Seamen’s Christian Friend Society (SCFS) has been helping and caring for seafarers for the past 169 years. Most of us have probably travelled at some stage by ferry or maybe taken a well deserved break on board a cruise ship but for many thousands of people who work as seafarers, they are on board their ship for quite often months at a time, away from family and friends. Seamen’s Christian Friend Society missionaries go on board ships when they come in to harbour and come alongside the sailors talking to them about spiritual issues and helping with welfare needs where possible. An estimated 90% of world trade makes use of maritime transport, depending on more than 1.2 million seafarers to operate ships.
Founded in 1846, SCFS is a UK registered charity and works in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, St. Lucia, Australia, New Zealand & the Philippines using full & part time staff as well as volunteer chaplains. Each year Seamen’s Christian Friend Society workers will board thousands of merchant, fishing, naval, cargo and passenger ships showing Christian hospitality and have, over the years, helped many sailors put their faith and trust in God and Jesus as their Saviour.
What is life like for a Seamen’s Christian Friend Society – (SCFS) missionary?
We asked Colin who is the missionary in Cork who said, “Imagine how many aeroplanes fly in and out of airports each day. Seaports are similar in that there is a constant flow of traffic. As much as 90% of world trade is transported by sea. Container ships are now built large enough to carry up to 19,000 containers each! In Belfast, Dublin or Cork there could be up to 10 ships of various types moving in and out of port each day. The crew on board these ships could be as young as 19 or as old as 77″. Colin has been working in Cork for 8 years now and during that time has met well over 100 nationalities, both male and female. Colin said, ” The Port of Cork harbour sprawls over many miles so there is very rarely an ‘average’ day. It has 9 main terminals with all sorts of ships coming in to port, so most days are different for me…but busy! On the other hand my colleague Jae, who works for SCFS in Dublin port would have a more predictable week. He currently holds 5 weekly Bible study fellowships on board 5 different container ships which are back in Dublin each week. Many of the sailors we meet are on board their ships for many months at a time. One captain I was speaking to recently said that 30 years at sea would mean he got to spend only 5 years back at home with his family because of 9 month contracts. So it’s not an easy life being a seafarer. They are very appreciative of the work we do as Seamen’s Christian Friend Society claplains, for the gifts we take on board, for the times we pray with them and for the conversations telling them about Jesus who loves them no matter where they are in the world. Of course a lot of the gifts we’re able to give them wouldn’t be possible without the support of many individuals who knit the woolly hats, scarves, gloves, etc which the seafarers love to get. Our work is entirely funded by donations from individuals and churches, so it really is a partnership and we just see ourselves as ‘a link in the chain’. Many churches also organise regular collections of Christmas presents, toiletries etc which we can give to those we meet. This is a very important part of our ministry. We also really value your prayers.”
If you would like to get in touch with any of the missionaries you can email Colin at firstname.lastname@example.org – Jae at email@example.com or Samuel at firstname.lastname@example.org. We know they would really appreciate a word of encouragement, or to let them know you are praying for them and their work or to offer to help with the practical work like supplying the gifts, knitted items, small teddies, crafts and toiletries etc they can give to the sailors when they visit the ships. You can find out lots more information about Seamen’s Christian Friend Society (SCFS) by visiting their website here. You can also keep up to date with what life is like at sea by using the Facebook page here.
Here’s just a couple of comments from sailors emphasising what the work of Seamen’s Christian Friend Society (SCFS) means to them:
“We really need people like you”
“I have been sad for 20 years. Thank God I met you”
“My life has been changed by meeting you”