It is dirty. Sticky brown dust swirls menacingly in the chilly wind blowing in the Bay. It sticks to everything. Danie tries to avoid contact with the cables hanging over the stepladder, hunching his body as much as he can. It is not enough and his jacket touches the cable covered in grease and oil. It leaves stubborn black spot that burrows deep into the fabric. This will become a permanent feature of the jacket, an ever present reminder of this day. Experience has taught that the oil spot will remain there forever. 

From the deck Dimitri, handling the arrival of visitors, checking that they sign in, watches the spat between Danie, the cables and the oil spot on the now damaged jacket. As Danie signs in, they joke about a harbour that is never clean. From the check-in point, Danie finds his way to the dining area where he encounters the first Christmas tree of this year. It is green, plastic and stands skew, with very few hand-made decorations cut from pieces of paper.  

The men working on board come and go. Dimitri also arrives in the dining area, looking for something to drink. Danie soon realises that he has an ulterior motive. Dimitri waits for Danie to be alone and approaches with care, but also a little insecure. At first they chit-chat and continue to discuss the permanent oil stain on the jacket. This creates an unusual opportunity to talk about the things that bother him. There, unexpectedly, next to the green Christmas tree, Dimitri explains his past and the oil stains etched into his life. They are permanent. He cannot escape them. The story is dirty, sad, overwhelming...  

Danie has a chance to explain that many forgotten stories are hidden behind Christmas trees. There is also the story of being born in the stench and dirt of a stable and eventually, the crucifixion. Dirty. Heart-breaking. Overwhelming. It is the plea from the Cross, but always spotless Lamb... 

That is what the Child of the manger came to do for Dimitri. This is what the Man on the Cross sacrificed... to clear Dimitri of all, to make him as white as snow. Through the lenses of the manger and cross, Dimitri’s life looks radically different. On this morning, in talking to Danie, this new perspective is essential. It is not a magic wand to correct all that is wrong. They agree about this, but it gives the story another dimension. It changes the dirt and oil stains...  

After they pray together, Dimitri now holding a new Russian Bible, he states that he will come back to the shade of the plastic tree whenever he feels overwhelmed. It will remind him of the crib and the Cross.   

Our donors make this possible. Thank you! Their donations bring the crib and cross to seamen like Dimitri during this Christmas season. We hope that every plastic Christmas tree will remind you of the crib and cross that is there for you too.

Let the mariners come to Me...
Abner, from India, tells Danie in the Bay
of his despair. 
Eyes wide open, 
in his pocket a worn picture of all he loves. 

Let the mariners come to Me...
The father of the Philippine boy from Bacolod tells
of his fate. 
Only five years old, 
One rotation around the sun for each
of the five brain operations. 
Here on the ship, shoulders back, ten thousand kilometres away, 
he has to keep the hospital’s money wolf at bay.

Let the mariners come to Me...
The captain of the PST2 in Durban, 
stranded four years long, 
missing home, but home 
where blood and bombs try to free the land again.

Let the mariners come to Me...
Caught in the crossfire on the high West African waves
where pirates negate your existence and hunt their prey.

Let them come... 
into the manger where the Child of Bethlehem lies
in the stench of excrement and blood. 
Do not stop them...
... hospitals
... pirates
... covid
... harbour authorities.

They belong in My Kingdom:
they know wounds
no need to doubt, no need to ask.

I will hold them close
and lay my hands on them.

My invitation:
Walk with Me
From this day on
My helping hand to grasp
My open ear for each whispered, humble plea
every day.  
-Adaptation of the Afrikaans version of Lina Spies' 'Lied van die Kinders'-

In walking to the crib with each other, the CSO wants to take this invitation - day in and day out - every day - to the men working at sea. Please consider supporting us financially in this Christmas time, helping to care for every mariner visiting our harbours. Help Him to lay His hands on them and then - when you also meet around the crib during this time - experience the joy of the invitation, knowing that it is for you too - every day.

To give a monthly donation through debit order, click here to download the debit order form. Email the completed form back to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Click here for the different methods you can use to support us.

PS. Listen to Rina Hugo singing 'I'll walk with God' while reading.  Shared with permission.

This church boasts no paintings or trimmings, no stained glass windows or holy symbols or icons. There is no silent music to create a calm atmosphere or a giant Bible that the preacher sets up for sermons.  

In contrast to Sunday services that are as white as snow, with purple robes that are ironed precisely and smell of lavender, this church is more scarlet, greyer like iron, with a smell of all earthly things. The members of the congregation are different too. 

They are not dressed in their Sunday best. You can see the odd oil stain, as well as signs of rust and dust that clings to everything. This church is loud. The noise is overwhelming, often causing a feeling of dizziness. The spaces are rusty and smudged with grease. The harsh iron and steel are unforgiving. It is stripped of any and all symbolism that may remind you of the invisible reality of God.  

Chris stands within the boundaries of a dry dock. It is probably one of the harshest environments in any harbour - perhaps on earth. The hammering continues non-stop. The screeching of hundreds of angle grinders used to remove the cancerous rust that started somewhere on the open seas, attack your hearing acutely. They are but the beginning of the process to try and curb the cursed rust.

