NEWSLETTER SPRING EDITION NO 156
From the desk
Beautiful things have happened again of which only some can be placed in our newsletter. We hope that you will be blessed while reading these stories. Should you want to react or want to know more about the work we are doing, be free to contact us. We would gladly come to your church or fellowship to explain and show more of the work. On our Website you will find additional information and how to contact us.
Eemshaven en Delfzijl
It is a grey and drizzly day. But we have a heart-warming message for seafarers who, finding themselves far away from home in dismal surroundings, must even work on their ship in Eemshaven. After a short prayer Harm and I climb the steep gangway of an Offshore Working ship. The Watchman is a Ukrainian and we spoke to him briefly about the Lord Jesus. On the bridge we had a longer conversation with the Captain and some Officers. Harm explained the Gospel with some special cards showing Jesus as “the Bridge”, who bore our sins for us , thereby paving the way to the Heavenly Father by faith. The men listened well and reacted. The Captain could no longer give us any further opportunity to visit other crewmembers on-board because there was too much work to do. On another day we shall visit this ship again. After a good walk across the huge port-area we were welcomed in a hearty way on another ship by the Watchman. Together with us another group was entering the ship. That day the ship’s crews were being exchanged. In spite of the activities on the ship we were welcome to come aboard. We were picked up by a young Philippino woman wearing a shirt witch sported the text: “evangelico”, a fitting moment now arrived to speak about Jesus. She invited us to follow her up the Bridge via the elevator. There we were received in a hearty way by the First and Second Officer and soon the talk was about our Saviour. Sometime later the Captain appeared and with him we continued our talk about the Gospel. I asked him how long he had been sailing and the answer was: 24 years. Now that is quite some time! I felt led to give this person a bottle-ship souvenir by saying: “I have a present for you”, and handed it over on behalf of its maker. When the Captain saw the bottle ship his jaw dropped in surprise: ”No, no, this is too much. I am not good enough for such a present”. But after some urging the Captain understood that we respected him enough to accept it. The bottle-ship received a distinct place on the Bridge. Back on deck we talked again to the Watchman and the lady-sailor. I gave her a I nice woollen hat and a booklet “a letter for you” in Tagalog. Concerning the others, they were all busy at work so we left the ship.
A little bit further on the Emma- kade we saw two Tugboats, moored like twins to the pier. On the first Tugboat a young Philippino sailor welcomed us. We could talk quite nicely to him about the church and what is most important for you when you believe. Later this person led us up to the Bridge where again we had nice conversations. The people listened to our message in an enthusiastic way while hearing that Jesus loves them. One of the Officers asked us if we could also visit the other Tugboat. “Yes, of course”. And so it happened that we climbed up several little stairs again which by now had become slippery because of some showers. On the bridge of this other Tugboat my friend Harm explained the gospel to the Captain by means of special cards. Here also everybody was at work.
On the Bridge of a nearby ship we met some Officers and had a good conversation with them about Jesus. When we asked the Captain whether he was a Christian, he answered: “I am an Agnostic”.
Harm tried to explain the Gospel to him by means of some cards and drawings, but for this the Captain had no patience and left to smoke a cigarette outside. When asked if we could talk to other people, we received however, a positive answer. Some Philippino men were then called up to accompany us to the mess room. With these two sailors with a Catholic background we could share things about believing and faith. One of the men told us that his wife attends a different church: she is a Baptist. A good conversation developed about the church but most importantly about Jesus. The men were glad to receive a Tagalog Bible and a woollen hat each. In the end we prayed with the sailors, for their wives and children, asking God to protect them. God is good!
Jan Peter en José Kapteijn.
On a cold wintry morning, moored at the Landing Stage of the ferry to New Castle, is this empty Freighter. “Waiting for orders”. The crew seems to consist of Pakistani. As is my custom I always first ask to see the Captain, but he is busy with Immigration Officials and so has no time for me. The Third Officer then says: “It is nearly 10 o’clock, so if you wish you could speak to the men in the mess room for it is about coffee time”. In the mess room I explain what I have come for and why. After some asking I am told that all Pakistani are Muslim. I start telling about the God of the Universe who is my Father. I mention also that Jesus, God’s Son ,is my Saviour and the Saviour of the world. The men are sitting in a circle around me and are listening. Some men accept a Bible and “a letter for you”. I suggest to pray for them to this mighty God I had told them about, asking if He would reveal Himself by means of the Word and His Son Jesus Christ. While I am praying in this way, in Jesus Name, surrounded by these silent men staring at me, I feel a very close bond with my Heavenly Father, more than I’ve ever felt before. Thank you Jesus!
A huge Bulk Carrier has just arrived with a cargo of coal from Australia. The crew are all from Vietnam. They are all Buddhists except a young deckhand, the lowest in rank aboard. But he is a disciple of Jesus, Yes! I take him with me to Anneke, sitting in the car parked near the pier, in order to pick up a bag of clothing for the crew. He
receives a small bag for himself with personal items like shampoo and toothpaste as well as a knitted woollen hat and a scarf plus a T-shirt. A Bible he did already have.
