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A unique outreach to those who go down to the sea in ships

Setting Sail from Miami © D.P. Clarke
Setting Sail from Miami © D.P. Clarke
Setting Sail from Miami © D.P. Clarke

The cruise ship business is booming in Florida. Vacationers from around the world flock to ports from Jacksonville to Miami to board ocean liners that will luxuriously transport them to exotic places. Helping them satisfy their wanderlust is an international crew of workers hailing from a diverse mix of countries. And when the voyage is over, the crew takes to land in whatever port their ship calls home.

Sitting just outside the port of Cape Canaveral, Fla. is a white brick building bearing the sign “Space Coast Seafarers Ministry.” The brainchild of a conglomerate of local Baptist churches, this ministry has been serving cruise ship crews for over fourteen years. Inside the facility, crewmembers have internet access, which is often used to make Skype calls with family back home. They can relax while shooting a game of pool, and eat a hearty lunch prepared and served by volunteers. Vans leave the facility on a regular basis, taking crewmembers to a local store so they can shop for essentials. A large closet is filled with clothing, which anyone can have for free.

Seafarers Ministry does not cater to Christians. In fact, its whole purpose is to reach the lost. One side of a large central area appears to be a library. A grouping of comfortable sofas and chairs looks like a reading room. Computers are set up on tables, and floor to ceiling bookshelves line the walls. On the shelves is information about the Christian faith – books, daily devotionals, DVDs about Jesus. One whole wall is filled with Bibles, printed in 60 languages. Again, all of the material is free to anyone who wants it.

In addition, four times a day someone shares a brief testimony about Jesus. It is often a staff member, but guest speakers are welcome. Mark Wodka, the programs Director, advises speakers not to be discouraged when many in the room continue whatever activity they’re doing. He assures them that, just because it looks like they’re being ignored, this does not mean they are not being listened to. When sharing ones faith is part of fulfilling Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, the seeming indifference of this audience can feel like being tossed into the lion’s den.

Jacob Harvell has been volunteering with the ministry for three months. When he speaks to the group, he tells of how he grew up in a Christian home. However, it wasn’t until he understood that Christianity wasn’t a religion, but a relationship with a living God, that he became a believer. Jacob’s decision was made in September 2013. This young man, so new in his faith, was already standing up for what he believes.

Paul once said that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. The seeds of the good news planted at Seafarer’s might not sprout right away, but they may one day.

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