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Nov 01, 2016

Impact of Council Donations on Seafarers and the Christmas Gift Box Program

Each Diocesan Council supports an outreach ministry of the Diocese through donations from churches and delegates, but how much difference do these socks, pocket Bibles or food pantry items make? In 2016, the Seafarers Center received donations for the boxes they give to merchant mariners at Christmas and throughout the year. The Rev. Lacy Largent reports that the support makes “a lot” of difference.


“Our Seafarers’ Ministry listed items that would be particularly helpful and these included: pocket-sized New Testaments, work gloves, socks, caps, scarves, playing cards, and nail clippers. Council delegates responded with abundance!,” Largent reported. “We received 355 New Testaments that were given to seafarers who have now traveled all over the world with the Word of God in the pocket of their boiler suit, on their bedside table, in hand during Bible Studies on their ships, and accompanying them on their time off the ship with their families. We didn’t need to re-order any until the end of June, so Council’s donations lasted for four months—which also means in a year we give away 1,065 of these Pocket New Testaments—not to mention the Bibles given away in 46 other languages! It is just amazingly incredible!”


Toiletries, notepads, games and t-shirts were also gathered at Council and during a VBS at St. Christopher’s, Killeen. Some of these items helped to fill gift bags for parties the Seafarers’ Center hosted, but most are being packed into shoe boxes for our Christmas Gift Box Program and will begin to be delivered aboard ship on December 1.


“Last year we placed 12,278 gifts on board 538 ships,” Largent explained, “to seafarers that represented 65 different countries.” More than 246 churches and organizations have helped to support this particular ministry, and much of what was donated at Council helped to make even more Christmas boxes. Almost 2,000 Christmas boxes have already been donated for this year, but during November and December Largent anticipates receiving 10,000 more boxes.


If you or your church would like to participate in the program, download the Christmas letter at and watch for Christmas Box delivery photos on our Facebook page—just Google “Houston seafarers” to find it.


Christmas boxes are delivered personally by an ecumenical team of port chaplains and ship visitors. “Each chaplain has their own method of figuring out how to carry 25 gifts from their vehicle to the ship,” Largent said. She packs five boxes into a doubled kitchen trash bag, slips a trolley into her car loaded with enough bags for five ships, then at the dock, secures the bags onto the cart with multiple bungee cords and hikes to the ship pushing the cart. “Thankfully, when they see me coming,” Largent said, “they come running down the gangway to carry the bags to the accommodation area of their ship where they are placed around the ship’s Christmas tree. Seafarers have told Largent that “Every seafarer prays to come to the Port of Houston during December each year.” Every seafarer on the ship is gifted—regardless of their faith tradition—and seafarers have laughed with joy and said, “Everyone is a Christian during December in Houston!”


Remember the Seafarers ministry and give generously this year. At the next Council, to be held in Galveston, February 9-11, 2017, the featured ministry will be Episcopal Relief and Development’s hurricane and flood relief.