The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


April 17, 2009

Seafarers in the spotlight

Marsh Luther Drege, ELCA pastor and executive director of Seafarers & International House in New York City, was on Thursday afternoon interviewed on the set of ABC News Tonight for a podcast segment on piracy.

Click here for the video (Drege interview at 10:40).

Drege was asked about the life of seafarers, particularly their safety from pirates. Drege has a front-row seat to reunions at the Seafarer & International House year 'round. But the focus this week was on those reunions when the crew of the pirated Maersk Alabama returned home.

“It often takes a dramatic hostage situation like the Maersk Alabama to get the media and the world to focus on the dangerous challenges of being a seafarer,” Drege said after the ABC interview. “So, if we can utilize the news to highlight the fact that seafaring is not only a lonely and isolating job, but also a very dangerous job (there are currently more than 300 seafarers still being held hostage on various pirated ships even today) then this media attention is probably worth it.”

During the interview, Drege was asked what he sees the returning crew members going through.

“They’re just trying to process how they can reconnect with their profession that they love and how they can feel safe again,” Drege said in the interview.

In the past week Drege said those who stay at the house have found a certain camaraderie gathered around the television watching their friends and co-workers throughout their ordeal and their return to safety. The International House in the heart of Manhattan is an ELCA ministry to seafarers and sojourners.

“We [tell them] we’ve always been praying for you. The church sees you even when you often feel invisible,” Drege said, adding that 95 percent of our goods are delivered by way of the sea—including aid from the U.S. to foreign soil. “That’s the irony. They’re trying to deliver good things and bad things happen.”

John Reinhart, CEO of Maersk shipping lines, who has been front and center in the hostage crisis of the Maersk Alabama, was honored at the Seafarer annual gala last night.

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