However, the changes in technology have not changed one thing: the need for someone to be present. Someone to listen and care remains embedded in human nature, woven into the fabric of creation. The ministry of presence that maritime chaplains provide often is the right person at the right time and place to offer support to a lonely seafarer. Recently one chaplain reported:
“I headed to the quarterdeck, where three seafarers were off the side painting.” One asked, ‘Excuse me Father, would you pray for us?’ So we all took off our hard hats and prayed. When we got to the ‘Amen’ and crossing ourselves, I looked up and saw tears in all of their eyes.”
Or another quick comment: “I thought my timing would be all bad, but it wasn’t…”
When thinking he was visiting too late on a ship, the result was an engaging conversation needed by a seafarer who had been hoping someone would come by from the Seafarers center. “I really wanted to talk about….” and a deep or consoling conversation is launched.
Recently, another chaplain mused, “Seems like it was good timing for a visit. Sometimes it seems that no matter what time we go it just isn’t. But today was different.”
Often the visit to a ship was not for those onboard, but for one of the terminal workers. Like the time the chaplain could not board the ship but spent an hour as the guard unraveled his pain at a spouse leaving him. Times of reflection about God’s purpose of each visit are invaluable and pray before heading onboard is essential to seeing how God is with us. If only most of us approached life with the same preparation and reflection. Could it open our eyes to evidence of God’s presence assured by Jesus, “I will be with you always…”