July 8 is Sea Sunday, when the Church asks us to pray for seafarers and support the work of AoS, whose chaplains and ship visitors provide practical and pastoral help in ports around the coast of Britain…
Visiting a supermarket is a task we all take for granted. But if you’re away at sea for months at a time, walking along the aisles with your basket is a special occasion.
When Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) port chaplain Peter Barrigan went on board the Lan Hua Hai in Teesport, the Chinese crew were subdued because they assumed they would not be allowed shore leave in the UK after being at sea for months.
Peter made some phone calls and discovered there had been a misunderstanding and the crew would indeed be allowed to go ashore.
Billy and Jun Li Barnett, two volunteer ship visitors, agreed to look after the crew during their stay. Jun is Chinese and her husband Billy has spent time in China.
What the crew wanted most was to go shopping, so Billy and Jun took them to Tesco. Local shoppers were initially put out as Jun translated at the checkout for 16 seafarers!
However, when she explained where the men were from and how long they had been at sea, the locals were happy to wait their turn.
Most of the crew’s purchases were treats and gifts to celebrate the recent Chinese New Year.
As the ship was about to leave Teesport to sail to Murmansk in Russia, Peter gave the captain a Bible in Chinese.
A few days after they left he received the following message, which Jun was able to translate:
We had not been ashore for two months. It was very stressful. We really appreciated the chaplain contacting the agents for us to make sure we could get ashore.
We’ve been sailing more than half year. It’s so good to see another Chinese in another country, especially during Lunar New Year.
If there was no Billy and Jun, we wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere and would not have been able to shop and sort our things out.
We will keep the Bible to learn about other faiths and cultures better while we sail to different countries.
Taking the Chinese crew of a ship to a local supermarket might seem insignificant, but it’s these kinds of small gestures AoS port chaplains and ship visitors make that have a big impact on the lives of seafarers, who go months without seeing their families.
Without seafarers, we would not have many of the things we rely on in our daily lives, including cars, computers, fridges and much of the food we buy. Part of the role of AoS is to show seafarers they are not forgotten. For more information visit apostleshipofthesea.org.uk.