NEWSLETTER AUTUMN EDITION NO 162
How pleased the sailors were with our visit! It can be months that their ship needs to wait in the ports and on many it is not allowed to go from board. More than once crewmembers asked us earnestly when would we be back. Every time we receive a warm welcome. I’m sure dear friends that you will read the following stories with pleasure. Should you wish to respond in some way to know more about the work that we do, then please contact us. We’d be delighted to come to your church, fellowship or prayer meeting to tell more about our work. Do you have any coats, jumpers or other good clothing you are not wearing anymore, we’d be glad to take them to the sailors. They love receiving such gifts. On our Website more information is to be found. You can also send us a mail.
Rotterdam and Den Helder - Serving at Sea
During June and July I could visit quite some ships in Rotterdam. One was a Tanker, ‘being on chain’. The Philippine crew was happy to see us. We organised a small and simple gospel meeting on-board, all wearing breathing masks. Finally the ship moved away for a “docking” somewhere in southern Europe. When it returned I was notified by the crew and I called in for a short visit and was given a warm welcome.
Once I had brought another visitor from the church with me and security measures became at once more complicated. The Corona Card measures were then activated and permission was refused even after the captain had given the OK. Often I felt tension and disharmony on-board. Still, in all, it was great meeting the men, like with the sailors from Georgia. It felt almost the same as when you were with good friends gathered around the fire in a cottage.
I think of the Bengalese sailors to whom I could bring the Gospel as one ‘announcing Good Tidings’. Later I was able to support and comfort a crewmember who had just become a father. He was feeling rather lonely just then. After some weeks I could join my ship berthed in Den Helder port for six weeks. On-board I held a bible study every week with an Eastern European colleague. In all, it was tough ground there.
The Harbour Master however gave me permission to visit all ships in port as port-chaplain, whom they treated with respect. I called on some Supply Tenders but was rarely invited to come aboard: they were not interested.
There was also a noted scare for Corona but sometimes I managed to bring the Word or be a quiet listener to a captain talking about his fears. One crewmember was afraid that all would be dismissed. During my activities a call reached me from Curacao in the West Indies: pray for Engineers needed on the Logos Hope mission ship. If during a stay on a ship in the past an urgent technical problem would arise, I would not hesitate to answer that call. How then could I ignore such a great and urgent signal when the mission ship Logos Hope is sending out a call for an Engineer? How much more available ought one to be?
I had some ten days leave coming and so had the chance to undergo a short training with this mission.
Now I am ready to go to this ship, starting in September for a three months period.
In the next Bulletin I’ll write more about this undertaking.
Delfzijl and Eemshaven - Masked preachers in the Eemshaven port
These days it is mostly a surprise whether to get permission to visit a ship or not. The first ship that Harm and I visited, the Esvagt Albert Betz, was like a stronghold. We could get no further than the Watchman, but could hand him an Interactive Sailor Bible. On the ship moored next to it, the Windea Jules Verne, it was more than busy. The crew was being exchanged and stores were taken in. The Watchman stood there waiting for us with a thermometer at the ready. Thirty six point six was good enough to clear the way to the Bridge where we were offered a face mask. It took quite some steps to come there but is was worthwhile. On the Bridge we were welcomed by our host, a Rumanian captain and his Polish Officer and we could speak about Jesus in all frankness. We handed over a bottle ship souvenir from the Mission and the captain considered it a beautiful present. When seeing the Interactive Sailor Bible, the Polish Officer was very interested and asked for more than one copy: “for the Bridge and the Mess room”. We received no permission to go to the Mess room ourselves, but no worries: the Bibles will find their way to the men anyway. It was great to share our faith so openly with them. Later, when passing the Watchman ,we handed him a Bible.
We then started a conversation with a young man who later proved to be co-owner of the ship. Also the Vessel moored further on, the Windea la Cour, belonged to this fleet of ships. For both ships they had recently obtained a seven year contract for the maintenance of a Windmill-park at sea. So to this open hearted co-owner we could explain the Gospel in detail and gave him a Bible. The Windea la Cour however had a strict Corona regime and no permission was given to board her.
From the quay-side we could have a brief contact but were unable to share the Gospel.
Bringing the Good News has become more difficult these days but we believe that God still gives surprising opportunities in order to encourage people to tell about His awesome love. Also , personally, it is great to see that lately a number of young people is showing an interest to come along with us to the Eemshaven port.
God is good !
Jan Peter and José Kapteijn
We step aboard a gigantic ship bringing 170 000 tons of coal from Australia. The crew are men from the Philippines and a still young Chinese Captain is in charge. For us this is the thousandth (1000) ship we visit since the Lord has given us this calling! After leaving the eastern shores of Australia the ship completed a journey of 83 days. It went via the southern route, past New Zealand, entering the Pacific going east, rounding the Cape Horne. Then it came into the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the North Sea to finally berth at the IJmuiden docks. In the Southern Hemisphere it is now winter and it caused real damage to the ship by the continual pounding of the Western Gales for which Cape Horne is notorious.
