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The port has been blessed

About 50 people gathered at the Lake Superior Maritime Museum last week to attend a "Blessing of the Port" service that was conducted by the Twin Ports Ministry to Seafarers. The importance of Lake Superior and the Port of Duluth-Superior to the regional and national economy was stressed, as well as how the port connects Duluth-Superior to the rest of the world. Doug Paulson, a campus minister and a board member of The Seafarers Center, played the acoustic guitar. Prayers were offered by Tom Anderson, director of The Seafarers Center; Betty Starkey, council chairwoman of the Presbytery of Northern Waters; and Robyn Weaver, pastor of Glen Avon Church and also a Seafarers board member.

It seemed that everyone whose feet touched Duluth was somehow included in the blessing. Here is an excerpt: "For all who provide fuel, ship- and engine supplies, for those who control pests, for the lift bridge operators, for those who publicize vessel arrival and activity, for trade journalists and for harbor cruise employees, marine museum staff and for gift shops and port city business owners, for all retired from active service, Gracious God, we thank you...we ask you to bless us."

Diane Hilden was one of the attendees. She first became interested in the shipping industry through photography. She would take photos of the ships at the Lift Bridge and visit the Maritime museum, and found it difficult to photograph Duluth without becoming interested in the shipping industry. Soon, Hilden became acquainted with Adele Yorde, public relations manager of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, and found herself attending the Propeller Club, a club dedicated to the enhancement and wellbeing of all interests of the maritime community on a national and international level.

Suzanne Kunze and Joanne Blyler also attended the blessing. The two women volunteer their time at The Seafarers Center. Blyler said that many of the crew members are men from Latin America, the Philippines or India, who are working to help their families out of poverty. "They're lonely," said Blyler, "They need a little ground time." The Center board members and volunteers will often visit one-on-one with the men. Director Tom Anderson said that one of the most touching moments was when The Seafarers Center helped Victor, a crew worker from Uruguay, to see his infant for the first time, via Skype. The Center will also often arrange for shopping trips for some of the crew; some crew members are allowed off of the ships, others are not.

Doug Paulson, the minister who played the acoustic guitar during the blessing and also a Center board member, said of the port, "This is the main lifeblood...we see that we are going to be a hospitable place." He spoke of the fun of getting

to know crew

members, such as Victor from Uruguay, and then seeing them again a few months later.

Often, when crew members are preparing for their time working aboard a ship, perhaps for as long as nine months, they are thinking about how to save money for their families, and not about items they may need, such as winter coats or caps. This is where volunteers from The Seafarers Center can assist them, by providing low-cost telephone calling cards, phone calls/internet to home, fellowship at the Center, gently used warm clothing, friendly conversation, prayer and worship opportunities, and a caring presence. Volunteers sometimes take crew members shopping for coats, and some churches have knitters who donate caps.

If you would like to volunteer with The Seafarers Center, contact Tom Anderson at 218-727-5897, 218-390-1704,, or at 2024 West Third Street, Duluth, MN 55806.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at