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United Seafarers' Mission

Tauranga Seafarers' Centre

Port of Tauranga, New Zealand

Memoirs - Ruth Haar


I will write first about the Kims. We first met Mr Kim during the 1980s when he was a Chief Officer on a ship at the Port of Tauranga. His wife San was living in a flat at Mt Maunganui.

Sometime later, they moved to Australia where they were involved with ministry to the seafarers. Later Mr Kim decided to return to the land of his birth to undertake some theological training in South Korea (think Presbyterian?). They returned to NZ and stayed with us at Papamoa Beach. Sitting at the table, Fred asked Jin ‘what are your plans for the future?’. Jin replied ‘I’m going to start a Seafarers Mission’. Fred was impressed and asked ‘where?’.

Jin: ‘Here at Mt Maunganui. What can you suggest about how, where, etc, and who can help?’.

These words I remember as though I heard them yesterday. Fred replied ‘I know just the man to take you to’. Off the two of them went to the Mount to talk to Rev Ray Coster who said yes to the venture, on a 6mth trial period. The two proceeded to the wharf area to investigate the possibility of finding a building suitable to establish a Seafarers Mission. They discovered (or were directed to) the Northern Roller Mills building which had quite a large area unoccupied & this proved to be very satisfactory, until the time we were asked to vacate (the Harbour Board had need to use this place now) & moved to the existing building, situated at Hull Rd.

Mission Notes

As I remember things – all these years later. After years of driving from our home in Te Puke to the port at Mt Maunganui to visit the ships, it was great to be involved with the establishment of a Seafarers Mission. At that time our group was called the Galilee Mission and it came under the umbrella of the Mt Maunganui Presbyterian Church. The year was 1990.

Pots, pans and crockery etc were bought at local garage sales. It was quite exciting to be involved with this new venture. The Mission was opened daily at 2pm until 9pm. Ship’s crews quickly got to know a game of pool or table tennis could be enjoyed without 50c in the slot. A small shop was set up so that men could buy essentials, especially Cadburys chocolate!

Telecom phone cards were a terrible price in those early days. It could cost $3.80 a minute to the Philippines & $4.40 a minute to Russia, China & India. We volunteers were always very embarrassed to have to sell the phone cards. There was no alternative supplier at that time.

Our Galilee Mission occupied the rear of the Northern Roller Mills building for some years. Then came the day when the N.R.M. vacated the front-area offices and we removed the dividing wall between us and were able to use the whole area, which was fantastic.

Friends unloaded their out-of-date clothing, we went through our wardrobes and we quickly had an op-shop with a difference. Bill Bayly made clothes racks and we had the whole interesting and sometimes motley collection on display in no time at all. Plastic bags filled to overflowing, soon moved out the door to their new home onboard ship.

A chapel was put together, rows of chairs, an organ in the corner, a lectern nearby. Many Sunday p.m. services were taken by the late Rev Herb Khutze. The old red Redemption hymn books did yet another turn. Our old piano, which is still in use today, came from the Mt Maunganui Presbyterian Church.

Many fun times were enjoyed, personally, on Sunday afternoons, when a roast was popped into the Mission oven, wonderful cooking smells wafted thru the entire building and the family arrived to enjoy the meal, the pre-schoolers having great fun with the table-tennis bats. Even Anne Kenny and I ‘the big Mamas’ had great fun playing table-tennis. We often surprised the lads from the ships with our sharp ‘back-handers’.

We set up a book-room, (where) donated books and magazines were available, without cost, for the seafarers. The free service continues to this day. Christian literature was available, in around 33 different languages at that time, from the very beginning. We sent to the Scripture Gift Mission for tracts, which they happily supplied without charge. Regular visits were made to the ships as they anchored nearby. Our men-folk took bundles of the appropriate tracts, according to the individual nationalities of the crews, up the ship’s ladder, when they did their daily visits. In the early times, visitors were not permitted on either Russian or Chinese ships.

