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Feb 01, 2016

Seafarers’ Ministry at the Port of Houston

Seafarers’ Ministry is an incredible form of World Mission. Instead of traveling overseas to reach the world with the Gospel, the world comes to us! There is an ecumenical crew of chaplains that are sent out each day of the year to visit the people of the sea aboard ships in the Port of Houston—the eighth largest port in the world! The Port of Houston is also the #1 Petrochemical Port in the USA, and the #1 Port in Foreign Cargo in the USA. Each Chaplain meets people from no less than ten different countries each day, making this an incredible multicultural ministry! The ministry of the Seafarers’ Chaplain is one of outreach, pastoral care, evangelism, practical service, advocacy and hospitality. In addition to their ship visitation, a Chaplain is available at both Seafarers’ Centers located in Houston and Barbours Cut (near La Porte). To give you a sense of how many seafarers enter the Port of Houston in just one month’s time, during December of 2015 the chaplains distributed 12,278 Christmas Shoeboxes to seafarers on 538 ships!


How does a ministry to seafarers in the Port of Houston impact the breadth of the Diocese of Texas? Because every one of us benefits from the work of the seafarer! You may be interested to know that in the United States, 90% of everything we consume has been brought to us aboard ships! So, though you may not be anywhere near the Port of Houston or see any relevance to your local outreach area, the seafarers served at the Port have brought us all 90% of everything we consume! Now, that’s local! (If this statistic intrigues you, please read the book “Ninety Percent of Everything” by Rose George).


How can you help? The one item we give away most often is the pocket-sized English New Testaments with Psalms. Though we stock Bibles in 47 languages, the pocket Bibles remain the Bible most in demand. Many seafarers are fluent in English, and many want to improve their English by reading something familiar to them. There is many a pocket Bible being carried in the boiler suits of seafarers! During our ship visits it can also make a big difference if we carry extra work gloves, socks, knit caps and scarves, playing cards, and even nail clippers!


How is the Seafarers’ Ministry supported? The Houston International Seafarers’ Centers, Inc. (HISC) is its own entity with its own 501(c)3, but it provides no compensation for any of its chaplains. HISC does provide all of the facilities, insurance, transportation, and support personnel for the functioning of the overall seafarers’ ministry within the Port of Houston. Traditionally each denomination has funded its own chaplain(s), but in these difficult economic times, the trend for non-Roman Catholic chaplains is for the chaplain to secure their own funding through the help of a committee of interested persons who believe in the value of ministry to the seafarers whose ships call on the Port of Houston. Should you or your church want to provide funding to insure the ongoing presence of an Episcopal Port Chaplain, please make checks payable to the “Great Commission Foundation” with “Seafarers’ Ministry” in the notation section, and mail to the Diocese. Thank you for your interest in Seafarers’ Ministry!