by Susan Huppert, NAMMA
For ships waiting in the San Pedro Bay and beyond, Christmas will come and go without fanfare. However, thanks to two dedicated chaplains in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as vessels dock they will receive Christmas gifts this year.
“Those who moor here, those are the only people we can reach,” said Rev. Samson Chauhan, a Lutheran chaplain assigned to care for the needs of seafarers at these ports. And there are plenty of them.
Chauhan and volunteer Chim Mandalia, former port chaplain, are reaching out to all available seafarers while they can. The pair has provided Christmas packages to 20 ships so far and plans to supply each vessel that docks. In addition, for those who have shore leave and visit the center, the workers offer a gift for each seafarer on board the vessel they represent. The crewmates willingly tote the gifts for the rest of the crew, doubling the number of seafarers receiving Christmas gifts.
The successful outreach in the largest container port in the nation involves church volunteers from a cross-section of denominations who collect items and help pack the gift bags. Last week, 100 gift bags were assembled by volunteers from a local Lutheran church. Gifts include tins of cookies, noodles, stocking hats, personal necessities, cards and chocolates.
The Lutheran Maritime Ministry serving Long Beach and Los Angeles received $400 from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust through the International Christian Maritime Association to assist with the costs of Christmas for seafarers. The grant funds were distributed by the North American Maritime Ministry Association to ports reporting challenges in meeting the financial needs of Christmas outreach. Gift-giving will extend to January to compensate for those currently at anchorage who dock after Christmas.
“We are so thankful for Jason [Zuidema] and for NAMMA for the gift,” said Mandalia. Last year we did all the packages at home as the center was in lockdown. This year has been tough because of the pandemic. Even now, some items are not available in stores.”
On a recent ship visit, Chauhan delivered gifts to the crew. Seafarers, isolated from their homes and strained by pandemic concerns, welcomed the simple but significant gifts as Chauhan held hands and prayed with them onboard.
One seafarer told Chauhan:
“Sir, you are a big boost for us. No one visits us without business in mind. And then you bring gifts. This is a great thing.”
In his late 70s now, Madalia cautiously navigates the gangway to offer a Christmas greeting.
“Sometimes we cannot go further than the deck. So we give some gifts, sing some carols and pray,” he said. “Prayer is a big thing. It is always a joy to give and see how thankful they are.”