Each year, more than 4 million cruise ship passengers travel through PortMiami’s terminals. And meeting the guests’ every need on board—while keeping the ships safely on course—are battalions of crew members.
Also known as the Cargo Gateway of Americas, PortMiami hosts more than a dozen of the world’s largest shipping lines, whose container ships head out to sea for months at a time before returning to the port.
Staffing these two varied ships are crew members from the world’s nations, including Philippines, India, Indonesia, Peru, Ukraine, Russia, Croatia and Serbia. The crews work 12-16 hour days week after week doing the same mundane job. They live in tight quarters with no personal space or privacy and are unable to communicate to families except for the few hours they are in port.
Now when they debark in Port-Miami, many seafarers are discovering a place to go for a refuge during those few precious hours on land—a place where they can email and Skype with families in faraway homelands. A place where internet, games, televisions, lounging areas and snacks are available throughout the day. A place for worship and a friendly face with the servant spirit of Christ.
A year ago, Dan Bailey left a productive ministry as director/chaplain of the Space Coast Seafarer ministry after 13 years. He returned to his hometown and began a similar ministry at PortMiami, starting from scratch with only a few contacts and financial resources.
From the location sprung a new “International Seafarers Ministry,” with the purpose of serving men and woman at sea with the love of Jesus Christ.
It’s in a convenient location, where crewmembers can simply walk across the street to find a comfortable place to spend the few hours they have on land.
Many of the seafarers endure the grueling and lonely lifestyle to send their wages home to their families, making far more than they would in their own countries. Their wages allow their children to attend schools and provide family member with their daily sustenance.
To seafarer Tony Gomes from Goa, India, the hardships of living at sea away from his family for months on end are worthwhile, “You live a sacrificial life for your family back home,” he said. And if living and working conditions are difficult, “it’s not something you share when you call back.”
Gomes originally met Bailey in Port Canaveral. One day when he came to the ministry center to pray and worship in its chapel, to his delight he saw Chaplain Bailey.
Now every Saturday during his two hours off the ship, he stops by the center to pray and visit with his new friends.
Among those is Kathy Martin, the center’s ministry assistant, who with a vivacious personality, befriends and engages every seafarer who walks through the door. After years of serving in a similar ministry in Alaska, Martin felt God calling her to minister in South Florida. She moved to the city and took a job with Carnival Cruise lines even before Bailey began the ministry, believing God would be faithful.
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