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John Pinhay, AoS port chaplain to Falmouth and Fowey, reflects on another busy year and how small gestures can make a big difference to the lives of seafarers.
In February 2014, I received a call informing me that two seafarers from different ships had been taken into the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske. It was at the time that Britain was being hit by severe storms and the seafarers were injured while carrying out their duties on board their vessels.
Nico, from the Philippines, had broken his leg after he was tossed around the deck. I was able to offer phone cards so that he could contact home. After a week he was transferred to a hotel in Falmouth and I was able to visit him daily until he was repatriated to the Philippines. When he arrived back home, he sent me a message to let me know he had arrived safely and thanked AoS for all the support. He contacted me again just before Christmas last year to let me know he was still not able to go back to sea and he required discharge papers from the hospital in Treliske so that he could continue to obtain financial support for himself and his family. I was able to organise this for him.
The second injured seafarer, Sarawut, came from Thailand and could not understand English. However, the hospital was able to supply an interpreter and I discovered that, although he had cracked four ribs and punctured his lung, his priority was a lead for his laptop. When, after sustaining his injury, Sarawut was taken off his ship by helicopter his crew mates had grabbed his belongings but had forgotten the lead. I was able to locate a replacement lead, which allowed Sarawut the opportunity to Skype his wife and family. We could not talk directly, but his smile told me everything.
Whenever possible I arrange to take seafarers to Mass. However, due to work schedules it is not always possible for them to attend a church. In this situation I liaise with Father Jon Bielawski, parish priest of St Mary Immaculate in Falmouth. He has found himself using a variety of tables as an altar; anything from a coffee table to a wooden crate carrying a dishwasher!
Easter is a very special time of the year when we reflect on what God has done for us by sending his Son to die for our sins. I try to bring this message to the seafarers I meet over this period. My parish will collect over 100 Easter Eggs for the seafarers and when I go on board ship I offer an egg to all seafarers, regardless of their faith background. These are received with great joy, as they realise they have not been forgotten. I will also offer a blessed palm cross and the seafarer will normally recognise the symbol of the cross and what it stands for, whether they are a Christian or not.
"Whatever challenges come my way, I always remember that I am just a cog in this worldwide AoS mission and that colleagues all over the globe are conducting the same ministry as I am conducting here in Falmouth and Fowey."
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