‘Waft it on the rolling tide — Jesus saves’
‘Attempt something so big, that, unless God intervenes, it is bound to fail’.
This was the challenge I faced 16 years ago. I had reached my 63rd birthday and was told I had to retire from the missionary society I was serving. Asking who would be replacing me, I was informed that there were no plans to fill the vacancy.
Now we were confronted with a major decision, as we lived in a mission house. This, I was told, was to be sold. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘we have trusted God all these years and now once more we have to throw ourselves on his support’.
To cut a long story short, God did step in and provide. Some friends told us we were doing the wrong thing to start up a new ministry at our age. But I could only think of seamen coming into port and not being confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul says, ‘How shall they hear without a preacher?’
With a £10 note, I called at the bank and opened an account in the name of Maritime Christian Ministries. (I later recalled that Hudson Taylor had opened an account for the China Inland Mission with the same amount.) Yes, we have proved God on many occasions over the years, as we have trusted him to supply our needs. What a great God we serve!
The Lord enabled us to buy an old Methodist church near the docks to use as an office and for storing for all the evangelistic literature we use on the ships. Some friends came down from Manchester to help us repair the building and, after a lot of toil and sweat, we had it all fully furnished. It was a big project, but we have a big God as well.
However, in 2006, things had to change. I had chest pains and my GP arranged for me to have heart surgery. This was far from straightforward and led to the change from climbing ship gangways to running the work from the office. It was not the same as standing on the decks of ships sharing the gospel with seamen, and was a hard adjustment to make.
We have a number of ladies who kindly knit woollen hats and chest warmers that are given to the seamen. These are well received, as often they have not got enough warm clothing. We also have a full-time man visiting the ships, as well as helpers on Sundays.
One day a friend called to see me and asked if I knew about Skype. Very soon I was connected into this and started to look up contacts around the world who had previously visited us when in port.
A number of them had retired from the sea and it has been a joy to be able to continue encouraging and ministering to them around the world. On occasions, I receive calls from some who are still sailing. Often they are in some port or other and due to the quick turnaround of the ship are not able to have fellowship with Christians ashore. So Skype plays an important role here.
Some don’t have a computer, but, if I can get hold of their telephone number, a call does wonders for them. They are always so pleased that someone cares and has remembered them. Also, I continue to use emails where possible and, should that not work, it is back to pen-pushing and snail mail!
We do value your prayerful support, that the Lord shall increasingly use my wife Irene and I, and that every day shall count for him. If any reader would like a copy of our prayer letter Mersey tidings, please contact me at 0151 922 5543 or [email protected]