Zachary Jeffers' YASC Year of Mission

The experiences of an Episcopalian missionary living in Hong Kong, working for the Mission to Seafarers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sea Sunday

Every year on the second Sunday of July, churches give thanks to seafarers and those who minister to them on what is called Sea Sunday. For the past few years one of the local Christian radio programs has had our chaplaincy team, which consists of representatives from the Mission to Seafarers (Anglican Church), the Apostleship of the Sea (Roman Catholic Church), and the Danish Seaman’s Mission (Danish Church), record a church service that is broadcast on Sea Sunday. Every year the YASC intern has given the Sea Sunday sermon, so this year was my turn. I’ve posted my sermon and a link to the Sea Sunday service radio program below, and below that I’ve posted a few pictures.

More can be learned about Sea Sunday here:

Link to the radio broadcast (I begin at around the 30 minute mark):

Sea Sunday Sermon
          Good morning, my name is Zachary Jeffers, and I am the intern working here with the Mission to Seafarers, working through the Young Adult Service Corps that is based out of The Episcopal Church in America.
          I would say these few lines from Matthew are probably some of the best known and most quoted lines Jesus says in the Gospel:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Often we hear it by itself, out of context. We don’t hear the things that were said before it, and we just get the nice message, “I will give you rest”. We forget the first part we heard in the Gospel reading today, the part where Jesus scolds an entire generation of people for acting like spoiled children. Children who cry when they don’t get what they want, children that are upset when someone doesn’t do the things they want them to do. They wanted Jesus and John to act a certain way, they wanted the Messiah and the one preparing the way for him to both act the way they wanted, in a way that fit into their comfortable lives, in a way that fit into their narrow mindset. John was too extreme, eating locusts and wild honey, living as a hermit. Jesus was too extreme in different way, loving outcasts, and spending time with tax collectors and sinners. While the people want to hear the Truth and see the Messiah, while they want that thing that will bring them to the Kingdom of Heaven, once Jesus presents it to them, they write him off as a drunkard and a glutton. The way John the Baptist lived didn’t fit into their box, into their comfortable lives, and the way Jesus lived and loved most certainly did not fit either.
This thing that Jesus is preaching, and is telling us is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, seems difficult to those who aren’t ready. It may seem like a burden, to love those who are difficult to love, to spend time and touch those who are, in our eyes, untouchable, but that’s how Jesus wants us to love. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – In other words, He’s saying, learn from my example, do what I do, take my work upon yourselves because this work, this thing we’re striving for, loving and caring for one another, is so much better than dealing with life’s burdens on our own. Yes, it may seem like it will be difficult at first, but trust me, it’s not.
          This Sunday we remember a group of people who carry heavy burdens. Seafarers deal with a lot of things that most of us never have to deal with. They leave their families and friends for months at a time, living and working with a group of strangers, depending on others to provide decent food and a comfortable living space, braving the dangers of the open sea, all the while doing it to provide us with the things we need, the things we use every day. I admit that before coming to Hong Kong and working with the Mission to Seafarers, I knew absolutely nothing about shipping, let alone the forgotten people that are behind the industry. I didn’t realize that over 90% of everything you and I use on a daily basis is made available to us in some way because of shipping. I didn’t realize the burden the people that bring us those things carry and deal with just so I can watch my TV or drive to work or drink my morning cup of coffee. I didn’t realize seafarers will leave home for up to 12 months at a time to work on the ships that carry these things to me. I didn’t realize how normal it was for seafarers to miss their children’s births, sports games, graduations just to provide for their family and to provide me with my everyday necessities. I didn’t realize that the most dangerous thing about the open sea isn’t the pirates or the storms, but the isolation those people feel while traveling at sea for months at a time, separated from their friends, family, and the outside world.
So while caring for a seafarer may be as difficult as helping them find a way to secure their wages after months of not getting paid by their company, it could be as simple as sending money back home for them, bringing them a SIM card for their phone so they can hear their child’s voice, or even just having a conversation and being a friendly face.
Just a few weeks ago I was leaving our seafarers center that is located in Kwai Chung, out by the shipping terminal, when I saw someone sitting on the steps of the center, with his head down, talking to someone on his phone and looking very distraught. I had seen him earlier in the evening when I had come back from ship visiting and thought he was just there to use the Wi-Fi like so many of our other visitors do. Because I was leaving and the center was about to close for the night, I offered him a ride back to his ship. He said yes, thank you, and then asked me if I knew how to send money to another country. It turned out that this seafarer, Gilbert, was from the Philippines and needed to send money back home as payment for his children’s school. His wife had sent him a message a few days before saying they needed to pay the bill for the school or else his daughter would not be able to attend that term. Hong Kong was the first port he had an opportunity to go ashore with a place to send money since she had notified him. I told him I was happy to send it for him and not to worry, it would be sent first thing the next morning. He was so grateful for my help and it was such a relief for him that someone would come to his aide to help with this problem. He was just trying to provide for his family, to pay the bills, do something that would be a simple task for most of us but was so difficult and stressful for him because he was out at sea. That stress had turned into a heavy burden to carry for Gilbert, but luckily the Mission to Seafarers was there to help. He still keeps in touch with me and will let me know when his ship comes to Hong Kong.

