Many of us want to be at home at Christmas, surrounded by family and friends. But if you are a seafarer, you’re likely to find yourself in a port somewhere in a foreign land. Or at sea on a ship, heading to your next port of call.
This can serve to enhance the loneliness and isolation many seafarers already experience when they are thousands of miles away from their families.
Even on the largest container ships, such as the MSC Irina, which is 400 metres long and can carry 24,000 metal containers, a crew might just consist of up to 25 seafarers. Working on such a huge ship with so few other seafarers can be a lonely experience and exhausting work.
When we are doing our Christmas shopping we might not be aware that an estimated 90 per cent of all the food and other goods imported into the UK arrive by ship. This includes fridges, computers, cars, oranges, and coffee, to name just a few items.
If it wasn’t for the seafarers who work on these ships, then many of the shelves in our shops would be empty – and children everywhere would be disappointed when they got up on Christmas morning.
Not being able to be at home with their families at Christmas is hard for seafarers. It is not uncommon to hear from a seafarer that he or she has not spent a Christmas at home for many years.
That’s why Stella Maris chaplains and volunteer ship visitors in this Diocese and around the coast of Britain, try to bring some of the Christmas message to the ships they visit.
They take Christmas parcels to seafarers. These contain items such as socks, woolly hats, chocolates, and toiletries; many of these are donated by generous supporters and parishioners in the Diocese.
Through small gestures Stella Maris chaplains in ports around the country attempt to make Christmas special for seafarers. And they know just how important these small gestures are.
If readers would like to find out more about helping a seafarer this Christmas, the work of Stella Maris and opportunities to volunteer or donate to support it, go to www.stellamaris.org.uk Let us also pray for seafarers and their families at this special time of the year.