A chaplain’s story of encouragement and affirmation

The Crew of the ‘MV Victoria T’ bulk carrier vessel, docked at Immingham.

Our Regional Port Chaplain for Immingham recently reported back with two stories that provide great encouragement and affirmation for the work of Stella Maris.

The past year has seen millions of us faced with unprecedented trials and challenges, both in our personal and professional lives. However, amidst the anxiety and uncertainty, stories of hope, encouragement and affirmation abound. Steve Willows, our Regional Port Chaplain for Immingham (North East Lincolnshire), recently reported back on two encounters for which the seafarers that Stella Maris was able to help were left with immense gratitude.

The first story recounts a video-call that Steve received from a seafarer some weeks ago, through Facebook. Steve was unsure of who it was, but answered the call and was greeted by a seafarer from Myanmar (previously Burma), whom he recognised as someone he had helped a year-and-a-half ago. The man and his fellow seafarers had been having some issues with wages and living conditions that the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) had helped to sort out. At the time, Steve had visited them to provide them with free Wi-Fi for their time in port, so they could send some evidence to the ITF. The men were so grateful at the time for the use of the internet.

During the recent video-call, Steve spoke with the seafarer about how things are now, and he reported back that he was with a better company and that his family were all good. He then said thank you again and remarked that he would always remember the help and generosity that Steve and Stella Maris were able to provide. The encounter particularly struck Steve and reaffirmed everything that Stella Maris does in its work to help seafarers. Steve commented that it was encouraging because the chaplains don’t usually get to hear how things have changed after their first contact. Therefore, it was great news to receive an update from this man and to know that things are much better now.

The second story that Steve recounted involved a crew member onboard the ‘Victoria T’ bulk carrier ship, which was recently docked at Immingham. This particular seafarer happened to have a sister who lives in the UK, albeit quite some distance from the port. The lady was travelling to meet her brother, but he was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to get to the vessel due to the current Coronavirus restrictions. Steve gave the man his mobile number, in case there were any issues with which the man needed help.

When evening came, Steve received a call from the man’s sister saying that she and her husband weren’t being allowed past the port security, and asked if Steve could come and help. Steve immediately got into his car and went to find them. Due to Immingham port being quite a maze of roads, the lady and her husband had gone to the wrong part of the port and weren’t able to gain access. Thankfully Steve found them, and after following him, they made it to the vessel and were able to reconnect with the lady’s brother.

The reunion was clearly so important for the lady and her brother; it had been six years since they had last seen each other! Steve said that had he been able to, he thinks the seafarer’s brother-in-law would have given him a big hug, he was so delighted! It was a lovely scene to witness with so much joy, and Steve was delighted to be able to help. Even if in practical terms it was just a small thing in guiding the couple around Immingham port, the resulting reunion clearly meant something much more to the whole family – it was a wonderful Christmas present, that came during the most challenging of times.