The Chinese Captain shared with me ( not being a believer but his wife is) , that in that situation he called his wife to pray for him and the ship. We offer him a Bible and a “Letter for you” in the Chinese language. The Bible we had with us was bound in black leather with golden coloured letters on the cover. “Oh, I’d like to have that one”. He promises to start reading in it. We pray for him that the Lord will reveal Himself as he starts reading. He also receives a little wooden cross with the words Jesus cut out on the cross bar. The Philippine crew also receives Bibles and Christian literature in their own language. Anneke has prepared small bags of personal things like shampoo, toothpaste, a towel from the Thrift Store and mini Mars sweets. We pray for them, standing in a circle but quite well apart of course.
On another ship we meet up with an Indian crew and a sailor from Kiribati, an island group in the Pacific. This sailor walks with us to the car. He tells me he is a follower of Jesus! This is his first time at sea and feels quite lonely aboard. Anneke with her motherly feelings treats him in a special way, giving him a personal bag with the well-known articles. We pray for him. The boy is astonished that so much attention is given to him by an unknown couple at the other side of the globe. Overflowing with gratitude he is going to tell his family . Nowadays the Mobile Phone is offering sailors unprecedented possibilities. We have the most beautiful profession in the world. “Lord, keep your mighty hand over this boy”. With friendly greetings and God’s blessing,
Jan and Anneke Best
Amsterdam and Scheveningen
In pouring rain I step on-board of a huge Tanker. The Indian watchman is sheltering a bit further under a tarpaulin cover and beckons me to come to him. The Watchman is catching rainwater in a bottle to boil it later on. He explains that he collects rainwater in this way in every port but to me it is not clear as to what result this experiment will lead to. In the meanwhile a colleague is nearing our shelter and watches me in a scrutinising way. At last he joins us and starts going through my bag uninvited. I just let him and see that he picks up my special Gospel cube and starts looking at it from all sides. Now I have an opportunity to have his attention and explain what the images on the sides stand for. I give him a children’s picture Bible. I cannot quite fathom what goes on inside him but he listens to me. He likes the Children’s Bible but the dark look on his face remains. Later I hear (from his Christian colleague) that this sailor is predestined to become a witchdoctor, just like his father and grandfather, all belonging to a strict radical Hindu sect that is active in dark mystical powers. What a privilege it is to announce the Good News to this particular young man!
I board another Tanker. The powerful pump to discharge the cargo has suddenly stopped working when I arrived , leaving two Rumanian sailors with nothing to do for a while . The smaller one beckons me to come over and I walk with them to the ‘ship-office’. I hand out some shampoo, toothpaste and chocolate. Especially in these Corona times the articles are very welcome to sailors for they are not allowed to leave the ship. They nod when I state that sailors not only have a body but also a soul and that now the moment has come to replenish the last with food like for instance receiving a Rumanian Bible and Christian literature.
Out on deck the pump is still not working so I explain what is written in Ephesians chapter 2, namely that we deserve death but God has sent His Son to save sinners. The men don’t have much to say to that. We are saved by grace and not by works The older sailor says: ”OK, we know that but we are extremely busy and that is for later when we are old”. A much heard reaction or excuse to the “Gospel message, I know. I would have liked to talked some more but then comes the announcement that the pump is to be started up again and work is waiting. I feel at peace and it is not my person that needs to direct their choices. But still, the Bible on the office desk remains open at chapter 2 of Ephesians.
Encouragements were also there on the ship in meeting several other believers. An Indian seaman reads the biography of William Carey who, around 1790 as a missionary, brought the Gospel to India, William Carey is seen as the founder of the missionary movement and has also done much translation work. Incredible how this man put his whole life in God’s service. A well-known saying of his is: ”expect great things from God, undertake great things for God”. The fact that over 200 years later an Indian seaman is reading his biography shows clearly that William Carey’s work was blessed by God.
And with this hope and assurance we shall continue with our work in the ports.
Rotterdam - A day during Corona time
On deck an Indian Watchman is waiting for me. Everybody, including myself, is wearing a face mask. I notice that the people inside ( mainly Italians) are still talking to one another so I wait a while outside. Then the ice is broken by a beautiful bottle ship given to the captain and another person. They accept it thankfully together with a Luke and Mark gospel in Italian. Some crewmembers on deck receive the famous “one million dollar” tract.
