Tim Huxley is a director of the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario. He shares the following story.
In December, 2014, while on a cruise out of Southampton, UK, our ship, the Cunard Line "Queen Victoria", stopped in Gibraltar. As we tied up to the Cunard dock, peering from the ship, I spotted a yellow and blue building on the wharf and the familiar words on its side, "Flying Angel Club".
It turned out to be a fellow "mission" to ours known as the "Mediterranean Mission to Seafarers".
And what a location! The picture you can see taken from the top of the cable car on the "Rock" shows the significant number of ships that use this port, coming and going in and out of the Mediterranean. Ships of all sizes and types, and the common denominator for them all? - the small number of about 18 to 25 seafarers who ensure they get to and from their various ports of call, and that we get the goods and products we all seem to need for our busy lives, wherever around the world.
Once off the ship, we visited the Mission, and just like in our somewhat sheltered and much distance inland missions in Hamilton and Toronto, we were not surprised to see sailors around tables talking up a storm and munching hot food served from a busy tiny kitchen. Unfortunately, we were not able to speak to the chaplain as he was away at the time but there was no doubt, this was a much frequented, and busy place.
Looking out on all the ships in the harbour and at various wharfs, I was again struck by the immensity of this shipping industry and how un-noticed it is until you are confronted with its size and complexity.
Another surprise awaited me, when, while at sea, on the Queen Victoria, there was a interview given by the Commodore of the Line who happened to be aboard for this voyage. Commodore Rynd looked to me to be a man who had been at sea a long time. Tall, very slender and erect, with all the wrinkles one thinks are part and parcel of this type of life. In the interview, he was asked what attracted him to the sea in the first place. As a New Zealander by birth, he answered that at a young age, his father who had become an Anglican priest, was posted first to Colombo, Ceylon, as it then was called, and then to Singapore, to serve as chaplain to the Missions to Seafarers in those locations. He said at the time, these were the busiest ports in the world and he grew up looking at ships. He confessed he quickly realized that the really "posh" ships were the liners, and as a result, when the time came, he made his way to sea and into service on liners.
Quite a surprising story, and again, reminded me of how many have connections with seafarers and the Mission. I was also reminded of the service we provide to seafarers that so many of us depend on for so much of what we have. Neat cruise for me, with some unexpected turns. I won't spend time relating how many times on the ship I was able to speak to total strangers as we were observing some container ship or other passing by, about just who Mission to Seafarers is, what we do, and why it is important. That is another story about spreading the word!