The atmosphere is almost tangibly electric. They laugh and talk - broad smiles, bubbling energy, dressed in their best. How long they have waited for this moment and day! It has been months, some have been waiting from as long ago as 2021 - to feel solid ground beneath their feet. Harbour to harbour. From Covid to the war on the other side of the earth, to the mood of the harbour Master - all considered sufficient reasons to stop them from going ashore.

But now they have a chance to leave the ship and go to, or rather escape to, the streets, beaches and shopping centres in Port Elizabeth. It is more than a mere chance to buy something at a shop. It is a chance to see ‘normal life’ away from being held hostage on the ship. It is a chance to see people and their habits, their preferences, their wonders, their smiles, their good and their bad - even seeing people has become a luxury.

Danie stands around and chats, ready to take to the streets with the seamen. Each has something to do on his wish list. Danie will be the ‘tour operator’. He will need a small miracle to fulfil all the wishes. 

Then they get the news as the agent walks up the long steps from quay to deck. It will cost each man almost a thousand rands or more to exit the harbour gate. They need Covid declarations, information for the Department of Health, immigration documents and a number of other small items that add up to a small fortune. It is as if the news sucks up all the oxygen in the universe within seconds. The disappointment is gigantic. It could even be described as painful. The calculation is simple and so is the answer: Could they use money earmarked for the families, for the children’s education, for food at home - only to visit the city? The answer is clear: No.

The atmosphere is very different from that of a few moments earlier. Danie tries to console. He quickly rummages in the CSO store to provide each with a small gift and to take orders for shopping. He tries to provide a solution within the disappointment and frustration. 

Later, after they had cooled down a little and once they find some oxygen in the atmosphere again, Danie talks to them. They get a chance to talk around a Bible. They talk about sacrifice. They talk about what each of them sacrifices to care for those at home. The discussion flows naturally in the direction of Him... He who made the biggest sacrifice of all. They talk about how that sacrifice was for each on board. Suddenly the day that had been planned so differently, becomes much, much better. They can pray together - for the wish list of each, for the cares of each on board, for family, for everything they sacrifice each day and for those they sacrifice it for - all against the background of Someone that made a far bigger sacrifice.

Each day, our faith heroes, you our donors, take the message of the Biggest Sacrifice to men working at sea. Your contribution allows us at the CSO to be there, to give a hand when those men are sea-tired, overloaded and frustrated. It is of immense value to them. 

Thank you for that!

Turn back and do your work….

It is certainly not always easy to get up and go on when you feel or are discouraged. It's as if  you do not have the strength to do anything or even raise your arms. What about going on and working and living?

Elijah was prophet in the time of Ahab. The king's wife Jezebel brought idolatry into the land. Elijah admonishes the people and the king against it. Finally, he challenges the prophets of Baal to do a test to see who God really is. The Lord of Israel or the idol Baal. After the events, he had all the false prophets killed.

Jezebel was furious. She lets Elijah know that she is going to kill him too. He had to flee and ended up in the desert where he crawls under a shrub and wished that he could die.

It's the same Elijah who recently experienced the pinnacle of his life. God has shown that He is the Only Living God. It was a triumph. Shortly afterwards, Elijah sits despairingly under the scanty shade of the shrub in the desert. I wish I was dead (1 Kings 19: 4).

The Lord is indeed making a  lot of effort to lead this prophet back to where he must accept his calling again and that he must gain perspective. Turn back and do your work, says the Lord to Elijah. Do not sit here and mope. Go to work.

The ships are full of seafarers who are discouraged - as if they want to sit under a shrub in a desert. There are many causes for this. As the Lord spoke to Elijah, we at CSO also use the Lord's Word to encourage them. They hear that in grace they too can rise again and go to work, like Elijah. They hear that they can live the calling that God has given them.

In the story you are also a witness of faith - that because you assist CSO so that the sailors can hear the Word of the Lord. Let's all also continue to live out our own calling, not only to those around us but also to the seafarers visiting our ports!

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Insecurity is like a predator. It hides out of sight and stealthily creeps up to you to attack in a flash, leaving your body in a state of insecure high tension. Its deadly claws represents the ‘insecurity’ that is omnipotent, hanging around to absorb its prey. It removes the secure ground under your feet and makes you believe that anything, from any direction could go wrong at any moment... 

The predator plays like a minor refrain throughout the story told by the third officer from the Ukraine. That which is stacked up at his door is more than most would have to handle in a lifetime. Every detour he tries to escape ends up in impossible insecurity.  

