Seafarers Ministry reaches people from around the world with the gospel, no passport required.


Jeff Johnson grips a rope rail and walks up the gangplank of Balsa 89, a cargo ship docked for the day in Port Canaveral, Florida. Seven thousand tons of road salt is being conveyed from the ship’s hold to a tall mound on dry ground. Johnson looks up, and the crew waves from the deck. After many days at sea, they are anxious to greet this guest from terra firma. Once inside the galley, Johnson unzips his backpack and begins to stack phone cards and magazines along with Bibles, evangelistic tracts, and In Touch Messengers on the table.
Mark and Jeanie Wodka in front of the ministry building.

Johnson is a Seafarers chaplain, serving with one of the more than 30 unaffiliated Seafarer ministries in ports across the United States. These ministers offer physical and spiritual support to cruise and cargo ship personnel as they dock and come ashore to shop, reconnect with the world outside, and rest. Today is Johnson’s first contact with Balsa 89’s new crew, which is composed of 19 men from the Philippines. The captain takes an immediate interest in the Messengers. Johnson explains that these devices have an audio New Testament and biblical lessons in Tagalog, the most widely spoken language in the Philippines. The captain is pleased. “When you hear it,” he says, “you can memorize easy.”

A crew member uses one of the many private carrels to phone family back home.

The ship’s chief officer eyes the items Johnson has placed on the table and asks, “Do you have a Tagalog Bible?” Johnson discovers that this man has been reading an English-language King James Version, but as much as he enjoys it, he’s been missing some of the richer meanings of the text. In fact, he prayed for a translation in his language just that morning. A smile breaks across the officer’s face as Johnson hands over a paperback copy of Scripture in Tagalog. Then the officer gathers up a handful of Messengers and goes to share them with the crew.


When he leaves, Johnson shuttles several crew members—now in shorts and sandals—to the Space Coast Seafarers Ministry, a spacious single-story building about a mile from the docks. Port Canaveral is the second-busiest seaport in the United States, and this Space Coast location sees a steady stream of visitors. The vans outside—with makeshift gold crosses affixed to the front grill—are a welcome sight to weary ocean travelers. Last year, volunteer drivers shuttled 35,000 of them from the port. The Seafarers also provide hot food, computers and Wi-Fi, and a ride into town for shopping. Sundays keep them the busiest, with about 200 people entering the doors. “It’s a complete ministry,” says Johnson. “We don’t charge them anything.”

Balsa 89 crewmen relax on the bridge.


People from over 80 countries are greeted by a team of domestic missionaries, mostly volunteers, who are honored to serve Christ by welcoming the stranger. And when these visitors from many far-flung places return to Port Canaveral, they are strangers no more. “We really want to work one-on-one,” says Johnson, “so we can build a relationship that goes past sharing the gospel and having somebody get saved. We want to disciple as well.”


When the crew of a cargo ship or a cruise liner enters the door of the Seafarers ministry, Jeanie Wodka is there to greet them warmly. She takes the guests on a tour of the facility and listens as they describe their life back home and the languages they speak. Visitors are all led to one of many bookshelves along the walls where they can find Bibles and resources in their heart language.

Daily life for those aboard these ships is an experience of being away from the things they know and the people they love. Jeanie and her husband Mark—the director of the Space Coast Seafarers—can relate: They chose ministry as their life’s work, at one point moving with two small sons to Indonesia, where they shared the gospel with new friends and neighbors.

Jeanie Wodka shows a first-time visitor the day’s shuttle schedule.


In fact, every member of the Seafarers’ team can relate to that sense of loss and unmooring. By using their experiences—uncertainty in a foreign land, hardship in the loss of a job, or loneliness—these believers are able to connect with all who visit. They know that working aboard the ships can be a challenge—endless days at sea, unforgiving contracts, and a life below deck that is fraught with temptation. Promiscuity and substance abuse begin to look like normal behavior, presenting a challenge for even a mature believer. Johnson learned this from someone who experienced it first-hand: A young man who went to sea as a missionary on a cruise line found the environment so oppressive that he barely got through his six-month contract.

Jeff Johnson shares the gospel with visitors.

But the Seafarers also get to witness the wonderful encouragement God brings to the crews through their ministry. Like the musical entertainer who leads a Bible study on his ship and renews himself with visits to his friends at the Seafarers. Or the ship’s cook who is up early every morning, listening to his Messenger. He uses the teaching to help him lead a gathering of believers and unbelievers alike. And recently, from within this group, a Hindu man trusted Christ as Savior.

