In 1944, the Reformed Churches and the Hervormde Kerk in Cape Town realized that there was a dire need amongst the seamen who visited the harbour. On 9 November 1944 these congregations started the work with the aim of caring for the needs of Dutch soldiers and seamen on their way and from Indonesia. At that time all the work was done on a voluntary basis.
For many years, only Dutch ships were given any attention but gradually it became abundantly clear that there were immense opportunities for mission work to be done amongst ALL the seamen in the Cape Town harbour. Since then the work has become completely interdenominational and has grown immensely.
Missionary Worker at work
A team of young Philippine men are standing with our worker on deck. All chat at the same time and it is a festive scene. Any outsider may be reminded of Babel. Our worker is handing out beanies and scarves, while the men sort and exchange until each finds just the right beanie and scarf he feels comfortable with. After all colour and style must fit the man! They pretend to be on the runway, making fun and imitating the model walk as best as they can. It is great fun and the antics elicit a lot of loud laughter.
Life at sea is difficult enough. A light, playful moment does wonders for the morale.
From the corner of his eye, our worker sees a giant of a man approaching them. The man's facial expression is hard and his body language authoritarian. It is clear that he does not share in the crew's enthusiasm and joy. His arrival dampens the festive atmosphere immediately. It even seems as if a touch of tension is hanging in the air. He must be an officer. Suddenly he stands next to our worker and it is clear that he is investigating the fun on deck. His eyebrows are raised questioningly and without a word he glares at our worker, clearly demanding an explanation. He wants to know what he is doing on deck.
He starts to explain, but directs the explanation to the group in general, as if he does not really care about the man's presence. From his backpack, he takes a few 'Little Bibles', enough for each member of the crew. These 'Little Bibles' describe - in a simple way - the road to redemption based on various Bible verses to support the explanation. As he talks, he watches the man as best as he can. He is a little concerned. The man is just standing there, arms crossed, taking up a lot of space. He explains that the Cross is for each and every one...
He hands out the Bibles and notices that the man's body language is changing, reflecting a little uncertainty. As suddenly as he appeared, the big man turns on his heel and walks away to return to the bowels of the ship. The mood changes and the eager hands of the other crew members are stretched out, making sure they are not left without a 'Little Bible'.
At the very last moment of our worker's visit, just before he leaves the ship, the large man reappears and stretches out his hand, ready to receive one of the 'Little Bibles'. His body language is totally different and his voice is soft as he thanks our worker for the gift. In that moment he know that a hard heart is softer now. He also knows that it was a pre-empted meeting, a planned God moment to allow this man to also hear the story of redemption.
That is what our donors made possible.