Seafarers are strangers wherever they go…
Posted by Laura Nelson, 27 September 2016
Over the past few years, we have had the joy of providing Bibles to Seafarers Christian Friend Society for their mission across ports in Northern Ireland. We recently caught up with Sam Cowan, Chaplain of the organisation in Belfast to hear about this important ministry:
Seafarers Christian Friend Society (SCFS) has worked for many years ministering to millions of men and women who live in the twilight world of big shipping. People who work on these ships can roam the oceans for up to twelve months at a time – it’s a lonely time for many. SCFS have teams based in 40 ports around the world, boarding ships to offer friendship, a chat and have opportunities to speak of the Good News of Jesus Christ. These workers come from more than 100 different nations and speak dozens of languages.
Sam Cowan leads the SCFS team in Belfast and has used English NIV and foreign language Bibles from Biblica for his pastoral visits to crew members on board cruise ships.
Sam explains, “Many of the seafarers I meet come from different religious backgrounds, some Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindi and some claim to have no belief in God. I am always amazed how seafarers ask for English Bibles as they want to improve their English.”
He continues, “I sometimes hear back from seafarers how they have found faith in Jesus through reading the Bibles they receive. One of the privileges I have is to give Bibles to the Christian Fellowships on board the cruise ships as they have crew members coming without a Bible and they want to learn more about Jesus.”
Over the last few years many cruise ships have docked in Belfast which has provided Sam amazing opportunities to take Bibles on board for the crew members. He tells us below of three stories which are particularly powerful and just prove how the Word of God can change people’s lives:
“Firstly I think of a Filipino seafarer who ended up in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast with TB. I was asked to visit him twice a week for three months. During those visits I took him a Tagalog Bible and he began reading it. On each visit I read a portion of the Scriptures to him and prayed with him. When he went home he has continued reading the Bible to his family.”
“The second story is about a lady from Nepal who kept asking me questions about the Bible and the Christian life. This lady came to faith on board the ship and now five members of her family, her daughter, niece, sister and husband have all trusted the Saviour and each one has a Bible from Biblica. This same lady has just asked for five more copies to take back home with her in a couple of weeks time. Her niece is planning to start a three month course in a Bible College in Kathmandu.”
“The final story is of one man from Mauritius who asked if he could have a French Bible and while looking at the other Bibles he also asked if he could have an Arabic Bible. He explained that French is his main language, but as a young boy he was taught the Quran in Arabic and now he was holding an Arabic Bible so he could compare them both.”
What incredible stories of people receiving God’s Word in their heart languages. We pray for these people as they read these Bibles and pray their families would also be impacted by the Word of God.
A massive thank you to Sam for sharing these powerful stories. Please remember Sam and his team in your prayers as they seek to spread the Gospel to ship workers who dock in Belfast.