On the next ship I am directed to a room, kindly aided by a British captain. Here I can sit together with a Philippino sailor and an Ukrainian ‘Motorman’. Keeping the proper distance I talk to them at a table and the subject turns to the Lord Jesus , God’s Son and what He did on the cross for us in order that now ,through His sacrifice , we may live according to His will. I had some literature, a CD and a DVD for them. Back on deck: the young sailor Mark was interested in having a Bible. God’s standard is high: “thou shallt be perfect”. We can , how hard we may try, not fulfil this norm. Our sins separate us from God. We read together John 1: 12 :”But to all that received Him who believe on His name, He gave power to become children of God”. For Mark I have a Bible and add some Christian literature for his friend Melvin. Both sailors and the others are from the Philippines.
The next ship for me proved to be an altogether different challenge: how to come in contact with a complete Chinese crew? Christian literature has its place then: you have a Chinese Bible and also some literature in English to pass on!
On the following and last ship, when on deck, I could give some good gospel material to Finnish and Russian crewmembers. Also here the sailors are not permitted to leave the ship. I learned that there often is uncertainty about their home situation. A visit like ours from outside is much appreciated going by the looks on their faces.
With hearty greetings
Wout de Vries
Rotterdam - A diamond in a waste basket
Some months ago, just out of the blue, I received by E-mail a completed bible study course. This mail was sent by a Christian seaman from South India. He wrote that by studying the Bible by means of the study-booklet “The Bridge”, he had come to a saving knowledge in Christ Jesus, his Lord and Saviour and asked for more of these studies. I have sent him six copies which he all studied enthusiastically, a means by which his faith can grow.
Last week I could visit him in person and we had a great time together. “I was new aboard and found during the cleaning a diamond in a wastebasket”, (meaning the bible study booklet.) “I took a picture of every page and sent it to my wife and daughter in India.
There the Lockdown had been ordered and how much better can you spend your time than by studying the Bible. In this way my family, together with me, studied the lessons”. ( this story was told so enthusiastically by this Indian seaman)
“We at our church are not instructed to read the Bible. It is all about rituals.
You as port missionaries are so important for us because you bring the Word of God to us”.
This was for me of great encouragement. Who can know what will happen to a booklet, a folder or Bible that we bring aboard?
God continues with His mighty work. Most probably I left this booklet behind on the ship during our Christmas activities. This year also we want to hand out Christmas-parcels in the port of Rotterdam.
If you want to support this project, you can find all information on http://scfs-rotterdam.nl/nl/nl/kerst.html.
Amsterdam - God is at work
By special invitation of the Chief Engineer I have been aboard a huge Bulk carrier to bring Bibles. The Chief Engineer had asked for them because every Sunday he has a bible study with the crewmembers.
I made some good contacts on-board and of course had to have dinner under the watchful eye of the Chief Engineer. I had many talks with the men and was able to pass on many Bibles and other material and of course clothing and even a pair of shoes. Also a bottle ship and wooden crosses found their way in thankful admiration. How happy these men were with me coming.
They told me afterwards that they experienced God’s blessing.
On-board another ship I experienced some special moments having fine talks with the men. Several Bibles and gospel material were gratefully and with keen interest accepted. With all the men that I conversed with, I also prayed. Some had tears in their eyes. Again I was privileged to hand out clothing with also woollen hats even when it was summer. I could pass on a bottle ship and some wooden crosses to the men. A person leaving for home found that his suitcase was broken. And imagine, I just happened to have a new suitcase in my car! You’ll understand of course how surprised he was. “Will you come back soon?”. “Of course I will!”.
How beautiful a work we are engaged in! God’s work!
Fifteen Philippine sailors received shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, being all items they cannot buy as they are not allowed to leave the ship. To all these gifts we added some chocolate, soap and toothbrushes, all packed in some cosy woollen hats. We do this as it were, in advance to our upcoming Christmas-parcels as in the beginning of December we will make a start of putting Christmas-parcels together and distributing them to the sailors.
On this last ship and our promise, we agreed on a time and date to see them soon. One Friday evening Yvonne and I went to visit them. After having been greeted warmly by the crew we first shared what we had brought with us: Bibles and other material to give away to the crew and different items for those who wished to have them. Apart from the Gospel material the men could also sort out warm clothing, even taking some for the colleagues who were on duty. Of course, as is our custom, we shared and explained the Word of God with them. In the end the men asked especially for prayer and of course we did pray.
What a joy, such meetings! God is at work and so are we!
With hearty greetings and a thanks for all your faithful prayers and other tokens of fellowship!
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: 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,, Our Daily Bread Ministries 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 workers of Het Havenlicht and their families but especially for: Inez de Baat, Anneke Best and Jan Peter Kapteijn to continue in the ministry God has given.
Would you also like to pray for open doors and open hearts? We believe in the God of miracles!
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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