Myanmar seafarers encouraged in the middle of despair

In the middle of November a ship, which had 21 Myanmar crew, came to Packer Avenue. When I visited them on the first day most of the crew was  exhausted from the long voyage. They had loaded steel coil cargo at China, crossed the Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal, and come to Philadelphia after almost 40 days of voyage. 40 days is relatively long, therefore most of the crew were burned out with the work.

To make it worse was the CBP’s decision not to issue any of them shore passes because they didn’t have US visas. This decision made most of the crew despair because they had expected to go out and refresh themselves. They also wanted to contact to their family back in Myanmar and go shopping, but this hope disappeared, and they became very discouraged.

If you are a chaplain, then how can you help these seafarers? What will make them laugh and feel happy? I could sense this feeling of discouragement when I first visited them. The kind captain of the ship invited me to his cabin, and asked me what could I do to help them while in port. So I offered couple of things. First of all, I offered them WiFi service and the purchase of SIM cards to communicate with their families. And I also offered to do shopping for them if they gave me a shopping list with money.

The captain accepted my offer, and I did what I promised. I provided WiFi and SIM cards for them. I also did shopping for them. It took almost 3 hours to activate 20 SIM cards. It also took almost a day to shop for them. At last all crew members could talk to their family and friends and they also could buy almost everything they needed.

I met the captain of the ship before she left. Captain said they were so lucky to meet me in Philadelphia. Through my help they could get what they needed. Captain said this is not just a service to seafarers. This is the love itself which changed despair into hope, discouragement into full joy. Before I left the ship I hugged captain, blessed the ship, their families, and their journey.

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