GET ON BOARD! Spring 2024

Rev. Gary Roosma & Ashu Biswal

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

Facebook & Instagram: Ministry to Seafarers Vancouver



  • Christmas at Sea
  • Christmas Card Projects
  • Meet Ashu
  • A Ukrainian Hug
Seafarers at anchorage happy to receive delivery of Christmas gifts

Christmas at Sea

We had another great Christmas season of gift giving, as we delivered more than 1500 gifts to ships at terminals and at anchorage. These gifts continue to be a source of encouragement and joy for seafarers.

Delivering gifts on Dec. 23

We give gifts all through the Christmas season, and right into the New Year. The highlight of the season, however, is always our big delivery of gifts on Christmas Eve Day to all the ships anchored off shore near Vancouver. Tymac, the local launch service, transports us to the ships. This year we delivered on Dec. 23rd instead, as the 24th was on a Sunday.

Approaching the ship & gangway for gift delivery
Accessing the gangway - some ascents are very steep!

On one ship I visited during the Christmas season, as I was approaching the ship, I saw a group of seafarers gathering near the gangway and watching me. As I ascended the gangway they were looking on with concern. Even the captain was there. Then I announced, “I’m from the seafarers centre.” Immediate relief filled their faces. “We thought you were the inspector,” they exclaimed. I shouted back, “Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy – Christmas gifts!” There were smiles all around as they helped me bring gifts for all the crew on board. And of course we share the reason for the gifts - that they are a reminder of God's greatest gift in the coming of His own Son, Jesus.

More gift deliveries

Christmas worship/carol services were held at both our downtown and Roberts Bank centres on Dec. 20 & 21 respectively. Thanks to many churches and individuals for helping to make this special programme possible.

One of the ships I delivered Christmas gifts to prior to Christmas had an all Indonesian crew. They sailed for their next port before Christmas, but early in the New Year sent me a photo of their Christmas party at sea with all the crew clutching their gift bags.

Indonesian crew with gifts

Christmas Card Projects

This year the grade 8’s from Abbotsford Christmas School prepared beautiful Christmas cards which included personal notes to seafarers to wish them a Merry Christmas. We’ve done this in years past with other schools as well, or with Sunday School classes. We then put a card in each of the gifts for seafarers. Of course, just 120 cards from the ACS students weren’t enough for all the gifts. But those who do receive them always appreciate the cards and personal notes from the students.

Would your school or Sunday School be interested to make cards for next year’s Christmas at Sea gifts? Seafarers really appreciate the cards! Be in touch by email: to find out more.

Just 2 of the lovely Christmas cards from Abbotsford Christian School

Meet Ashu

Ashu in action on board

Gary was away late January through mid-March on a sabbatical – most of that time to return to Malaysia where he previously served. During that time the Lord has provided a very capable intern to cover the work here in the person of Ashu Biswal. Ashu is completing his studies at Regent College, and most recently served as intern with First CRC Vancouver. I’ll let him share a bit more about himself:

My name is Ashutosh Biswal, but I go by Ashu. I was born and raised in a Hindu family in Odisha, India, where my parents still live. I have two younger brothers who also live in India. During my undergraduate studies, I heard the Gospel for the first time, and two years later, I accepted Christ. Three years after getting married, my wife and I moved to Canada in 2019. Prior to that, I had experience working with various organizations, such as those in marketing and insurance. I have also worked as a Bible Translator with Wycliffe India and taught Political Science and Economics to high school students at a Christian School for six years. Currently, my wife and I live near Regent College in Vancouver. I am pursuing my MDiv degree while my wife works as an office staff member there.

Ashu (far right) with me, plus other friends & a Burmese Christian ship captain

Here is more from Ashu, following a few months in the role:

It has been over two and a half months since I started my internship at the Ministry of Seafarers. As a new member of this ministry, I was given assistance and guidance to perform my duties diligently and efficiently. I work four days a week, spending two days at Delta Port (Roberts Bank) and two days at the Downtown center. As part of my job, I am responsible for visiting ships that arrive at both ports and offering them services based on their needs. This may include providing transportation to the shopping mall or city center or fulfilling other requirements. Additionally, I am responsible for attending to the spiritual needs of the seafarers who spend months away from home and their communities while dealing with the challenges of work and the unpredictable weather conditions of the open sea.

Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to meet several individuals who have shared with me the challenges they face being away from their families. Many Ukrainian crewmembers have shared their stories with me, wherein their families live in constant fear of not knowing what the next moment would bring, and they cannot visit their country as they might be forced to join the military. I have met some crew members who have lost their family members but are unable to visit them due to various reasons. Many have shared about their sick family members, some of whom are terminally ill. In such situations, I find myself listening to and being present with them in those moments. On several occasions, I find myself praying for the crew members at the end of my time with them. However, we may not always get the chance to pray together due to differences in beliefs. Nevertheless, our love and kindness can still open their hearts to God’s love. For instance, I once had a conversation with a Muslim officer who expressed admiration and gratitude towards the services provided by Christians through seafarers' centres worldwide. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in this ministry.

A Ukrainian Hug

Recently we had a few groups of seafarers come from one ship that was here in the port for just one day - an MSC container vessel. On board were Ukrainians, Filipinos, Indonesians, Romanians, and more. Though a short stay, many of the crew were keen to come ashore.

One of the Ukrainian engineers, after shopping downtown, came back to spend a couple of hours relaxing at our centre. We chatted a fair bit, and he really enjoyed his time here. When he was ready to go and I (Gary) was preparing to transport him back to his ship, I offered him my hand to bid him farewell. He responded by saying, "Where I come from, when we have had a special time and want to say goodbye, we do this" - and proceeded to give me a big hearty hug. I haven't had many hugs from seafarers; in fact, that might have been the first. It certainly gave an impression of his appreciation for our service.

Loading grain at Viterra's Pacific Grain Elevator terminal