It was a cold wet evening on 17 February 1957. I stood waiting for my father to come to the Sunday evening service at Bankhall Mission Church, Liverpool. As I waited I felt a tug on my coat sleeve and a young American asked me, ‘What time does the service start, buddy?’
I said it would be very soon, at 6.30pm, and would he like to come in and sit with me? He said he would be most happy to do that. After the service was over we invited this American friend, Tom Applewhite, to our home for supper and later took him back to the dock to join his ship.
Three years earlier, at the same Bankhall Mission on 4 July 1954, I had put my trust in Jesus Christ. It was a great day for me to know that Christ had come into my life to be my Friend, my Saviour and my Lord. The following evening I attended the prayer meeting at the church.
I had never been to a prayer meeting before, although I was a regular churchgoer. But now I had become a new creation in Christ and was willing to go anywhere and be anything that God desired of me.
I stood for the first time to pray at such a meeting and said words to this effect: ‘Lord, I was saved only yesterday, but I am willing to go even to Nigeria as a missionary’. I meant every word of that prayer.
Doorstep mission field
We reached the docks with Tom Applewhite and he went onto his ship, but not before he promised to come and see us on his next voyage. As we went home my father said to me, ‘Son, you are planning to go to Nigeria as a missionary, and over the wall there is a mission field on your doorstep!’
So it was that after some days of prayer with my wife Irene, we were assured in our hearts that we should serve the Lord by reaching seafarers from all nations – right here in Liverpool.
Soon our flat was regularly filled with seamen, along with our young family. It was not long before we moved to a new home at 82 Keble Road, where we started a weekly Bible class during the lunch break. Souls came to Christ.
Each Sunday evening after church we had open-home, and many university students came along as well as seafarers and folk from church. During the week seamen called in for a cuppa and chat.
Initially our involvement was part time, but with 200 or more ships arriving in Liverpool daily, as well as many lorry drivers and dockers to be reached, a full-time evangelistic worker was urgently needed.
To cut a long story short, I joined the Liverpool City Mission and served as a docks missionary for three years during the late 1960s. It was good training; and time and again we proved our God, as he provided our needs.
Then another door of service opened when we joined the Seamen’s Christian Friend Society (SCFS) to work with them in the Port of Liverpool.
We were with SCFS for over 27 years. On reaching my 65th birthday I had to retire, but discovered that nobody was going to replace me. So the Lord has enabled us to continue the same work, this time under the name of Maritime Christian Ministries (MCM). We purchased an old Methodist church to store the Christian literature in 125 languages that we had stocked at home over the years.
MCM has since been able to take on John Lord, an ex-ship’s engineer with many years experience at sea, and David Robertson, an experienced ship visitor, as outreach staff.
Although fewer ships come to Liverpool these days, and the turnaround of vessels is very quick, there are still many opportunities for the gospel. Many of the crews are from third world countries and one seaman won for Christ can become an international ambassador for the gospel.
We distribute Christian literature in many different languages, and leading up to Christmas visit as many ships as we can with Christmas parcels. This reminds the seafarers that they are not forgotten.
We value your prayers for this outreach. We are not a ‘Seamen’s Mission’ in the traditional sense of running a club, but we are here to tell men and women on board ship of a Saviour who gave his life for sinners – and who will one day take home to his kingdom all those who put their trust in him.