We pray there with him at the Pier. The boy is overjoyed for this unexpected meeting with motherly care at the other side of the world.
We wish you God’s blessing and please do not let up in your prayers for Anneke’s health.
Jan and Anneke Best.
Amsterdam 1 Ship’s alarm in the port of Amsterdam.
One evening I decide to go to the ports together with Michiel. A large Cargo Ship is moored to the dock with a cargo of coal from Russia and is being unloaded by two huge cranes. A port evangelist from Canada has asked us to visit this ship. There is a possibility that some men from the Maldives are on-board and we didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity to meet them. To our regret we soon learn that no Maldivian crewmembers are aboard. The clock , in the meantime, is showing 21.00 hrs . We choose a corner in the mess room and on some tables we place some Bibles and some gospel literature and calendars and start a conversation with a Philippino Officer. He is very tired and hardly interested in our message. A few crewmembers have gone into town and others are resting in their cabins after having finished their turn of duty. The rest of the crew is at work. Michiel suggests pressing the alarm button. If things run well, all the crew will soon appear. But we realise this is not the right method. We, as Ambassadors, also have to stand in for a NAME. Should there be a reason for us to be aboard this ship, God will bring the right people on our path because His Angels are the alarm. If not, that’s O.K. too. The clock now shows 21.45 hrs and we are in doubt as what to do.
We both have the feeling that we should stay on the ship. In the meantime we feel that the floor beneath our feet is listing considerably. We gather it must be because of the unloading of the cargo. Somewhere far away we hear an alarm go off but we don’t pay much attention to it. I go back on deck to speak to the Indonesian Watchman, a Muslim. He is glad to receive a Bible in his own language and I now have an opportunity to tell him what the Bible means to me. He in turn tells me about a girlfriend he once had who is a committed Christian. This started to cause many problems with his family. This, in the end, forced him to break up the relationship. One question is still on his mind: “Why are there so many different bible translations and how do you know which is the right one”? Because of this question I again have a chance to explain the Gospel to him. I was allowed to pray for him but was soon interrupted by his Porto phone and so this sailor had to go back to work. In the meantime Michiel has been busy also. Soon after the First Mate ( called Angel) had come over to him for a chat. This man had been busy attending to the alarm signal we had heard earlier. Michiel is very frank in sharing the Gospel with anyone and to the point, also with our sailor. After this meeting I have a talk with a Bulgarian Engineer. I see some scepticism in his eyes as he regards us, possibly because Michiel himself is of the engineering profession. Our Bulgarian friend is disappointed with the church and with people. No system in this world is any good and his conclusion is that only children still possess some degree of purity and sincerity. He advises us therefore to evangelise mainly among children for this is much more effective than evangelising among seamen. Seen from a businessman’s reckoning he may have a point, but for us it is not the numbers that count. Only the Gospel is the answer to the many problems sailors run into. We further explain the Gospel to the Bulgarian seaman but every time he comes up with new arguments against our message. In the end he says: “Don’t go to any more trouble, I am too old to change, I can’t be converted anymore”. “But how about the murderer on the cross next to Jesus?” In the end Michiel prays long and fervently with this man and with tears in his eyes he thanks Michiel with a hug. Then he took his leave from us. Hopefully we see this man back in port again or maybe port evangelists in Hamburg could visit this man on his ship. The Indonesian Watchman has seen us talking to his colleague and tells us he is so much relieved about it. “My colleague is looking for peace and rest, so nice of you to have talked to him. Hopefully this has helped him”. In leaving the ship at 23.30 hrs it only then dawns on us : …we had been talking about an alarm going off and soon after Angel and the Bulgarian Engineer crossed our paths. Was that Divine humour at work? The Lord really provided for an alarm this time. Bulgarians often refuse to listen to us but with this man we had time and opportunity to share things with him. Even when it’s dark and late this night in port now, we notice that life just continues on. So, after all, it was a nice evening.
With a Hearty greeting,
Ship’s visits are great opportunities to pass on the Good News, namely that there is redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ. With mostly Philippinos on board we could share the Gospel with them .I could speak from the Word of God , starting from Matthew chapter 18. Jesus has forgiven my many sins. That is why I also want to forgive the other person who has done so much wrong to me. Questions started to come also from the parable of the sower and the seed. On what kind of soil does the seed , the Word of God land in you?
We often ask about their situation back home, how it is with one’s family and how the person himself is feeling. Sometimes you hear a complete story about the homeland. In such cases we look for a fitting Scripture verse to give to them. Calendars and second-hand clothing also do their part on board as well as a bottle ship souvenir. This really catches their attention, realising how it must have cost lots of patience. It is special to see them wondering how this three- mast sailing ship could be placed in a bottle like that. Sometimes crewmembers have come in contact with teachings or movement that are contrary to the Bible.
Often we don’t even have to give any comment about it for the sailor himself has already put question marks beside it , feeling strange when put alongside the Word of God.
Once on a certain ship we were invited to come and visit a certain part of the engine room; this is something that rarely happens.
