GET ON BOARD! Fall 2023

Rev. Gary Roosma

401 E. Waterfront Rd. Vancouver, BC, V6A 4G9


Facebook & Instagram: Ministry to Seafarers Vancouver

Email: crcvanportchaplain@gmail.com


  • Josh on Board
  • Worship on Board
  • Fewer Ships to Board
  • Internship & Employment
  • Dollars & Sense
  • Sharing the Word

Josh on Board

Josh & Tim on board

In years past it was relatively easy to bring visitors on board ships, including groups of people, even children. Many people I meet in churches share memories of ship visits with their youth groups. Those days are, however, long past. Port and terminal security has steadily increased over the years, especially after 9-11. Now bringing guests on board a ship is much more challenging.

But not impossible, and this past Spring we facilitated an unusual visit. Josh is a bright young man who lives with cerebral palsy. Our son, Tim, has assisted him for several years. Josh also owns a 2-way radio and loves listening to chatter happening in the harbour. Tim arranged with me to take Josh on a tour of the Port of Vancouver. And on one of the ships, we were able to bring him on board for a tour around the deck. Tim carried him up the gangway while seafarers carted up his wheelchair. Josh was over the moon to be on board and be wheeled around the deck, and the crew were excited to have him on board too.

Worship on Board

Prior to Covid, it was not uncommon to receive requests for a worship service to be held on board. The pandemic put a halt to those kinds of services; the most we could manage were occasional prayers with an individual or small group on deck at the gangway, and even those opportunities were rare. What a joy and relief to see things open up again. Now I often have opportunity to pray with seafarers, and even hold the occasional more formal prayer/worship service on board. Above is a photo of one such service held at the request of some of the crew.

Seafarers rarely, if ever, have opportunity to attend worship services during the months that they are on board. Occasionally I meet a very earnest crew member who has the confidence and initiative to lead in Bible study and prayers with groups of crew members, but that is very much the exception. This is why we offer to hold services on board, and when we receive requests for a worship service, we do our best to accommodate.

Fewer Ships to Board

The one kilometre long pier at Deltaport with space for three ships.

In contrast to the previous year, and even earlier this year, since this past Spring we have seen a real downturn in ship traffic in the Port of Vancouver, especially with container ships. Several times in recent months there have been days with no ships at Deltaport, for example, which is very unusual (see above photo).

The situation was exacerbated by the near 2-week ILWU strike at the start of July. Ship traffic ramped up again for a time following the strike in the effort to catch up with backlogs, and we were relieved to hear of the final contract approval. But the strike situation also underscored our challenging position as seafarers’ ministries who work both with the longshore workers as well as with the employers, shipping companies, and with the Port of Vancouver. When these groups are at odds, we need to navigate working with all of them while not taking sides.

Yet even with the strike now over, we are still noticing a very significant downturn in ship traffic, especially container ships. September and October are usually busier times in any year, with Christmas merchandise arriving and the new grain harvest beginning to ship out. So, it will be interesting to see if the traffic picks up again soon.

Having fewer ships in port has provided me the opportunity to make more “slow visits” (as a colleague calls them). It simply means spending more time on board – hanging out in common areas and waiting for conversations to develop as seafarers have time to chat. It doesn’t work for every ship, as at times they are just too busy. But when it can happen, these visits have led to some deeply meaningful conversations that wouldn’t have been possible on shorter visits.

What a great name for a ship!

Internship & Employment

Our intern for this year, Marissa Brown, has completed her 6-month term of service. We’re grateful for the hard work she put in visiting ships and working with our social media platforms. With the completion of her term, we are once again searching for a longer-term employee to serve as Communications Coordinator. Pray with us for the right person to fill this role. If you know of someone who could be a good fit, please put them in touch with me.

Dollars & Sense

The Ministry to Seafarers is now officially incorporated as a registered charity in Canada. Beginning at the start of 2024 we will officially be a separate entity, and no longer working simply as a ministry of classis. This means that from now on all support cheques should be made payable to “Ministry to Seafarers” – not to Classis BCNW.

Sharing the Word

Me with an Indonesian Chief Officer

Recently I made several visits to a ship with all Indonesian crew and enjoyed the fellowship with them. Of the 21 crew on board, 5 were Christians. Though we all conversed mainly in the Indonesian language, the Chief Officer spoke good English as well, and was very happy to receive an English Bible and several devotionals. Your gifts make ministry like this possible, so Thank You!