(I must) refer to a captain, while not a Christian, recognized the fact that his Filipino crew was much more settled if they had a church service and asked God’s blessing, prior to sailing. We often went up the gangway, complete with piano-accordion and hymn books, to take a service. It always felt a special privilege to go on board.

For some of us, as volunteers, playing shop-keeper was a bit of a challenge – we had to brush up on basic maths. 2 + 2 = 4, nothing has really changed. We as senior-citizens just had to remember those basic facts. We definitely belonged to the ‘Wrinkly Club’ and from our different groups and backgrounds, became great friends and colleagues, all sharing the same aims and aspirations.

Over the years we have been privileged to serve in this amazing mission field and been trusted with pay-packets to bank so that a wife back home would find money in the bank, listened to the sad story of an engineer going home after a year at sea to find that his teenage boys didn’t respect him or have any time to spend with him. He said he couldn’t wait to get back to the ship. He felt he didn’t belong at home.

There was a Chief Engineer who had a message that his brother had died and he came to the Mission as we were closing for the night. Of course we had him come in and talk. Two hours later we were still there listening. Above all, that’s what these lonely people have needed and continue today to need – a friend, far from their homeland, someone who cares and can pray for their safety as they depart, and for God’s blessing on them and theirs.

The family have great memories ...

1. The mad panic to ‘clear the decks’ when Dad arrived home from the office, via the port, with some ship’s crew. He always delayed the coming up the stairs with his visitors, giving us the much-needed minute to grab the washing from the lounge chair and hurl it into the nearest bedroom for folding. Anything else that had been dumped in the living area suddenly disappeared, as if by magic. And the reception committee then rushed to the front door to greet the guests! This was long before cell-phones had arrived. We only knew Dad was visiting a ship before coming home. The visitors were invited to admire the camellias in the front yard, while there was ‘action stations’ upstairs. Those Haar girls sure could move!!

2. It caused great amusement (though we didn’t let it show at the time) when a crew member, who had come to lunch, picked up a bowl of Apricot jam and scoffed the lot!! It was right beside his plate and, being used to having personal side dishes on ship, he presumed it was his alone!

3. The family were so shocked when an Asian crew member picked up his bowl of soup in his left hand, chopsticks in his right hand, and proceeded to make loud slurping noises, quite acceptable in his culture, quite offending to our Kiwi ears. There were lots of things we needed to learn as time went by!

4. The shipping agents soon discovered we volunteers at the Galilee Mission were allies and there to help. A crew member from a Russian ship was taken to Tauranga Hospital with heart problems. A booking was made to fly him back home, but there was a 3-4 day time delay! Could we possibly collect him from hospital, look after him in our home for a few days, until it was time for him to leave NZ. Well, we knew how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Russian, that was all. But we did have a midget English-Russian dictionary about 2½ “ by 1½”!  It was wonderful. I showed Anatole his room when he arrived, patted the bed and pointed to him. He obviously thought I was the Big mama – ‘She who must be obeyed’ – as when I went to call him for dinner, this big 50-year-old was tucked up in bed like an obedient child. We often had a chuckle about that episode!

5. One day the agent rang ‘could we look after 3 Filipinos whose ship was not tying up at the Mount wharf for several hours’? Well, of course we said ‘Yes’ – variety is the spice of life. The agent dropped the 3 weary travellers and bags at the Mission door. They had a a long flight and only wanted to SLEEP. With our interesting assortment of bods coming through the Mission, from pre-schoolers to oldies, in need of a nap, we had very wisely taken a single divan bed down to one of the little side rooms. There were a couple of sofas as well – soon there were happy snoring sounds wafting through the air – surprising other visitors to the Mission for the entire afternoon.

6. A Russian guy jumped ship and tried to get into NZ, and Harold & Anne took him home for 3 months. Took him to Hamilton Immigration, etc, etc. He was also called Anatole.

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