Seafarers have a long reputation as resilient people who can withstand anything nature throws their way. While this may be true, they are also normal people who live in a very abnormal environment for many months at a time. They suffer from loneliness, fatigue, and depression. They sometimes struggle to communicate effectively with superiors and fellow seafarers. They miss their families and worry about how to be a good parent, spouse, or child. There are no easy answers to these very real challenges, but simply showing up to listen and empathize can be very powerful.
Port Chaplains serve in many ports worldwide to meet seafarers’ physical and spiritual needs. They look ahead to the traffic schedules and visit as many ships as possible to connect with seafarers personally. They help seafarers to communicate with their families at home and are available online 24/7. But what happens in most ports where there are no port chaplains? What about the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who remain isolated for their entire careers?
One of the most exciting aspects of the ship Lori Stephens and her family serve on is that it’s become a mobile platform for Port Chaplaincy. The ship often visits smaller or less developed ports where the need for this service is great. There are almost 60 different nationalities onboard who can connect on a cultural level. The crew members are trained to meet seafarers wherever they are emotionally and spiritually.
Lori has personally had the opportunity to visit a few ships and training academies in West Africa to listen to seafarers and encourage them. With technology, she can stay connected with seafarers halfway around the world. Lori’s message to everyone is to send a message of encouragement to their friends who are offshore. There’s a good chance either they or one of their shipmates are struggling, and simply showing up in their lives can help them to experience love and peace.