FEB. 3, 2018

Shore Leave with God:  The Seafarers Ministry

by Sheryll BONILLA, Esq.

If you have long sleeved shirts, long pants, or jackets you no longer need, consider donating them to the Seafarers Ministry, led by Pastor Jerry Saludez of Waipio Baptist Church.  The covering affords a bit of protection against stings from sea creatures that come up with the fishing nets being pulled on board a fishing boat.  It also helps keep the sailors warm since life on the sea can

be chilly.  Drop off donations for the Seafarers Ministry at Waipio Baptist Church below Costco or at Olivet Baptist Church on Beretania Street across Central Union Church.  Food donations are also welcome.  

The Seafarers Ministry provides companionship to the lonely crew members whose professional lives are spent on board the fishing vessels that catch the seafood we all love to eat.  We don’t think about them because we don’t see them.  Life on a ship lacks the comforts most of us know.  They don’t get to go home at the end of the day; they sleep on board the boat.  They can’t get away from co-workers they don’t like or get along with – those people live on the same ship.  They have very little space for their belongings, and have to keep it neat to not annoy shipmates.  They can’t just buy whatever they want to eat and stuff their refrigerators because they aren’t allowed to go far from the ship when in port.  They can’t shop online, either, because the ships sail or are in port.  Loved ones are hundreds or thousands of miles away, back in their home countries.

International immigration laws recognize this special category of workers as non-immigrants.  They don’t intend to become citizens elsewhere, and they travel not as visitors or businessmen, but as laborers.  Sadly, for the fishermen, most of these laws don’t allow the crewmembers to go on the land, at least not far from the ship.  Shore leave, as any merchant crewman or Navy sailor knows, is so vital for the mental health of people confined for long periods of time in a confined space.

For many of these men, fishing is one of the few career options available in their home country.  Most of the fishermen are from the Philippines, with a sprinkling from Indonesia, Vietnam, Kiribati, and Micronesia, but about 90% of the captains of these fishing vessels are Americans.  The wages for the crew members, as you can imagine, are not even U.S. minimum wage.

At Pier 38 on Tuesday and Friday evenings at 6 p.m., the Seafarers Ministry brings a nice, hot meal to the men on these fishing boats, giving them a chance to get some very needed shore time.  Ministry volunteers share food, conversation, and their faith.  Pastor Saludez leads a church service for the spiritual needs of crewmembers.  All join in praising God, singing worship songs, and hearing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Because the sailors cannot legally leave the port, access to medical care can be a problem.  Healthcare volunteers with the Seafarers Ministry can perform basic check-ups, take blood tests, and give vitamins.  Sometimes volunteers share their bicycles so the seamen can stretch their legs and feel the breeze.  Donated gifts are distributed, when available. 

The social comfort of being able to talk to others, get out in the fresh air on solid land, and eat a home-cooked meal, all help to give balance to the sailors’ mental health.  More importantly, the spiritual void in every human being that God designed to be filled by Him and Him alone, is gently filled by the preaching of the Bible and glorifying Jesus Christ.

Please feel free to join the Seafarers Ministry at Pier 38 to have fellowship and attend the church services on Tuesday and Friday evenings, starting at 6 p.m.  If you’d like to bring food to share, plan on about thirty people.  Pastor Jerry Saludez of Waipio Baptist leads the ministry.

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