Where we also come is the Bridge where, among other persons, the Officers do their work. On this ship also was an occasion to pass on some literature to those present. It is a privilege therefore to come to places where the sailors live and work, often times tired from work but also very lonely. They have their turn on board from 6 weeks up to 10 months in one stretch with hardly any time to relax but there is enough time to rest from the often heavy and complex work at sea and in port.
From Rotterdam: thank you for standing with us and reading these lines.
Wout de Vries.
Itinerant ship visitation.
Since January this year I visit the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam practically on a weekly basis. The way God is helping for me in continuing my Three Year Bible College term has been tremendous! I am now halfway. The program of the College includes one free day a week and I use this day to go to the ports. With respect and admiration I kept watching Wout and Marien as to their driving ability ,knowing so well their way around in the maze of RST in Rotterdam and the Bulk Terminals in Amsterdam. Once on-board a ship I feel myself on familiar ground, even looking around to spot a ship’s Engineer so as to start work! Now I come aboard with a different mission and am not on the monster-roll. It takes some getting used to but it is exiting anyway. The time to bring the Good News on-board is short, too short .Then it is a matter of quickly finding out what the sailors viewpoint is in life for me to come to the point. At other times, not so pressed, we spend hours with the same people on the ship. It happens that our presence changes the atmosphere. In this case on a Chinese ship in dock for repairs. Sometimes during a short absence from the mess room we had noticed that Bible material left on the tables had been freely taken. It also showed on a next visit that film material had been copied off a USB stick that we had left behind in the TV. We discovered this because afterwards we found it to be infected by viruses. People are curious and the English language is not mastered by everyone and then material in one’s own language is more appreciated. Trying to start up a Jesus’ film ( or the Gospel of John) on-board is every time a challenge.
On every ship the video systems are different. Sometime we donate a HDMI cable but also guitar strings. In which other way can they get hold of them otherwise? Sometimes we meet sailors wanting to organise a Bible Study group for themselves. Then we take time to help and equip them with material and keep in contact with them. Sailors are no exception in coming in contact with sects and often have little insight in their teachings. One sailor was partly involved in one of these already and we could point out a few errors to him. On another ship a boatswain complained to us that already a few of his Philippino friends had joined four different sects. A serious problem in the Philippines.
A Danish captain looked at me in surprise on hearing the reason why I had come aboard. He wished me God’s blessing on my work and pressed the bottle ship I had given him in wonderment to his chest. “Have you eaten already? “Go and have some food”, “Take a plate and serve yourself “, “Have you eaten enough?”, When do you come back?, “Do we meet again before we sail?”, “Do come back soon!”, “We are glad for Facebook and Messenger, enabling us to keep in contact”. These are the usual greetings I hear when I am aboard ships. On a regular basis I could share the Word of God with seafarers and more than once I could pray with them , even as a group. “ I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine in the Philippines who also is a pastor”, an elderly seaman said to me in an enthusiastic voice”. “Thank you so much for coming and that you have brought the good news”. Once more many Bibles, Bible parts, books and other material was given to the men at sea. It is striking to notice that everybody is so extremely happy with it all and so thankful! That in turn makes me a happy person also. A hearty thanks for standing with us in your prayers and other tokens of friendship.
With hearty greetings ,
Theo en Yvonne van Zuilekom
During these last days, weeks and months there is much cause of unrest in our team. As of from April 1 and June 1 we must vacate our rented premises which house our office and storeroom. The reason is that the house is being sold. We are glad that a Christian friend from Rozenburg has offered us space on his business location for our literature container as a temporary solution. He even arranges with another company for free removal to this area. We are still looking for ideas as to a new and proper accommodation. Also, many workers are troubled by sickness in their families. Nevertheless, everybody is trying to help out where possible for I am sure God’s blessing is resting on them. Please continue to pray for this situation. Felix received a telephone call from a Ship’s agent responsible for ships in the port of Dordrecht. There is this sailor who wants to visit a good Seaman’s Church service. So we made an appointment and together with a trainee I could visit the seaman in a dry-dock. It is very special to hear that the father of the seaman is the leader of SCFS at Iloilo in the Philippines. We could talk with the ship’s Officer and were invited to a barbecue. The captain of the ship, although not a Christian, had, in the Philippines in Manila, been eating out with a port missionary from Hamburg over there! The brother of the sailor friend we visited is in Rotterdam this moment. But I was not successful in bringing them together. The schedule of their working hours was too far apart. I visit an unknown ship. The cleaner proves to be a Christian but is unhappy because he cannot get a bible study group started. According to him the others do not accept him as a spiritual leader. He is only a cleaner. I promise to come by another time. Soon after we had a good talk ,for he is in a better mood and happy to talk to me, another Christian. Then he was called to work again and I was invited by a next sailor to a game of darts. I must mention that I had a conversation with the Third Mate also. He seems to be a Christian but would not like to be known as such because he had committed a bad sin. For five months now these two sailors had been together on the same ship and are not aware that another believer is also on-board. A sad story but it happens more than once. Thirty six Sundays without a church and a great chance missed to pray together, to sing together God’s praises and read the Bible. I hope that they will change their mind in the coming months.
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, Inez de Baat and Kerstin Henrichs, 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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