Desperate – the hopeless morale on of all on board in nine letters. It is late June and Loffie is on board a coal carrier in Richards Bay. Even though the skies above the city are a deep, fresh winter blue, the storm clouds hang grey and threateningly over the bow of the carrier.
Moments after reporting on deck, the entire crew is with Loffie. Russian men, usually shy to talk, are the first to approach him. A man from Indonesia and a few men from Bulgaria are quick to join too. Their approach shows urgency. It soon transpires that ‘urgency’ is not the right word for the situation. ‘Urgent’ means that you are standing at the edge of a high cliff, waiting for someone to help you. Desperate is when you are in free-fall and hopelessly imagine that you will find a branch or something to grab hold of to stem the fall.
Some of the men have been on board the vessel for thirteen months, four months more than the contractual term. With all the travel and flight restrictions they have no hope to see home in the near future. A further test for the camel’s back, is that they had received their last salaries three months ago. Six of the men are ill, staying in their cabins. In two other harbours the authorities refused their entries into the countries for medical care. The Captain finds the situation as difficult. They need a crew of at least fifteen to leave the harbour and sail for the next destination. There is no way of getting six replacements, even temporary replacements, for the men that are ill.
If the authorities were to allow the six men to leave the ship, it would mean that the ship is stranded. In addition, the Captain worries about the men’s spiritual wellbeing. During the meaningless small talk conversations in the passages, more than one had declared they no longer wish to live...
Loffie serves them by sharing the Gospel. They receive Bibles in their own languages. He also has a chance to pray with them and encourage them. But, practical Christianity is more than that. It requires a call to the authorities to request a medical visit to the ship, to arrange that the men visit the centre for seamen, to help them feel land under their feet and to assist in helping them get phone cards to call their families for the first time in weeks. That is what they need now...
Donors made all this possible. On behalf of every Russian, Bulgarian and one Indonesian man, thank you. Thank you so, so much! It touched their lives! Please become a partner in this amazing work.
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