After the most recent crop of visitors has had a chance to visit the library and check in with relatives back home, Johnson steps to a microphone. “We’re going to go shopping in 29 minutes,” he says, as heads look up from cellphone and computer screens, “but I want to ask you about God, all right?” One man from India tugs at an ear bud, letting it fall limply away as he tries to catch every word. Johnson shares a brief explanation of the gospel and concludes by saying, “Any of us would be happy to talk with you. If you have problems or you’ve got a question, come to us.”

In this sanctuary of gentleness and hospitality, the love of Christ is on display. Each day, staff members and volunteers come prayerfully, following the opportunities God gives them. And when a Christian crew member reports that there isn’t a Bible study on his or her ship, Johnson says, “Here’s the deal: I’m not the Holy Spirit, but ask God to raise up a leader and see what He does.” Inevitably that person will come back, saying that God is leading them to start a group. And Johnson will lean in close, “Tell me what you need. I’m here for you.”


Photography by Stephanie Brunner


Judge torpedoes ban on counseling against same-sex feelings

City tried to dictate speech of licensed therapists

A federal judge has torpedoed the city of Tampa’s attempt to block licensed counselors from helping patients overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.

Similar laws have been defeated in other jurisdictions.

In Tampa, U.S. District Judge William Jung granted summary judgment to Liberty Counsel in its lawsuit against Tampa’s ordinance prohibiting “licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.”

The ruling, which permanently strikes the ordinance, was based on the fact that cities don’t have the authority to regulate health care.

“According to the city, the ordinance regulates medical professionals and ‘part of the practice of medicine’ within the city limits,” the judge said. “The city is unaware of any child every receiving proscribed SOCE [sexual orientation change effort] in the city. The city has never before substantively regulated and disciplined the practice of medicine, psychotherapy, or mental health treatment with city limits. Nor does the city possess charter or home rule authority to do so.”

The ordinance, the judge said, “is preempted by the comprehensive Florida regulatory scheme for healthcare regulation and discipline.”

Liberty Counsel defended marriage and family therapist Robert Vazzo and his minor clients, as well as New Hearts Outreach Tampa Bay.

The judge also noted: “Nothing is more intimate, more private, and more sensitive, than a growing young man or woman talking to a mental health therapist about sex, gender, preferences, and conflicting feelings. The ordinance inserts the city’s code enforcers into the middle of this sensitive, intense and private moment. But this moment is already governed by Florida’s very broad rights of privacy, something the ordinance ignores. … The Florida Constitution’s privacy amendment suggests that government should stay out of the therapy room. The Tampa Ordinance does not address this constitutional issue, and in doing so the city attempts to occupy a very private space, contrary to a strong statewide policy.”

The judge also pointed out the city’s move “eliminates” a “longstanding parental right without discussion or exception.”

Liberty Counsel chief Mat Staver called it a great victory for counselors and clients.

“The city of Tampa has no authority to prohibit counselors from helping their clients achieve their goals,” he said. “Regulating healthcare is above the pay grade of local municipalities. While striking down the ordinance, the court shredded the arguments used to justify these unconstitutional counseling bans. This ruling dooms every municipality in Florida and is the beginning of the end of more than 50 similar local laws around the country. This ruling also shows clearly why the other statewide laws will meet the same fate as Tampa. The First Amendment will wipe away every one of these speech-restrictive laws.”

A magistrate judge, ruling the city’s ban likely violated the First Amendment, recommended to the district court that the ordinance be killed.

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It Is Scientifically Proven that Media Affects You

Word Hid In psalm-119-11

I’ve been writing about the Christian approach to pop culture and entertainment for close to two years now.During that time, I have several times had people claim, either in comments on my writing or in personal discussions, that certain kinds of trash in media, whether it be nudity, profanity, or worldview issues “don’t affect” them.  I find it interesting that people claim that.  Because scientific studies – secular scientific studies, no less – prove that they do.  Allow me to explain.

Social scientists have been studying media affects for several years.  Studies like this became popular as early as the 1920s, when many people, especially parents, were worried about the effects that gangster movies might be having on their children.  There were some errors in the assumptions of some of these early studies, but they paved the way for some truly remarkable studies carried out by a social scientist by the name of Dr. Gerbner.  Dr. Gerbner was originally focused on finding out if violent depictions in television had any impact on people’s behavior (it does, by the way, although not to the radical degree that some claim).  Later, however, he developed a theory that shows unequivocally that entertainment shapes our worldview—media cultivation theory.

