Evangelist provides safe harbour for seafarers
A former builder is reaching out to seafarers at Bristol docks, as one of Counties' newest evangelists ...
Bristol docks were once the powerhouse of the British Empire, bringing the wealth of the world into the country. And now seafarers from all across the globe can receive a warm Christian welcome from one of Counties’ newest evangelists, Steve Loader.
Steve, a builder by trade, was brought up on a tough Bristol estate in a church founded by his own father – and through the Holy Spirit’s leading has joined Counties to bring the Portbury and Avonmouth docks as a new mission field.
A father of three, he is supported by his wife Dawn, and his grown up children – Natasha works locally in retail, Danielle who is currently enjoying life in Australia, and Reuben who still lives at home in Bristol.
The journey to full time evangelism has taken him to Capernwray Bible School, and 10 years in church leadership as well as preaching ministry in local churches. Then in 2005 in Steven prayed that God would use him more in sharing his faith with others. God answered through the Port Chaplain who said Steven would be suited to ministering to the seafarers who came into Bristol.
“Through my years of working on building sites encountering a negative and sometimes hostile reception, I can see now how God had prepared me for a ministry that has at times felt like being on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean!
“The Lord graciously answered my prayer, and has provided me with opportunities each week to share God’s love to people from many nations.
“Since the port chaplain retired in 2012, it became increasingly difficult for me to balance growing opportunities and challenges in ministry with life as a builder. My constant prayer to God over the years has been ‘Here I am send me’, and the relationship with Counties is now enabling more space to develop these areas of ministry in fulfilment of that prayer.”
With those answers have also come the tough challenges, with seafarers having one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.
Steve said: “There is so much need amongst the seafarers. Often they are on a nine-month contract. They are lonely, over worked, over-stressed and even sometimes under the threat of pirates. Twice I have comforted crew members who have lost a colleague through accidents whilst the ship has been in port.
“No matter what is going on in the life of the men that I meet, I always make it clear to them that God has not forgotten them.
“Over the Christmas period, many seafarers feel that separation from their families the most. So with Christmas shoe boxes given by caring individuals and churches, I have passed on in the region of 400 gifts to the men who have arrived in Portbury and Avonmouth during this Christmas time.
“For the first time since I have been involved in ship visiting, the seafarer centre in Portbury held a Christmas Eve service, which was attended by about 15 Filipino sailors.
“I love the diversity of my mission field. As I climb up another gangway, I meet seafarers from all across the world. Will they be Russian, Filipino, Indian, or one of the many nationalities I meet each week? I don’t know till I reach the deck of the ship.”
Steve said: “Praying with the men is important, for the Lord to touch their lives in a life-changing way. There has often been tears shed when hardened men experience God’s care and compassion for them. Nothing thrills me more than to see God’s light being brought into dark places.”
PICTURED ABOVE: Steve Loader at Bristol Docks. Photo: Image-Release