Not glamourous but always fulfilling

A container ship
 on April 29, 2024

Over 90 per cent of the world’s trade is carried by sea, thanks to the nearly two million seafarers working globally to ensure that we all have what we need; yet seafaring is one of the most dangerous professions. Between wars, piracy, challenging working conditions and dangerous weather, seafarers are among the most vulnerable workers in the world. They spend months away from their homes, work tirelessly with minimal pay, witness the effects of global warming in rogue waves, melting icebergs and glaciers, and sail around small continents’ worth of garbage.

A local example: a fire in the engine room of a small cargo ship in Montreal erupted as the ship was leaving for Portugal. Four days later, the fire was still not out and the accommodation in the wheelhouse had been destroyed. The ship is now underway, being towed to Halifax. The crew will be housed in a local hotel there – not abandoned this time – and the mission staff and volunteers in Halifax will step in with their unending and caring support. The ship will be sent to “the breakers,” where she will become razor blades. It is difficult not to hear on the news of the many tragedies these seafarers face each day.

When seafarers are allowed to come ashore, they need our support, friendship and understanding. That is what the Mission to Seafarers’ centres provide in more than 200 ports in 50 countries around the world: support, friendship, encouragement and understanding. Sadly, in the winter of 2019 the iconic Toronto mission building was destroyed in a flood and demolished completely later that year. So how do we bring “comfort and joy” to seafarers arriving in Toronto when there is no actual place for them to visit?

We do it the way it was done from the beginning of this ministry: we visit the ships. Ship visiting is still the number one way to meet and communicate with arriving seafarers. It is not about the building; it’s about the seafarers themselves. Certainly, it was great to have our building on the east side of the port for all those years – until it wasn’t. The cost of maintaining the building became overwhelming, and we couldn’t keep up. We had been in the process of moving the building when the flood happened. God clearly had another plan.

So, in Toronto we are back to ship-visiting: face to face, meeting seafarers where they live and work. Climbing the gangway, carrying bags of chocolates (a very welcome tradition), along with our friendship, support and hospitality. God has called us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the sick and visit those in prison. This is what we do as ship visitors for the Mission to Seafarers. Not glamourous, sometimes heartbreaking and demanding work, but very much needed and always fulfilling.

Join our crew at the Mission to Seafarers and help us make sure our seafarers feel at home when they are far from theirs. The hourly commitment is small and flexible, but the impact can be life-changing.

To learn about volunteer opportunities with the Mission to Seafarers, email [email protected] or visit


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