Ministry to seafarers

The Rev. Lacy Largent, whom many in the Episcopal Church know through her ministry at Camp Allen, is featured in an article that talks about her “other” ministry, that of a chaplain to seafarers at the Port of Houston.

“The chaplains have offices in the Seafarers’ Center, alongside a small chapel. Patout’s is lined with country flags, alongside an image of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. Down the hall, a bookshelf holds Bibles in 40 languages. The complex includes a restaurant, bar, TV, pool and basketball court.

Before 9/11, sailors would come to the Houston port’s center by the hundreds to find rest and refuge from life at sea. It’s a tough job but often the only way they could find to support the wife and kids they left in Eastern Europe, Asia or other far-away homes.

Now, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires foreign sailors to have visas to exit their ships while in port, even though some don’t know what countries their ships will be visiting and can’t afford the cost. The Transportation Security Administration also has new credentials that citizens and noncitizens must have to move around the port unescorted.

With these measures keeping sailors aboard, chaplains are doing more work on the ships, where they set up Wi-Fi hotspots and provide phone cards and SIM cards for men desperate to talk to home.

“This job isn’t like anything else. We end up staying far away from our homes,” said Pragnesh Tandel, a Hindu from Mumbai working on a cargo ship that stopped in Houston earlier this summer. “It’s good to have them around. They cooperate with us when we need to get phone cards.””

And specifically of Largent’s ministry the article reports:

Before she began serving as a port chaplain, she prayed the Old Testament Prayer of Jabez, and God answered, giving her the opportunity to serve seafarers from across the globe.

“I said, ‘Lord, enlarge my territory.’ I thought it meant a bigger church. Turns out, it meant the world,” she said.

She’s earned the nickname “surf and turf pastor” for her doubled-up duties as a port chaplain and the spiritual director for Camp Allen, the church’s retreat facility in Navasota. Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians form the chaplain team, and about a dozen volunteers also visit ships. Plus, the Houston center hosts a chaplain-training program for spiritual leaders in ports around the world.

Lots more here.

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