Shipwrecked—yet full steam ahead

Julie Knox | Ships

First floated as the stuff of dreams, by 1988, Logos had visited 408 ports in 108 countries. OM’s pioneering vessel had hosted six and a half million people, and been joined by a sister ship—Doulos—which extended the ministry’s reach. While Doulos visited Asia, Logos was making her first tour of Latin America.

Besides serving in the onboard book fair and evangelistic events, crewmembers went ashore to connect with churches and join relief efforts. A two-year experience matured young Christians, as they lived and worked in a confined space as part of a multicultural ‘family’. They brought back a broader world view and inspiring stories of seeing God at work on their travels.

Key partners enabled the ships, through prayer and practical support. Faithful individuals sent sponsorship, maritime fees were waived as gestures of goodwill, and gifts came from churches the work had touched. OM Ships had a wake that rippled far and wide. That support proved to be the ministry’s mainstay. On 4 January 1988, Logos struck a submerged rock shelf in the Beagle Channel, between Argentina and Chile.

The notoriously hazardous channel is littered with obstructions. Providing local knowledge as Logos weaved through in a storm was an Argentine pilot, but he chose to return to his own boat earlier than agreed. Transferring the pilot by rope ladder in the dark took time. Logos drifted off course and couldn’t avoid the rocks.

A loud grinding noise and jarring movements woke the community. It was midnight. Assembling in the dining room, they were told not to panic. They prayed. The eight children were allowed back to bed, provided they slept in warm clothing with life jackets on hand. Attempts to reverse Logos off the rock shelf didn’t succeed, nor did de-ballasting and waiting for the rising tide to refloat the ship.

That wait brought daylight—an undoubted lifesaver. But Logos had tipped dangerously to the port side. Sending everyone to stand on the starboard side didn’t correct the list. Being pounded against the rocks with each wave, Logos’ hull began to give way. Water flooded the book hold. At 5:00, Captain Jonathan Stewart (UK) gave the order to abandon ship.

“Although it was scary, I still had peace,” said Kathy Coy (USA). “I know it was only God’s grace that kept us calm.” Testimonies reiterate that even the children, who included a six-week-old baby, were not fretful. Judith Fredricsen (New Zealand) was in the ship’s clinic with one leg in a plaster cast. She remembered everyone working together and caring for each other.

They slid along the deck in freezing rain and grappled with lifeboats hanging at perilous angles. Everything on board—­uninsured cargo and personal possessions—was forsaken for what really mattered. Logos’ community of 141 was clear of the vessel in 10 minutes, and all six lifeboats were rounded up in less than half an hour. Rescue teams from the Chilean Navy called it a miracle that all souls got to safety. One young man rejoiced that he hadn’t even missed a meal.

OM Ships’ coordinator, Dale Rhoton (US), wrote later, “The thought that kept me sane during those trying days after the shipwreck was: ‘The valuables are safe!’ Not one of the 141 valuables was hurt in the least. People familiar with evacuations under similar circumstances are amazed. We bow our heads and worship.”

Looking back from the lifeboats, the stunned Logos family saw a rainbow streaming over the wreck.

Replacing a tool, not a ministry

News of the loss of the ship was broadcast across the world, and an outpouring of support surged back. Shipping agents and book publishers wrote in sympathy. Individuals, churches and charities offered whatever was needed. In Punta Arenas, Chile, the people Logos had ministered to two weeks earlier now fed, clothed and comforted her crew.

Money was donated to meet immediate needs and cover the cost of flying people home or to another OM ministry. No one expected $1.4 million US to come in within eight weeks. International partners clearly intended there to be a Logos II.

A letter accompanying one of the first contributions, $13.17 US from young siblings in Georgia, USA, read: “It may not buy a ship, but it is a start.”

On board Youth With A Mission’s hospital ship, Anastasis, volunteers took up a solidarity offering. They faxed a note, drawing encouragement from a parallel shipwreck in Scripture, where the Apostle Paul’s vessel runs aground: “Acts 27—no loss of life—used for good. With you all the way in Jesus’ name.”

Japanese Christians gave $10,000 USD and began searching dockyards for a replacement ship. Brazilians sold jewellery and a freezer, forwarding the proceeds. Venezuelans donated cows for a fundraising barbeque.

An American pastor marvelled, “Perhaps, for the first time, I have seen how God’s people on every continent can rally to meet a common need.” 

Dale Rhoton wrote to supporters: “Our last video was entitled Logos is People. We really believe that! We have not lost a ministry. We have lost a tool. People are irreplaceable. Ministries are given only by God. Tools are to be used and then replaced… We commit ourselves to pray and work to replace the tool that was lost. The Logos was not lost through rusting in a port. She fell in battle! Our plans: FULL STEAM AHEAD!”

The time for a more capable tool was coming anyway. Logos’ activities were outgrowing the space available, and refurbishment was needed. While 1988 brought a serious trial, God did indeed use it for good. OM saw how the Ship Ministry was valued, globally, and was enabled to launch a better vessel the following year.

To this day, the original Logos offers a service to seafarers. Still on the rocks at almost the end of the Earth, she acts a warning beacon. Her successor has since been scrapped and her sister ship has retired, but Logos continues her witness at sea, three decades on.

Julie Knox, from the UK, is the writer for OM Ships, having been called to the ministry out of a career in broadcast journalism. In 2016, she hung up her microphone and body armour but found that her previous experience of reporting from warships could be used during a stint at sea as Logos Hope’s journalist. Julie is now shore-based, working from the ship ministry’s office in Germany.

Published: Monday, 17 April 2017
Credit: Julie Knox
© 2017 OM International This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The OM ships visit port cities throughout the world, supplying vital literature resources, encouraging cross-cultural understanding, training young people for more effective life and service, providing needed relief and sharing a message of hope in God wherever there is opportunity.

Since 1970, OM’s ships have visited over 470 different ports in more than 140 nations around the globe. On average, over one million visitors are welcomed on board every year!

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