In the 1700s pastors began to visit the sailors on the tall-masted sailing ships in the Port of London. They would row out to the ships and hold worship services with the crews. In time a ship in the harbor was actually transformed into a church. Then the crew members from the ships anchored in port could attend services on the water. This was the beginning of seafarers ministry. In the US seafarers ministry has been going on in places like New York City and New Orleans for the past 50 years. Although there were individuals and groups that reached out to the international crew members of Port Canaveral in the 1990s the official history of the Space Coast Seafarers Ministry didn’t begin until 1997.
That year a retired couple, Bill and Emily Richard, from Live Oak, Florida came to offer their experience, talents and time to begin a ministry at Port Canaveral. Following the leadership of the Brevard Baptist Association Director of Missions Harold Brantley and its executive committee the Baptist churches stepped out by faith to begin the Space Coast Seafarers Ministry. Bill and Emily prayed and developed relationships in the port and in churches. They began to visit cargo ships and in time gained permission to minister on cruise ships. They passed out Bibles and tracts and magazines. They shared the love of Jesus with hundreds of seafarers in dozens of ways. They were able to obtain a van and an office. They provided phones and a computer for crew use. They shared their vision in worship services, prayer meetings, Sunday school classes, mission meetings and banquets across the county and many joined with them through their prayers and financial support.
After two years the Richards had laid the foundation and built a healthy ministry. They felt they had completed what the Lord had called them to do. They asked the Association to find someone to take over the ministry. Brevard Baptists then called Dan Bailey to come serve as the full time director/chaplain. A year later the ministry purchased and renovated a 4,000 square foot former Post Office building for a hospitality center. They hired a part time and then full time assistant for the ministry. We are currently have 3 full-time and 1 part-time staff members, over 90 volunteers, 4 vans, provide 20 phones to seafarers, 20 computers and WiFi for 150 personal devices to connect to the internet on a busy day. This ministry touches thousands of international seafarers from over 80 different countries each year.