Sunday, February 16, 2014

How You Like Them Apples?

Hello there!

Sorry for my delay in putting up this latest blog post. The start of this new year has been busy!

It's really weird to say this but I'm no longer feeling like a foreigner in Hong Kong. I am definitely in a routine with work, and I'm starting to recognize and receive phone calls from seafarers each and every week. It's a nice feeling to wake up to messages from seafarers coming to port soon, asking if I or another member of our staff can come and visit. There are now easily over a dozen ships where I know at least one or two crew members by name - and they know me too!

Work has been really interesting lately. For one thing, I recently stumbled upon this giant tower of Dole Fruit Shipping Containers. What is inside? Where did it come from? These are interesting questions that I wish I had the answer to. However, I think there is definitely something we can take away from this mass of steel and fruit waiting on the deck of the Hong Kong container port:

A. Where do you think your fruit comes from?
B. How do you think it gets from the source to your grocery store?
C. Do you ever think about any of the two questions above?
D. Why not?


But let's not spoil this blog post with sour grapes, shall we? Orange you glad, I'm such a big fan of puns?

On to something deeper:

I recently spent some time aboard the ship Alula (she is HUGE) with crew hailing from Egypt. The experience of which was really interesting as many of the seafarers are Muslim. (FYI, The Mission to Seafarers helps all seafarers regardless of color and creed.)

Big shocker here, but this Carolina boy has never spent much time with people of the Muslim faith. However going aboard this vessel was really refreshing as its occupants showed me respect and grace despite the fact that I was not one of their kind. They gave me a tour of their ship, a delicious lunch, and even let me take a peek at their prayer room:

Entrance to the prayer room. Notice the times set out front. 

The prayer room on this ship was really intriguing for a variety of reasons.

First, this room is representative of how important faith is to seafarers during their lives at sea. Space on a container ship is TIGHT, so to make space for a whole room just for praying is a big deal. The room alone made me realize that this company takes the spiritual and mental needs of this crew seriously.

Second, the times posted outside of the prayer room are updated everyday depending on where the ship will be headed. Seafarers cross in to different time zones multiple times a week, so they are never on a stable schedule. It takes someone of devout faith to make sure this prayer schedule is updated accurately every day for Muslims on board.

Third, the walls of the prayer room are covered with the prayers of Islam and also features a digitized compass that always points the way toward Mecca. Obviously, the direction of Mecca could change every hour so this is something that always needs to be kept up to date. Again, I was just impressed by the measures taken by the ship company and crew to make sure that the faith of these seafarers is not only taken serious, but thoroughly supported.

Finally, just a thought. People of the religion of Islam observe five formal prayers EVERYDAY. I really respect that about their faith and culture, and it makes me look at my faith and culture a little closer. If it was required or expected of you as a Christian (or Jew, Buddhist, etc.) to pray five times a day, would you do it? Going to church and engaging one another as a community is crucial to the Christian faith, however most Christians only go to church one morning per week. My thought in all of this was: Am I praying enough? Listening enough? I think there is room for improvement.

How about you?

Much thanks to Peter and the rest of the crew of the Alula for having me.

Finally, a recent highlight of mine has been hosting a good friend, Luke Wander, during his brief stay in Hong Kong. I have known Luke literally all of my life, and it was so good having someone from my tiny part of the world here in Hong Kong. We did some of the touristy things, and I even took him out on the boat with me for work. By far, one of the coolest things we did was take a hike on the Dragon's Backbone. Thanks for coming, Luke!

View from a ridge of the Dragon's Backbone. Incredible hike! 

Luke cheesin' on the bow of the Mariners' Club launch.

Being Pirates. 

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