Chaplains from Missions to Seamen across continent share stories

Published September 1, 1998

The issues Rev. Brian Evans deals with are sometimes very similar, but in other cases vastly different, from those faced by his fellow ministers.

“I’ve done grief counselling, I’ve shown pictures of my granddaughter, I’ve taken a watch to be fixed, I sell discount phone cards,” he recounted from Halifax where he is chaplain of the Missions to Seamen.

Mr. Evans was speaking at the conclusion of the annual conference of the North American Maritime Ministry, held this past June in Halifax. About 150 people working in port ministries, mostly in Canada and the United States, got together to share stories and ideas.

Local issues are also discussed. This year they talked of Halifax’s goal to become a superport, allowing it to bring in vessels too large to fit through the Panama Canal. The superport would be at the other end of the city from where the mission currently operates.

Mr. Evans, mission manager Maggie Whittingham-Lamont and 17 volunteers are together available 89 hours a week to sailors.

Last year the mission visited 1,100 ships. Mr. Evans said they keep in mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Sometimes he celebrates the eucharist. He even wrote a service for a lay person to perform on an occasion when a ship was going to be at sea over Easter.

One of the most valuable services the mission provides is discount phone cards. Many sailors are anxious to call loved ones as soon as they reach port.

That brought up an interesting issue for Mr. Evans when Japanese sailors docked last January. A sailor who rang up $3.97 on a telephone card understood it to mean he owed close to $400 and tried to pay with eight $50 bills.

The sailor was given a quick lesson in Canadian money before setting off into the city where others might have been less quick to point out his error.

The mission also organizes sight-seeing tours for sailors and sells personal-care items.

The sailors take nothing for granted, Mr. Evans said. “Here they are so thankful for everything you do.”


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