This is NOT a religious post.

Today is Sea Sunday, a special day to commemorate seafarers all over the world. I did not know about it, until I went to Westminster Cathedral for Sunday evening mass with my family.  Rev Roger Stone from the Apostleship of the Sea, based in Southampton, was the invited guest giving the homily.

“Close your eyes for one minute,” Rev Stone asked of us. “And picture a seafarer.”

I thought about my second son, who is onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, the aircraft carrier, in the North Sea at right now; the boy who was born in UK’s maritime capital Portsmouth and who grew up to be a sailor. I pushed that image aside and cast my thoughts wider. I thought about a tattooed guy, rough and brawny, unkempt and unshaven.

“You’s be surprised,” Rev Sone said. “That most of the seafarers of the world today are women. And mostly from the Philippines!” India is also a large nation of seafarers for two reasons, cheap labour and English language.

Rev Stone wanted to introduce us to two seafarers: Adithya from India and Fruity Salad (Facebook name) from Philippines.

First Adithya.  Rev Stone went onboard Adithya’s small ship where there were 14 crews.  He was shocked that there was very little food and water. The galley was full of cockroaches.  Worst still, the shower was in the cabin itself, and whenever someone showered, the whole cabin got wet – AND there were exposed electricity wires dangerously near the water. It would be only a matter of time before someone gets electrocuted. Adithya was expected to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  When he met Rev Stone, he was halfway through his contact. And he was paid £20 for over 1,000 hours of work.

It was obvious that Adithya was a slave. Rev Stone took him off the ship, gave him food, money and clothes. He helped Adithya to find his feet and Adithya told the Rev, he wants to be a captain, but a good one. He is back out to sea again – travel safe, Adithya.

Fruity Salad (his Facebook name) was a young Filipino boy, the youngest of 11 children. when Rev Stone met him, he had not spoken to his mother in months.  Rev Stone pushed his phone into Fruity’s hand and insisted that Fruity calls home. A few months later, when Fruity was somewhere in the north of England, his brother was shot dead in Mindanao, Philippines where there was (is?)  unrest. Rev Stone sent a colleague to see if there was anything Fruity needed.

Standing at the pulpit, he leaned forward and looked at us with his piercing eyes.  “YOU all did this. Thank YOU, because it is YOU who put me and my team in work serving the seafarers.”

After the service, I rushed to meet Rev Stone, wanting to know which church he belongs to.  He laughed a hearty laugh. “I work from my van,” he boomed. “I just drive to where I am needed and climb onboard.”

Apostleship of the Sea is always looking for help. To learn more about their work, please click here. That’s Rev Stone and I, and in the second photo, surrounded by a group of women from the Philippines.

Main photo: Rev Stone at work