Andrew’s June Blog 2024

11th June 2024
As I write, I have just returned from my last Mission visit overseas.

I wish I had counted my miles from the start – they must have run into many, many hundreds of thousands, maybe into the millions. Certainly, I have been to 55  countries in relation to mission and maritime welfare commitments, many of them a significant number of times. I must admit that as I stepped out of my final plane in Heathrow, I breathed a large sigh of relief. I have of course absolutely loved meeting wonderful people and dynamic teams. I still get a kick when I see the Flying Angel logo on some remote centre or vehicle in a far-off community. I have seen amazing places and had many incredible adventures. I am deeply conscious of the enormous privilege it has been. It has given me such rich and abundant memories which will live with me forever.  But flying, I will not miss.  I enjoyed it at first but as the years rolled on and I got older, I found it ever more challenging, describing planes to one person recently as “uncomfortable, loathsome, health-sapping, sleep-depriving, polluting monstrosities.”. After retirement, I hope to never see an airport or aircraft again! Ships all the way from now on.

This final visit was to Canada, where MtS is a leader in maritime welfare provision. Over the years, I have visited almost every Centre in Canada. Its deep water ports on east and west coasts, including very large operations in Vancouver and Halifax,. And then there are the important ports right the way up the massive Great Lakes system, where deep water ships, the so called “salties,”  often after long ocean voyages, make their way right up as far as Thunder Bay in the far north of Lake Superior, where long-serving chaplain Ed Swayze offers the warmest of welcomes and a delightful little seafaring centre.

My final visit was to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It felt particularly appropriate to me for a number of reasons. There was a personal one. After I left school, I went to work in nearby Newfoundland as a volunteer radio operator for the Grenfell Association, formerly the Grenfell Mission, who at that time ran all the medical work in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador. It was a very exciting job and I had many adventures through the blizzards and ice of winter and into the spring. En route to Nova Scotia I passed directly over Gander airport, the first place I ever landed. The Nova Scotia landscape of lakes, trees, and low hills feels very familiar.

I have been to Halifax several times. It is a historic maritime city, marked by significant maritime events, not least the Titanic disaster – and many of the Titanic bodies were brought and buried here using the low-sided cable laying ships based locally.  Their graves are very moving. Not long after that, Halifax suffered the largest man-made explosion (an ammunition ship) to have occurred until the nuclear age. 1600 people were killed and large parts of the town were utterly destroyed.  Halifax well knows the dangers faced by seafarers.

The Mission here is a wonderful place. A lovely, homely building in very fine condition with a guaranteed warm welcome. Under the very strong and kind leadership of Helen Glenn, the Centre has been consistently modernised, operates an excellent ship visiting and transport service and benefits from a truly superb team of volunteers. It is always great to see seafarers relaxing in a Centre and I spent some time with a crew who had just finished a voyage of 33 days. They were so glad to be on dry land and were preparing for a game of basketball on the Mission’s court.

Not all our regions have volunteers. Some countries simply have no history and culture of volunteering. In so many places, however, our huge army of volunteers is the life-blood and driving force of Mission work, staffing centres, visiting ships, driving buses, packing Christmas parcels, sitting on committees, knitting hats….and so on and so on. Their efforts are often heroic and too often unsung. It was therefore very important to me that my last visit should be to a Centre where the volunteering is outstanding. My thanks to them were, I hope, symbolic of those I offer to MtS volunteers around the world.

It was also a final opportunity to meet and thank our professional staff.  Apart from Helen, Eric Phinney, the excellent Chaplain of St. John New Brunswick, was present, along with David Edwards, Bishop of Fredericton and our national Liaison Bishop. It was also great to spend time with Bud Streeter, who is both doing a great job as our national Chairman and who is also Chairman of MtS Halifax.  Special thanks go to Judith Alltree, who has done such a great job as Regional Director through the challenges of the pandemic and beyond. Judith will retire later this year and we wish her a very happy and fruitful retirement.

Yes, flying can be painful but the reward of meeting these amazing teams and the inspiration I have gained from these people and places will continue to enthuse me as I move towards my own retirement. My profound thanks to all, in Halifax, throughout Canada, and far, far beyond.


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