Greetings Friends! As we are about to celebrate the New Year, I find myself thinking about expectations, hopes and dreams for the future. I think we all do.
Two days before Christmas, I went on board the Maersk Katalin, a Gulf oil ship docked here in Boston, with our Port Chaplain, Lance Williams. This pre-Christmas visit was very special. I don't know why exactly. Every ship visit is unique. Each time I meet amazing seafarers and walk away humbled and grateful for the opportunity.
The crew consisted of Russians, Romanians, Indians and Filipinos. Lance and I were graciously invited to join them for lunch. We sat in the mess hall; one Filipino came in with his plate and blessed himself before eating, Lance spent a great deal of time with another making his phone card work so he could call back home.
During this time, I struck up a conversation with other Filipinos who filtered in and out to have lunch .....they shared about their wives and children and the daily loneliness they experience not being with them as they labor to provide for their needs back home. We talked about Christmas traditions in our respective countries. The U2 song "Unforgettable Fire" was playing loudly in the background as they spoke about their expectancy of when they would be reunited with their loved ones after their lengthy contracts at sea.
After a time of sharing, a few of the crew members requested to go to the CambridgeSide Galleria where they could do some shopping. As we were waiting for a couple of the men to get to the van which we had parked outside of security, I asked the Filipinos- Jay, Juneray and Lonwell if they needed warm clothing-to which they exclaimed in unison "YES M'am"! (They later referred to me as "Merry" Jay -joked that I was Merry as in Merry Christmas).
We made a "pit stop" at our office where they could sort through our store house of supplies. Although the Ditty Bags consist of some warm clothing such as scarves, hats or gloves, the bags are too small to contain desperately needed outwear. The experience was like watching grown men turn into little boys opening presents at Christmas as they excitedly and carefully looked at what was spread out before them. I had previously called the office to inform Crissy Jache, our Operations Manager, that we would be coming by, and she thoughtfully chose some items she thought they might like in order to save them time sorting through racks of clothing. We told them to fill their backpacks to the brim with whatever they could fit in-coats, sweaters, socks....They were so grateful!
Jay has two young sons back home, and Lonwell three daughters ages 3,6 and 9. We found some items for the kids-a teddy bear, a Red Sox hat, a box of new barrettes. They were so excited to be given these gifts for their children who they would see in the months to come.
We COULD NOT have done this without the generous contributions of our faithful supporters! Whether it be in the form of a monetary donation, a box of toothpaste, a knitted cap, gently warn clothing, etc.
I cannot thank you enough as 2015 comes quickly to an end. My prayer is for God's peace, joy and health to be upon you and those we continue to serve in 2016.
Thank you for being a Seafarer's Friend,