by Dr. Jason Zuidema, Executive Director, NAMMA
It can be difficult to be away from family and friends during the Christmas season. For this reason, seafarers’ missions around the world prepare small gifts for seafarers, to bring a bit of cheer and let them know their hard work is appreciated.
Onboard, seafarers who celebrate Christmas often might have a delicious meal or Christmas celebration. If they were home, many would no doubt attend special Christmas worship services at their local churches. Yet, since they are far from home and do not have Internet connections that allow them even to join a livestream, they cannot attend these Christmas services.
To help seafarers have a prayer experience while onboard, even though far from home, seafarers’ missions have begun to record and broadcast worship and prayer content specifically designed for them. A significant push for this content in the many different churches represented within the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) was especially after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICMA has been bringing together these maritime prayer resources on its Youtube Channel.
The Dutch missions in particular have focused their efforts in this area. Last Christmas, a Dutch seafarers’ chaplain, the Reverend Leon Rasser from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands took the initiative to record an ecumenical Christmas church service. Rev. Rasser is one of the founders of the Facebook page Seafarers Church. As of December 13, 2021, that page has over 6,600 followers, and the most popular video has more than 420k views.
Last year’s Christmas service and greetings were put on special smartphone USB sticks and distributed, 1 or 2 per ship, by the Dutch Nederlandse Zeevaarenden Centrale connected missions. The distribution was done by ship visitors and sent by the postal services well before Christmas. The intention was that the recorded Christmas service could be played on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day onboard ships to share the inspirational message of Christmas. The World Council of Churches and NZC-affiliated organizations funded this project with a total cost of €10,000 for 2500 USB sticks.
The work will continue this year again in the Netherlands, but it can also grow further. To test the interest in pushing this program out worldwide in future years, NAMMA has also produced 500 copies of the service to deliver to a select number of ports in North America this year. The USB sticks include a new 2021 Christmas service by the Dutch, but also another specially recorded service done with ICMA representatives from Europe, UK and North America. This ICMA Christmas service was recorded in November 2021 at Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest in London, UK and features, among others, the participation of NAMMA’s president, Deacon Paul Rosenblum.
The USB key produced by NAMMA can be plugged directly into the back of a TV by USB-A or into a smartphone or other device with a USB-C connection (seafarers should normally not plug in foreign USBs in computers on the ship’s network). Should they wish, the local seafarers’ mission can load their own worship or prayer video onto each USB before delivering it to the ships in their port.
NAMMA and the Dutch seafarers’ missions hope to refine and replicate the program in the coming years. We would be happy to receive feedback and ideas for improvement to help make this program an encouragement for seafarers visiting our ports.
Photo: NAMMA’s Executive Director, Dr. Jason Zuidema, delivered some copies of the USB stick to a ship in the Port of Montreal along with the local port chaplain David Rozeboom. December 13, 2021. NAMMA.