          Jesus’ mission for us is simple: love others as God loves us, go out and love those that are difficult to love, love those that are isolated and distant from others, in whatever form that may be. That’s the burden we must carry, but it’s so much better than dealing with life’s burdens on our own. So next time you’re having a cup of coffee, using your cell phone, sitting in a chair, remember the forgotten faces of the people that brought those things to us, be thankful that we have them and that there’s people out there carrying those burdens for us to make it possible. It’s the least we can do.


Some pictures from the week of Sea Sunday and the week after:











Sea Sunday service at St. John's Cathedral




 







Apostle Ship of the Sea Sea Sunday annual prayer service and dinner 


























Provincial clergy monthly meeting at St. Peter's Chapel in the Mariner's Club, in recognition of Sea Sunday




































Our chaplaincy team at the radio broadcast recording



































The Mission to Seafarer's Sea Sunday information flyer 





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy Easter from Hong Kong!


Happy Easter from Hong Kong! He is risen! Below I have posted a few pictures from the service at St. John's Cathedral this past Sunday. It was great as usual, including a great a performance by the choir and a visit from Archbishop Paul.





















A picture of Adrienne, Catherine, me, and Archbishop Paul (respectively) after the Easter service at St. John's Cathedral. Adrienne is the other YASC intern in Hong Kong and works at the cathedral with their legal advice organization called Helpers for Domestic Workers. The Rev. Catherine Graham is a not only a priest at the cathedral, but also works heavily with Helpers for Domestic Workers, is Adrienne's YASC Mentor in Hong Kong, and is Stephen Miller's (my boss) wife.  Archbishop Paul Kwong, who joins us at the cathedral most major feast days, is the Archbishop and Primate of the province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.





























Above are a couple of other pictures from inside the cathedral after the Sunday morning Easter service.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Pictures: Round 1








































Following Luca up an accommodation ladder on a ship visit in one of the shipping terminals. Luca is a retired Italian captain and now works with with us at the Mariner's Club doing ship visits.





















































Pictures of me making my way up the side of a ship on what we like to call a "monkey ladder."



















Ben, the coxswain of the Dayspring, trying to spot a seafarer.













The Mariners' Club Chaplaincy Team, including representatives from The Mission to Seafarers, the Swedish Church, The Apostleship of the Sea, and the Danish Church.




One of my many visits to Kumar, a seafarer from India, who I got to know quite well during his two week hospital stay.



















Fireworks over Victoria Harbor during Chinese National Day back in October.























The Dayspring in action.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Visit from Presiding Bishop Curry and his Episcopal Entourage

