December 10, 2011


     The score of 85 on a test is above average, a good strong B.  Have you thought of that percentage in any other scenario?  Probably not, I certainly haven't.  The most recent headline I could find with 85% in it was from The Montreal Gazette on March 6, 1945, Cologne 85 percent in Ruins.  This weekend I learned that 85% of what we purchase arrives on boats.
     I have to be honest I never thought of that before.  Yes I am well aware how many of the non-food items have that are made in China or Taiwan on them.  But I sincerely have not thought about the transportation process.  Now let's take that thought a step further.  Have you ever given thought to the men who work on these vessels?  Now I know I have never done that....ever!
     Those men, known as Seafarers, are the focus of the International Ministries Center where Emily performed with the University of Mobile Chamber Singers Saturday.  The center is set up to provide these men with basic needs.  While many are in port for just a few hours often they are there for weeks on end awaiting their ship to return home.  The center offers transportation to area malls and sites, meals, toiletries, money services, phones and simply a place to relax.  These men face incredible perils while at sea which I guarantee you haven't thought about while listening to your iPod.  One of the men at the party Saturday said his biggest fear is seeing pirates AGAIN!  The center in Mobile had served seafarers from 149 different countries this year. 
     Shore leave for seafarers is vital.  After spending weeks on ships with co-workers and managers spending time with others is important not only socially but often medically as well.  These ships are not constructed with the comforts of their crews in mind.  Many ships have been compared to being a modern version of slave ships.  Time to get off the ships and reconnect with their families is their main priority.
      Cruise vacations have become more affordable over the years.  We've all seen commercials with the smiling attendants leaving cute towel animals on the bed or showing us into a glamorous dining hall.  What of course we don't see is the 30% of staff not permitted above deck on risk of punishment.  These seafarers are working 10+ hours a day on average.  On one cruise ship there was two showers and one working lavatory for one hundred workers and one mess hall for three hundred according to the Director of the ITF Cruise Ship Campaign, Jim Given.  Older ships had a ratio of 2 passengers to each crew member with newer ships running closer to 3 passengers to each crew member.
     .  While researching this post I was heartbroken when I further read that after suffering incredibly harsh work conditions more often than not seafarers rarely received their full pay.  One organization posted a number of settled lawsuits in the millions awarded to injured and underpaid seafarers
  In ports all around the world organization are stepping in to serve the seafarers.  In the United States the Baptist Association has a Seafarer's Ministry in just about every port.  In Europe there are a number of organizations meeting the needs of arriving seafarers such as ITF and Sailor's Society Chaplains.  SOO..

     This holiday season as we enjoy our share of the 85% of goods having arrived with the help from Seafarers take a moment to think about them.  Should you happen to live near a town that has a port why not find out what organization is serving seafarers and see what you can do to help?  If you don't live near a port town I am sure that most organizations take on-line donations.  Actually here's a great idea~ as you address your Holiday cards send one to an organization that supports seafarers and include an international phone card that you can grab at the gas station! To make things even easier here’s the address of the Center where Emily sang Saturday:
605 Texas Place
Mobile, Al 36603

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