 50 tons of it. So it is strenuous, both physically as well as spiritually. Even more deeper go our prayers for the city. Quite regularly we participate in “outreaches” both in the city and elsewhere in Europe. I live with three international students in one apartment. One of them is nearly finished with his training. In all aspects God is blessing us. A closing remark in general: my decision to be trained here causes me to fit in as a Living Stone in the body of Christ ( instead of being the lone ranger that I was).
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 and other unnamed organizations, who all in their own specific way, contribute to do the job well.
We would like to ask prayer once more for the health of the co-workers. Particularly for Anneke Best. Prayer is also needed for new co-workers in the ports of Harlingen and Delfzijl. 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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