After six months of being in Hong Kong, I thought it was as good a time as any to write my second blog post.
            This past Sunday (February 19th), Bishop Curry was in Hong Kong, so Adrienne and I, along with our friend Wil (a fellow YASCer who was visiting us from his placement at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan), were able to see him and his Episcopal entourage (which included David Copley – Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel, aka our boss within the Episcopal Church, Neva Rae Fox – Officer of Public Affairs for TEC, the Reverend Canon Chuck Robertson who is the Canon to Bishop Curry for Ministry Beyond TEC, and Sharon Jones who is the Executive Assistant to the Presiding Bishop). Bishop Curry preached at St. John’s Cathedral Sunday morning in his passionate, animated fashion, much to my liking, which was a nice change from the normal sermon the cathedral’s congregation is used to. It was received very well, so well, in fact, the whole congregation clapped for him at the end of his sermon. I was informed later by a woman who’s gone to St. John’s most of her life that it was the first time she’s seen applause after a sermon in that cathedral. It really made me glad that they enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure how they would react to his style of preaching since it’s so different than what they’re used to here in Hong Kong, but they loved it.
After the service we were able to talk for a short while and have a coffee with Bishop Curry and his E.E. ( E.E. stands for Episcopal entourage. I’ve just come up with that name, by the way. You read it here first) during the cathedral’s coffee hour before they had to run off to lunch with Archbishop Paul and a few other priests from the cathedral. After coffee I walked up to the hospital to visit a few seafarers who were staying there. The walk, although uphill, is rather nice because it can go right through the Hong Kong zoo if you take a short detour. Later that afternoon we took Bishop Curry and his E.E. out on the Mission to Seafarers’ boat to give him a tour of Hong Kong’s harbor and to talk about the mission. This boat visit was a little unexpected, but Catherine was wise enough to arrange it. It was nice to have a chance to talk with Bishop Curry, David, and the others and tell them about our different placements and our time abroad.
I was also able to show them a little bit of my daily routine on the boat, because earlier that day, a seafarer had called me requesting SIM cards for his ship. The mission’s boat had been out of commission for the previous three weeks, due to its annual inspection, so my visits had been limited to the ships alongside the port in the shipping terminals during that time. The ship, Ibn Al Abbar, makes regular visits to Hong Kong, about every week and a half to two weeks. It’s a smaller ship, so the seafarers onboard very rarely have a chance to go ashore because they’re never in a port long enough to make the trip, which is the case for many small ships like this. So, for the past three weeks the boat hadn’t been going out on visits, they hadn’t been in touch with the families/friends/girlfriends/outside world because we weren’t able to provide them with SIM cards. It just so happened they were in Hong Kong the same day Bishop Curry and the E.E. were out with us on the boat, so I was able to convince Stephen to let me make a quick visit while out on our harbor tour. It was also lucky for the crew because Sundays are usually the only day the boat does not make visits in the anchorage. I was able to go on the ship and sell quite a few SIM cards, make a quick visit with the crew, and David was able to get some pictures of me in action. After my quick visit we continued our tour around the harbor. We ended it at the Star Ferry Pier on the island side of Hong Kong with a selfie with me, Adrienne, Wil, and Bishop Curry.

Bishop Curry’s visit was great. It was a treat for me to see him preach in Hong Kong. If you haven’t seen him preach before, I highly recommend finding a sermon or two of his on YouTube. There’s quite a few there. It was also a great surprise to be able to take him and his entourage out on the boat. It gave us time to visit with him on his very busy Asia tour, and it gave me a chance to show what I do on a daily basis to a group of people who were responsible, either directly or indirectly, for sending me here to Hong Kong. The visit also reminded me of how far along I’ve come from the first time I met Bishop Curry, Neva, and Chuck in New York at 815, at orientation back in July, and when I first met David at Holy Cross monastery during our discernment weekend, which was almost exactly a year ago last February. It was definitely a rejuvenating weekend.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Brief Introduction and a Day in the Life

            My name is Zachary Jeffers, I’m 24 years old, I’m from Clemson, South Carolina, and I work with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong. The Mission to Seafarers is an Anglican, worldwide organization that provides resources and welfare to those who make their living at sea, working on ships in the different areas of the shipping industry. Hong Kong is one of the largest ports in the world, seeing ships, cargo, and seafarers from all over the world. I serve as a Chaplain’s Assistant, working under The Reverend Canon Stephen Miller, the Senior Chaplain, and Justin Davis, the Assistant Chaplain. Stephen has worked with the mission for about 15 years, in Rotterdam, Dubai, and now Hong Kong, and also currently serves as the Regional Director of Southeast Asia for the Mission to Seafarers. Justin is a former YASC member who is now employed by the mission here in Hong Kong. My daily responsibilities include visiting ships in the morning, and in the afternoon, doing various other tasks in the mission, which currently involves inputting data from surveys the mission sends to ships which inquire about living conditions on board.  Fairly often there will be a seafarer or two in the hospital, so we also visit them to make sure they are well taken care of and in contact with family members.
            The mission has two buildings, both called “The Mariner’s Club,” in Hong Kong. One is located in the neighborhood, Tsim Sha Tsui, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the harbor and is a hotel and includes a restaurant, pool, bar, and other meeting rooms. It also houses the main offices of the Mission to Seafarers, The Danish Church of Hong Kong and China, and The Apostleship of the Sea, which is the Catholic seaman’s mission. The three organizations work together but all do about the same thing, just in different contexts. Typically, only seafarers are allowed to stay at the Mariner’s Club and do so when they are coming or going from a new ship or if they’re on vacation with their families.
The other Mariner’s Club is located in the area called Kwai Chung, where one of the main shipping terminals is located. This is the facility where ships go to dock to be loaded and unloaded of their cargo. This building has a restaurant, resting room, and meeting area. It also has free Wi-Fi and changes money for seafarers who are in port. This essentially serves as a place for seafarers to rest and recharge when their ship is in port. Either they stop by before heading into other areas of Hong Kong, or their ship is not in port long enough for them to head into the city so they stay and relax in a setting that’s different from their ship.
           

