In Hebrews 11:1 we read the well-known sentence about faith: ... being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Actually it is a strange sentence, because 'hope' and being 'certain' are both things we cannot touch or see. It means that sometimes we do not see that our work carries the fruit of faith, but we know that you see it less often than we do. Yet, we are certain of the things we do not see!
The postcard shows a picture of a young mother and her daughter, captured in bronze. They are staring expectantly across the ocean. They keep watch over the quay in Odessa, capital of seamen in the Ukraine.
The bronze statue reminds one of tragedy, a tragedy where women, daughters and parents wait forlornly on the quay, always waiting for a ship that never arrived. They waited for fathers, children and spouses – fathers, children and spouses that never returned...
It is somewhere in the beginning of the new millennium when Jan-Harm meets a Russian man and his body language screams aggression. It is as if his veins are filled with adrenaline and he barks at Jan-Harm, demanding to know what he and his Bibles are doing on board.
Jan-Harm calmly tries to identify the reason for the aggression, aware that it is merely a symptom of something deeper.
The man is clear about it.
What is the worst, the most terrible thing that can happen? Certainly, it must be the death of a child? I cannot pretend, not even for a moment that I know that hurt and pain but, I do know the other side of that coin. I know that because I can look into my daughter’s deep blue eyes each night, when the light plays softly on her golden curls. I know because she laughs the last laugh of the day when her mother tickles her gently. And then, I know ... I am afraid. I know there cannot be anything worse in this life than to lose her.
Loffie is watching a father that knows that pain. They are talking in Richards Bay. The man in front of him talks about it as if it happened yesterday, despite the two years that he survived after her death. Each fresh tear bears witness of the pain. It is on the surface. For him it happened a moment ago. He talks about life. Death. He says he thinks it was God’s punishment. He has to pay the price for all the mistakes he made in this life.
It is easy to believe that it is relatively simple to work on a ship, but once you start talking to the people of the seas, you soon realise the many unique challenges that have to be overcome every day. It is not easy and it is not simple.
A recent study by Swansea University found that men working at sea show the second highest suicide rate of all possible careers. The only career showing a higher rate, is that of coal mine workers. Being away from home and the stress factors on board seem to be heavy burdens to overcome at a high price.