A sea breeze and partly cloudy sky offered temporary relief from the Singapore heat as fishermen huddled under the shade outside the Migrant Workers Welfare Centre, a small container-sized building on the wharves of Jurong Fishery Port (JFP). In June 2023, for the first time in three years, the sailors could finally disembark when they […]
A sea breeze and partly cloudy sky offered temporary relief from the Singapore heat as fishermen huddled under the shade outside the Migrant Workers Welfare Centre, a small container-sized building on the wharves of Jurong Fishery Port (JFP).
In June 2023, for the first time in three years, the sailors could finally disembark when they arrived in Singapore’s harbours, to escape cramped quarters and the baking heat on their ships.
The welfare centre that had sat empty now bustled with renewed purpose, as crews took turns lounging in the air-conditioned space for up to 30 minutes.
At the centre, seafarers enjoyed food provided by Food Bank Singapore and made video calls to their wives and children. Despite language barriers, the men obeyed port chaplain Rev Andreas Latz’s orders to clear their own rubbish and maintain the centre for other users.
Rev Andreas shared that, as much as possible, he did not want to collect money from the visitors, as some container yards and seafarer clubs do. The centre’s services were simply to bless the men as they were not well-off.
He related an incident in which approximately 25 sailors were shortchanged by their captain, being paid $200 instead of $600 over nine months. They campaigned for compensation, but the captain insulted them, even when Rev Andreas interceded. The men had been working and living off the vessel for two years and were ready to fly back to Indonesia. The irate captain backed off only when Rev Andreas invoked the power of God through the Ministry of Manpower and Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC). Later, the MWC agreed to investigate the case and promised compensation for the fishermen upon their return home.
In a recent discussion, MWC learned about the various needs of the seafarers, ranging from food and SIM cards to indoor entertainment. They prioritised providing staff to assist Rev Andreas in running the welfare centre, while the International Lutheran Seafarers’ Mission sourced additional part-time hire, as JFP is one of many ports Rev Andreas ministers to. It was heartening that Lutheran congregations also contributed to clothes donation drives, which blessed between 60 and 80 fishermen each time.
Though weather-beaten and hardened by tough living conditions, the sun-burnt sailors expressed their gratitude for the Centre being opened to them and the generosity of the donations. Each one left beaming and some, even though they had limited English, thanked the reverend for his efforts.
Despite strict regulations and a lack of facilities on the floating platform, the good work continues unhindered, only by the grace of God and the sustaining support of multiple entities.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Lutheran Church in Singapore. Visit the website to find out more about LCS.
This story was also published in the December 2023 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
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