A visit from the Seamen’s Mission

A cold winter morning. At Lehmannkai 2, on the shores of the Trave river, about halfway between the Baltic Sea and the historic city center of Lübeck, Germany. The RoRo ship “Bore Sea” is moored. Today, Bärbel Reichelt, Chaplain of the German Seamen’s Mission in Lübeck, comes aboard for a visit.

Captain Jan Knip, the crew, and Bärbel Reichelt know each other well from previous visits. “As captain, I am responsible for many technical things around here, and it is good to have someone to look after our spiritual well-being”, says Captain Jan Knip. Now and again, the crew would have questions that he doesn’t know the answers to or questions of a more religious or spiritual nature. From personal experience, he also knows that the visits from the German Seamen’s Mission to hospitalized seamen are of great importance. “Ultimately, it is always about the feeling of being seen”, summarizes Bärbel Reichelt. “And while that is true for all people, it is particularly true for those who work on ships and vessels and are stuck at the port areas away from other people, who have their own rhythm of life. I am here, and I have time.”

She has time for some small talk bringing bits and pieces from the outside world to those on board. Time for some practical support or for a chat in a personal crisis. She has time for a visit to a hospitalized seaman, time for a short prayer aboard the vessel to say goodbye to a deceased colleague; time to just be with the seamen in difficult times such as the Covid pandemic or the Russian-Ukrainian-War. “I think it is important to make the work of seamen more visible. That is why I give talks and do presentations in schools and youth groups to inform about the life and work of seamen”, Bärbel Reichelt explains.

The local team of the German Seamen’s Mission in Lübeck is comprised of 15 staff and voluntary workers. It is part of the Network of German Seamen’s Missions, that is present in 33 ports throughout the world. Its motto is: “support of seafarers‘ dignity” – regardless of their religion and nationality.

Onboard the “Bore Sea”, they start the engine. In a few minutes, they shift to the other side of the river. As they say their goodbyes, Captain Jan Knip declares: “We already look forward to your next visit.”