From Samoan ships to a Bournemouth supermarket, Poole’s new port chaplain has a long history of offering people compassion and support.
Christopher Evans, 67, lives in Christchurch with his wife Judy.
The couple has travelled the world to support seafarers in a variety of faraway ports.
Since April, Christopher has been ship visiting in Poole for Sailors’ Society, a charity he first became involved with in 2004.
With a background in collaborative fisheries management around the world with fishing operators, in both small and large-scale fisheries, it is appropriate that Christopher volunteers his time supporting seafarers and fishermen.
After finishing a PhD, Christopher and Judy moved to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
“It was amazing and very productive, but not very safe for Judy,” he said.
During his time there, Christopher was shipwrecked in the Torres Strait while researching lobster and sea cucumbers.
“It was about a 60 mile trip and very choppy,” Christopher said.
“We came into the pier too fast and the boat’s engine wouldn’t shut off and the bottom of the boat hit the pier, leaving us all in the water.
“The officer in the front went straight over the bow and in between the rusty old pier. He was ok but I wanted to make sure of that so swam the last few yards.”
“It was quite an adventure.”
After a career in marine biology and ecology and fisheries research and management at Papua New Guinea and American Samoa, Christopher had a change of direction and studied a BA in Applied Theology at Moorlands College in Christchurch.
He and Judy were co-directors of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention’s seafarers’ centre in American Samoa’s Pago Pago port.
Christopher said: “We helped many people during our time there – fishermen and seafarers who had been stranded, abandoned, not paid and even physically abused.”
From American Samoa, Christopher and Judy moved to Canada’s Vancouver Island where they worked with port missionaries going on board merchant ships docking in the ports.
Following this, Christopher served as a lay pastoral worker for five years for Bournemouth Methodist Circuit, visiting elderly housebound members of the community.
He was involved in setting up the churches together chaplaincy at Asda in Castlepoint, which has been going for eight years and provides a prayer box and chaplaincy to people visiting the store and staff working there.
Once again, Christopher was called back to port chaplaincy and he and Judy relocated to Honolulu Harbour in Hawaii, where they helped set up a seafarers’ church and ministry, which continues today.
Christopher said: “While I was in Honolulu, a Filipino seafarer based there told me about his daughter, who needed an operation to remove an ovarian tumour. My colleague in the Philippines visited the seafarer’s family and Sailors’ Society loaned the seafarer money and gave him a financial grant, to help with his daughter’s medical bills.
“Thankfully, she made a full recovery.
“We, and collaborating groups from local churches, became a family away from home for fishermen and seafarers based at the port,” Christopher said.
In December 2016, Christopher and Judy returned home to Bournemouth and, thanks to Poole Harbour Commissioners, he began ship visiting at Poole Port for Sailors’ Society earlier this year.
“The charity has given me a lot of good support,” said Christopher.
He loves visiting ships to meet the seafarers arriving in Poole.
“I’ll go on board with an atlas and ask where they’re from and ask about their family.
“It’s a good way to have some fellowship and talk about things other than their work.
“I’ll offer them a prayer too; I’ve said a few prayers already in my time at Poole.”
Christopher takes newspapers on board in the seafarers’ native languages and shares the charity’s free Wellness at Sea app with them.
“The work, visiting seafarers and providing them with help, is rewarding – I love doing it.”
Jim Stewart, CEO of Poole Harbour Commissioners, said: “With over 1.6 million men and women across the world away at sea, many for months at a time, port chaplains provide a lifeline for seafarers by providing practical, emotional and spiritual support to an often forgotten group. We are delighted to welcome Christopher to the Port of Poole and look forward to working with him.”