It is a little strange for Chris to be standing here. It is not probable to find someone with a backpack filled with Bibles and literature in the midst of all the dirt and noise. It is highly improbable to find someone that just wants to say hi, find out how you are and bring Good News...  

Somewhere in the dust and smut, the oil and grease, Chris notices a cross. It is a random cross, created for some practical purpose, but it is unmistakable - it is a cross. It has a long, vertical mast and at the right height a horizontal bar. It towers over the ants' nest of activities. Chris quickly takes a picture of it.    

This is the reason for the CSO's existence. We belong here with the men working at sea, because our Saviour is here too. He is here in the improbable dirt and noisy areas, using His cross to help clean people and helping them to find peace. 

The men we serve in the harbours, the men hearing the message we bring, live in a very different world compared to ours. They find themselves in one of the toughest industries and working conditions on earth. They are away from loved ones for months on end. They suffer attacks by so many different things, including the ocean and pirates, so they need someone to remind them that there is always a Cross in the midst of the dust and soot, the oil and grease.    

Please we need your donation to continue our work. We work with heart and soul, but your donation helps to make a simple but huge difference.

To give a monthly donation through debit order, click here to download the debit order form. Email the completed form back to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Click here for the different methods you can use to support us.

PS: Rina Hugo did an online concert last year to raise funds for the CSO. She has now made it available on youtube for you to enjoy!

'Worst day of terror by Myanmar Junta leaves 100 dead', shouts the sombre headline. Days later in bold accentuated letters in deathly black, 'Official number of innocent deaths following coup now 1001' ...  '87 child victims dead' a brief while later...  

For most people it is just another day, another headline. But, if it is about your roots, where you are from, it changes your world into a melting pot of fear, anger and a thousand mixed other emotions. One can only wonder how it will affect the men on board ships, themselves children just a short time ago in tropical Myanmar. Communication is erratic, the cruelty played down - an attempt of the militants to manipulate and polish news before it is released to the rest of the world.  

In the Durban container cargo terminal some ships visit again and again. Typically it takes about a month and a half, or two months for a ship to complete one route. This is why Chris often has a chance to meet the same men more than once. 

Today the man standing in front of him is from Myanmar. As their eyes meet, they both realise that they have met before. Chris tries to find ways to identify the man as a frequent visitor, reaching for all corners of his memories to find the information. He remembers that the man refused a Bible in the past. That does not stop Chris. He asks again...  

This time the man does not speak much, but he nods his head and holds out his hand, an open hand. The earlier resistance, the stern fist grip of his hand then, the attitude with which he refused the Bible have disappeared. It is as if the assuredness has vanished. It is as if his foundations, or what he thought to be his foundations, have dissipated. Those appear to have been fables. 

They do not speak much, but there is a reciprocal understanding that this is a turning point. For this man it is a radical step to find sense in a world that no longer makes any sense. It is shocking to know that something as horrible as '87 child victims dead' leave most people untouched, hardly warranting blinking an eye.  

Chris prays for him that the Holy Spirit will work within him, powerfully within him and that he may find peace in the Man of the Cross that also died for him, a seafaring man from Myanmar. This is because of your support.  It helps Chris again and again, month after month, to turn a tight fist into an open hand. Thank you for that!

In our world, the probability that no one has come across it, is really remote. Here it is commonplace. They are stacked on bedside tables, neatly on the corner of a desk, or on the sideboard in the living room. Perhaps they are made to stand in an honorary position on the shelf in the living room. They are available freely at the corner shop. It is so common to see them. Perhaps not for all.

Loffie is visiting the JOSCO HUIZHOU, a majestic coal carrier anchored in Richards Bay. A twenty strong Chinese crew manages the iron giant – guiding it en route. Two of the twenty men are on duty as security personnel and Loffie must report to them. They are responsible for visitors arriving and departing.   

When you hear about a pure Chinese crew, you pray hopefully and trust that a Bigger Hand will guide and unexpectedly stir hearts. However, no one will blame you if you feel a little pessimistic before your visit. With history as a guideline, chances of a meaningful discussion about the Gospel are slim indeed. A lot of experience, visits to ships and closed doors temper optimism when you climb the ladder to board the vessel. 

But, Loffie is brave, always hopeful, always praying, always believing in Him that remains so much stronger than the closed doors. So, he climbs dedicatedly, despite the historical disadvantages, to get to the deck. He made it his task to learn basic phrases in Mandarin, to open doors in often closed or even hostile situations. 

'Nǐ hǎo', is the greeting. Loffie explains why he is there, as well as he can. His Mandarin is good enough to convince the two sceptics to give him a chance. They make small talk before Loffie takes off his backpack to open it. He takes out Chinese DVDs and two Chinese/English Bibles. The men take these carefully, clearly not sure what to expect. 

'Ever seen a Bible?'

'Never!', they answer. They have never seen one, held one or heard about it.  

Suddenly a situation that could be viewed from a pessimistic stance, becomes a situation where a Bigger Hand sows seed on a greenfield. Using the English translation of the Mandarin, Loffie can explain about the Man of the Cross. He can package the seeds carefully and give water as he spends time with the two men. Just before he leaves for the next ship, he gets broad smiles when he says 'miang fy' – it is a gift!

Donations towards our work make this possible!