If he were to take a flight home from here, in Durban, he would have to take up arms like others. When someone shoves a Kalashnikov in your hand without uttering a word, the caption is very clear: Use this to kill! It is not meant for ‘cops and robbers’ games. It is to eradicate. 

His family escaped into Europe. It is not sure where their home is now.

As always, when the cards are stacked against you, some of his fellow crew members are from Russia. The relationship between them is still good, but the situation is impossibly difficult. Rationally they have nothing to do with events unfolding in the Ukraine, but emotionally you want to name a scape goat. 

Chris can only listen - that is why he visits the ship. As often, the silent listening is incredibly valuable. When talking about possible solutions, the seaman utters a sombre conclusion, ‘Only death’ - his desperate conclusion about what it would take to stop Putin. 

Finally, after listening patiently, Chris could only whisper, with empathy and assurance, that he would continue to pray. He can also explain about the Man on the Cross - a Man full of empathy and care. It is this Man that stops at the lame man, the man that all others pass by. It is this Man that heals the daughter of Jairus.  Yes, it is an impossible situation, but your and my God is the God of the impossible.   

Financial donations help the CSO to remind men working at sea every day of the one Surety in the midst of the insecure. As a result of this work some discover a Helper and Saviour, while others experience love and hope. Please think about supporting us with a donation. You can do so in prayer and deed. God uses the CSO daily to serve the men and women working at sea, by sharing the Gospel. For this we also need your assistance. 

All that remains of the school desks where he sat only a short time ago, is ash. Really ash. The place where he ate ice-cream with his family on special days, lies in ruins. Really in ruins. His house is a pile of building rubble. 

Think about it for a moment. It is the destruction, it is the burnt out earth where everything you knew, everything that you call home, everything had been reduced to a displaced picture of suffering. It is surrealistic to sit on board a ship in the Port Elizabeth Harbour and see pictures of the city that you quite recently called home on TV. The pictures have been rearranged into an incoherent tragic disarray of images... 

Mariopol has been destroyed.  

The pictures flashing on the screen show people fleeing silently. As they walk to somewhere, they do not say much. Every person carries what he or she can. Some carry a bag, others a bundle of clothes, others nothing. The man Danie talks to confirms all. He does it quietly. His school, their favourite ice-cream place, his home - everything is gone.  

His wife and children fled and are safe, he shares gratefully. He has nothing to return to, so he will stay on the ship longer to start fresh. That which he had worked for over many years, had been destroyed. 

Danie listens with care. His task is to help this man to remain standing in this situation. It is so easy to be reduced to nothing too when the world around you tumbles and crumbles into nothing. That is why Danie spends time, as much as is necessary, without being in a hurry and without checking his watch every now and then. As they finally pray together, plead together, ask together, the moment is flooded by emotions, but also a touch of hope - hope that there will be a way out. This man will carry the hope with him over the next days, until they reach another harbour where someone can encourage and support him again.  

Your donation makes it possible for us to give our time to the men working at sea each day. Please never underestimate the value of this. It is a huge gift that you give with open hands. We thank you for that. It is gratitude from our hearts.

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We frequently believe that God cannot use us. There is something that makes us not good enough for God. Too sinful, too short, too thin, too long - anything we keep out of God's eye. We will probably very rarely think of ourselves as a witness of faith.

Esther was an orphan. She was also a Jew. Actually, everything counted against her in life. No parents, no social status, poor. She was a "nothing". There was no way she would get anywhere in life. At that time of the history, that was how it worked.

Esther's story is one of suffering, betrayal, conflict, desperation, disaster, miraculous salvation and most importantly - the hand of God in the story. Mordecai states that Esther becomes the queen, purely for God's purpose. She is ultimately the one who saves the people. In Esther 7: 3 she speaks on behalf of the people to ensure that the people are saved. See how God worked with the story: this unimportant girl who had everything against her -  God uses her in His providence to make the difference. God foresaw that the possible extermination of the people would end in  a victory.

And you? Do you also think you are not good enough for God and His work? That you yourself are not a witness of faith or can never be? Take another look at the story of Esther. She was not worthy to serve the Lord, but the Lord used her. She did make a big difference as queen. You are also a witness of faith for CSO.  Your part in the work of the CSO makes you a witness of faith, a FAITH HERO! Then no matter how big or small your share is, it is God who works with it.

We know you are a regular donor. Thank you for that. But if you are not a monthly faith hero, please consider it! It will help us immensely.

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