The Rotary Club of Richmond Hill recently welcomed Chaplain Andrew E.V. Krey, executive director of Maritime Bethel at Savannah and pastor at Bible Lutheran Church in Rincon.
Krey gave a presentation about the human cost of the economic success of the Port of Savannah. He explained how the port, like many other ports across the world, keeps seafarers hidden from society and that they are forgotten as they enter the ports that are locked behind secure gates with strict security. Ships dock far away from everyday people and places, and seafarers are in Savannah only for 6-12 hours.
Having only seen water and industrial ports with no natural beauty for weeks on end, the seafarers who are allowed to leave ship are keen to get their feet onto solid ground and get away from the port. More than 1,300 large container ships entered the port of Savannah last year with an average 19 seafarers per ship.
To ship owners, seafarers are just another expense and an overhead. Krey pointed out that they are not paid by rank, but by the average wage in their home country. An able seaman from Norway is paid around $6,500 a month, while a counterpart from the Philippines gets $1,300 a month and one from parts of Africa receives $322 a month. Krey pointed out that few seafarers from Norway enter our ports.
He explained that Bethel, which literally means “house of God” in Hebrew, is used to describe a chapel for seafarers. The worldwide Bethel faith-based nonprofit organization that includes advocacy and spiritual, physical and emotional support began in 1817 in Liverpool, England. Krey asked Rotary guests from the Richmond Hill High School to display the Bethel flag, which is one of only four allowed to fly above the United States flag, and this is allowed by another 41 countries across the world.
There are 539 Bethels across the world and, like all of them, Maritime Bethel at Savannah’s mission is to provide personal and practical support to seafarers who come into port. Krey explained that seafarers want three things: to get off the ship, make contact with home and have someone to pray with and bless them. Chaplains also will go aboard container ships to help seafarers whose turn it is to stay on board at each port.
The Savannah Bethel is in Garden City, just outside the gates of the huge container terminal, and provides a sanctuary in a 5-acre park-like setting offering seafarers free Internet, private international phone booths and the opportunity to just relax, shower, do laundry or enjoy time away from their daily reality. Seafarers are met by vans to take them shopping, to the Bethel or, for example, to doctor appointments. The costs of special vans for transport and maintaining these free services are huge. For more information, or to make donations, go to www.maritimebethelatsavannah.org.
Krey then turned to the Savannah debut of “The Last Supper” from April 13-15 which will be presented by the Maritime Ministry Players at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church in Savannah. This 80-minute musical-theatre presentation is a musical interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper.” Although a professional composer and lyricist/author worked on this musical enactment, the entire production is based on an original concept by Krey.
All proceeds from the production will go to charities like The Maritime Bethel of Savannah, Habitat for Humanity, The Wesley Community Centers and Mission on the Move. Local businesses at the Rotary meeting, Ameris Bank, McDonald’s, Megateeth Fossils, Michael Roberts Construction and Savannah Bank pledged to support this event. Many Rotarians bought tickets in support.
Krey was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a German-speaking family. After attending Northeastern University in Boston, where he majored in history, he went to sea on American-flagged super oil tankers, working in the steward’s departments. The Boston Seaman’s Friend Society and the American Seaman’s Friend Society recruited him from the ships to go to graduate school to work in maritime ministry. Krey graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa., in 1976 and presided at Holy Communion for the first time July 4, 1976, in Bristol, Conn. After serving as a Navy Reserve chaplain for 20 years, including six years in submarines, he completed his last active-duty assignment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he used the original version of “The Last Supper” to help detainees learn English.
Before the church transferred him to the Port of Savannah in 2007, Krey served as the director of chaplaincy for the Ports of New York, New Jersey and Southern New England.
“The Last Supper” will be performed at 3 p.m. April 13, and at 8 p.m. April 15 at 1008 E. Henry St. at Waters Avenue in Savannah. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets for the show only are $15 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets for dinner and the show Tuesday are $30 and $25, respectively.
To buy tickets or for more information, go to maritimebethelatsavannah.org or call 912-826-0206.