MIAMI (FBW)—For 13 years, Dan Bailey, director/chaplain of the Space Coast Seafarers’ Ministry of Brevard Baptist Association, has headed a ministry to thousands of seafarers who visit Port Canaveral. This month, he will head south—back to his hometown of Miami—to start a ministry to seafarers visiting the world’s largest cruise ship port.
Growing up in Miami, Bailey said he was hardly aware of the Port of Miami, or of the thousands of international seafarers who set foot on land there. Since developing the ministry at Port Canaveral, however, he became keenly aware of the lack of an evangelical ministry to the 500,000 internationals who pass through Miami every year.
“My greatest desire is for us to have a sense of love and compassion for those who work on ships seven days a week providing for their families,” he said. “We have to take advantage of the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. It’s an opportunity to touch the world without leaving home.”
After several attempts to get others interested in a ministry at the port, Bailey decided to quit trying.
“I told the Lord that I was through trying to do something in Miami, but I promised, ‘If anyone invites me to Miami to start a ministry, I will go,’” he wrote in the Space Coast Seafarers Ministry summer newsletter.
Chuck Dewing, a retired United Evangelical Church missionary to the Philippines now living in Pinellas Park, shared Bailey’s concern for the Port of Miami. The two ministers to seafarers often conversed about the needs there. When Dewing and his wife, Joan, travelled with their church’s youth group to Miami in July, they persuaded the group to visit—and to prayerwalk—the port.
The group of 21 youth from Suncoast Cathedral Assembly of God walked by dozens of buildings on the port property and stopped in front of an empty building with a sign, “Norwegian Seaman Union.” Dewing told Florida Baptist Witness he asked the group to surround the building and to pray that it would one day be home to a ministry to seafarers.
On a visit to a nearby crew store, Dewing asked about the empty building. The clerk directed him to its owner, Hany Ayoub. When Dewey told him about the youth’s prayers, Ayoub replied, “I wish someone would come to minister to the seafarers here. Do you know somebody I could ask to come?”
Dewing gave him Dan Bailey’s name and number.
“It is amazing to see how God works. We can work for years, and He can do it in an instant. This is a situation only God could have set up,” Dewing said.
Meanwhile, Bailey had forgotten about his promise to God. He continued to build the ministry at Port Canaveral even during a personally trying time in which his beloved wife, Carlyle, 54, died June 17 after a long illness.
“She was a great pastor’s wife and chaplain’s wife. The Lord chose to take her home early,” he said.
Forty days after his wife’s death, Hany Ayoub called Bailey. At first Bailey thought Ayoub, who owns several crew stores and a restaurant at Port Miami, was asking him to rent a building from him. Instead, Ayoub was offering the space for ministry.
“During this conversation, the Lord reminded me of my promise, but I was expecting a call from a Baptist association or a Baptist church—not from a businessman,” he said.
Within hours of the men’s conversation, Bailey headed to Miami to look over the situation. Ayoub, a member of the Egyptian Orthodox Church, worked to persuade Bailey to come to Miami for the sake of the seafarers who needed a ministry there.
Bailey talked through the offer with his daughters: Anna, a middle school teacher in Kendall; Clara, a freshman at Palm Beach Atlantic University; and Sarah, who works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Bailey agreed to keep the family home in Brevard County, but to “step out in faith” to move to Miami, he said.
“While my wife was sick, and I was gone from the ministry so much, I saw that they can do this without me, and now I have an opportunity to do something brand new,” Bailey said.
Unlike the ministry at Port Canaveral that has three full-time staff members, 80 volunteers and a budget of $289,000, the Port Miami ministry will begin with only an L-shaped modular building that will house a chapel and a library of Bibles and evangelistic materials in common languages. Bailey will have access to crew stores and to a Filipino restaurant near the ministry building.
“I will walk around as a chaplain in these places—not as an administrator like I am here, but more as a pastor,” he said.
Bailey also hopes to have access to visiting ships since many of the ships have the same parent companies.
“Every port is different, and once I get there, I will see what is needed at Port Miami,” he said.
Bailey may live in Miami Baptist churches’ mission homes, or rent an apartment near the port. Brevard Baptist Association will continue to pay for his annuity and medical insurance. Ayoub, family and friends also will contribute to Bailey’s support.
The Florida Baptist Convention has agreed to contribute to the Miami Port ministry, and the Miami Baptist Association will endorse the ministry. Bailey will visit and solicit support from churches in Miami.
He said the ministry will need “volunteers to hang out at the port and pass out information cards to the seamen.” He asked Baptists all over the Sunshine State to pray for and to support the new ministry.
“Baptists believe in missions, and once they see internationals accepting Christ and their families being changed, I think they will want to be a part of it,” he said.
For more information, e-mail Baild3@aol.com, or write International Seafarers Ministry, c/o Rev. Dan Bailey, 1180 S. American Way, Miami, FL 33132. The Florida Baptist Chaplains Network provides information about other chaplaincy ministry in the Sunshine State.
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