A Day in the Life of a Chaplain’s Assistant
My day usually starts around 7:00 am, (6:00 am if I decide to go running) when I wake up. I eat breakfast at the restaurant in the Mariner’s Club, found on the second floor. After breakfast I head to Stephen’s office to pick up the list of ships we’ll be visiting in the anchorages that day. If Stephen is out of town, which happens quite often due to his responsibilities as the Mission’s Regional Director, I make the list myself. The “anchorages” are areas slightly off the coast where smaller cargo and container ships drop anchor to be loaded or unloaded by barges. The facility where ships go to dock, the terminal, is usually very busy, and it is very expensive for a ship to dock in port. If it is possible for a ship to be loaded and unload in the anchorage then they do so to save time and money. There are various other ships found out in the anchorage as well, including tankers, cement ships, bulk cargo ships, etc. because they must be loaded or unloaded by different means.
I visit the ships out in the anchorage every day. The mission has a boat, also called a “launch,” that takes me, and sometimes other volunteers, out to the anchorage to visit ships. The boat has a captain and a chief engineer. Ben is the captain and helps coordinate the daily visits. He has been working with the Mission to Seafarers for the last 22 years, and before that he served in the Royal Navy. Mr. Lai is the chief engineer and usually drives the boat. Both are from Hong Kong and have been working with ships or boats their whole lives. Ben and I meet up with Mr. Lai and the boat at the Star Ferry Pier, which is about a five minutes’ walk from the Mariner’s Club. Usually Ben stops and picks up Filipino, Korean, and Chinese newspapers from a local newsstand to give to the crews we visit. We print out a Burmese newspaper to give to the crew members that are from Myanmar. We also have other magazines and newspapers, some of which are written specifically for seafarers. Along with printed media, we bring DVDs of the most recent soccer matches. We also sell SIM cards to the seafarers, so they can access the internet and stay in touch with loved ones. Cell phones are usually the seafarers’ only line of communication, not just to friends and family, but also to the outside world. It’s very rare to find a ship that has Internet access onboard that is available to everyone.
We usually visit about anywhere from 5-10 ships a day, depending on how many ships are in the anchorage that day, and if we have other volunteers with us. Generally, most seafarers know at least some English. When we encounter a ship where the crew knows little to no English, we will just drop off the newspapers and DVDs, say thank you, have a safe journey, and move on to the next ship. If we can communicate enough to where the seafarers know that we would like to come aboard, we generally go up and try our best to manage with the little English they may speak. Usually it isn’t much of a problem. After we’ve gone through our list of ships for the day, and we’ve made our way around the anchorages, we head back to the Mariner’s Club. The launch also provides a free taxi service to seafarers that are trying to go ashore, so if there are seafarers that are in the anchorage long enough that would like to go ashore, they give us a call in the morning and we pick them up on our way back to shore, which is usually between 12:30-2:00, depending on the number of ships that we’re able to visit in the anchorage that day. They either get dropped off with me, on the Kowloon (mainland) side of Victoria Harbor, or they get dropped off on the Central (island) side.
After ship visiting I head back to the Mariner’s Club and eat lunch at the restaurant there. I’m very fortunate in the sense that I can take all my meals at the Mariner’s Club free of charge. I try not to eat lunch there every day, because I have found that the set menu they provide for lunch rotates after about a week or two. After lunch and a quick shower to wash all the sweat, grease, and, on the rare occasion, bits of coal off (there was a time when a bulk cargo ship was unloading its coal and I got a bit of a quick coal shower on my way off the ship), I head down to the Mission to Seafarers office, where I begin my current task for the afternoon, which is the inputting of data from surveys the Mission gives out to ships. Each shipping management company in Hong Kong is evaluated by the mission on the quality of life of the seafarer onboard the ship via a survey we send out. The survey has eight questions and a section for comments. I sit and input the answers into spreadsheets for the rest of the afternoon. In November we have our fundraising gala, where the shipping management companies that score the highest will win awards, and every company will get feedback on areas they need to improve. This provides a a small incentive for companies to focus on and improve the quality of life for the seafarer on their ships.
On the occasion that there’s a seafarer in the hospital, the receptionist at the hospital will call our office to inform us, so we know to visit them and check on how they are doing. We try to help them in any way possible and to make them feel more comfortable, whether it may be bringing them a newspaper or an essential item they forgot on their ship or just sitting with them to talk, because a hospital can get rather lonely when you don’t have any visitors.
My time here already has been a fantastic journey, and I don’t doubt it will only get more interesting and exciting. I have seen so much, but I know it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I appreciate everyone’s interest in reading this blog and a very special thanks to everyone who’s helped me get where I am today. Be ready for more blog posts. I’ve been in Hong Kong for about two months now, so I have plenty of material to post about.

Peace & Love