A lot of Dr. Gerbner’s research involved children.  These studies did not.  Instead, when studying media cultivation, he studied adults.  What he found was that heavy viewers of television described reality is being very close to the world that is depicted on television.  Light viewers, on the other hand, did not.  This is exactly why Dr. Gerbner said that media “bends, blurs, and blends” our perception of reality, especially because television is not real life.  People aren’t dying for sex three times a day.  Not everyone sleeps around with strangers.  Everyone doesn’t swear one hundred times in two hours.   But because this is what we’re seeing on television, and because it shapes our worldview, then all of a sudden those activities, and especially ones that we might say “aren’t so bad” seem completely acceptable and even good.  This is why Dr. Gerbner said that whoever controls the stories of a culture, controls that culture.

And this isn’t the only study done on media effects that reveals worldview-shaping properties.  Dr. Susan Sarapin, who was once a professor at Purdue University, did a study that revealed that people who watch violent cop dramas such as CSI and Cold Case believed in greater amounts of crime in the real world, especially when compared with people who did not watch those programs.

Even more troubling is the fact that media doesn’t only affect worldview; it affects behavior.  Think I’m wrong?  Then how do you explain the study done in 2008, when researchers found a correlation between time spent viewing sex on TV and pregnancy before age 20?  Or the fact found in NurtureShock (one of the most influential books about parenting ever written, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for six months) that more television watching among kids led to more insults and bullying?  What about Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, who found that violent media makes individuals more likely to respond to frustrating situations in an aggressive manner?

I’ve been saying this for a long time, and yet nobody seems to listen or pay attention.  You cannot keep on saying that media doesn’t affect you because, to be frank, it’s a lie.  The opposite claim, however, that media affects us so deeply that we ought to be very cautious with what we set before our eyes, is not only Biblically sound, but scientifically defensible.


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Safe, Secured, Loved

Oct 5, 2019

In the measure of mess seen in the world, uncertainty has a way of tossing one about.  As waves lifting the vessel to scary heights only to crash back down again are the problems many faces daily.  Circumstances that provoke fear instead of inspiring faith.

The catch all of it is whatever side one spends the most thought in, it has the strongest hold on that life.  If it is one faith, then with one foot in front of the other one will march forward into depths unknown without regard to the thrashing swells of the sea. But if it is in fear, the move forward becomes halted.  Continuing to sail to the other side no longer seems a viable option, thus one cries out as the disciples did, “Master, carest thou not that we perish,” (Mark 4:38)?

Of course, He cares.  He loves you.  You are His and He is riding in the boat of life with you.  He has never abandoned you.  He has never forsaken you.  People are the ones who have allowed the fear and uncertainty around to obscure their view of the Savior.

Refocus on Him.  Imagine His protection covering you as the most indomitable shield.  Thus He is at the helm of your life, speaking, “Peace, be still,” (Mark 4:39).  What comfort that brings to the tossed soul knowing He still has it all in His hands.

So, “Why are ye so fearful,” (Mark 4:40)?

Fearfulness comes from lack of belief.  The storms want us to see things through the lens of the ferocious wind-tossed seas, but Jesus wants us to see them as being subdued already under His dominion and authority.  He wants His people to believe more in the promises of His word than the fearsomeness of the waves.

In Him we are safe, secured, and loved.  Therefore, as the psalmist reminds us:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident,” (Psalm 27:1-3).

In other words, we are safe in Him!

In a baseball game, safe means one has arrived at the base untouched and unhindered.  I can’t promise you that life will never touch you in an attempt to knock you out of the running.  But, riding with Jesus you can still arrive safe.

“Safe, Secured, and Loved!”

‘Man of God’ headband gets linebacker Demario Davis busted, uses platform to glorify God


October 12, 2019   By Israel Matthews —

He used to get in trouble by dishonoring God. Now Demario Davis gets into trouble by honoring Him.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was busted by the NFL with a $7,000 fine for wearing a headband that says, “Man of God,” in a Sept 22 game against the Seattle Seahawks for violating the NFL’s no-personal propaganda policy. The NFL has since reversed the decision on appeal.

“I was a guy headed in the wrong direction fast and God radically changed me,” he told The Increase. “I get to play this wonderful game of football and I’m blessed to do it but my life is so much more than that in God. That’s what I really want people to know about me.”

Growing up without a father figure, Demario looked up to the older, tough guys who were drug dealers and career criminals in his neighborhood.

“They were my heroes,” he proclaimed on a YouTube video. “I wanted to show them that I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to be a bad boy. I just wanted to impress them.”

At 14, he was already using marijuana, alcohol and sex. When he tried to steal a wallet from another kid at school, he got expelled.

“Demario, what have you done?” his mother implored on the phone. “You have messed up your life.”

The quavering voice and deeply troubled emotion from mom shook him.

Still he persisted in sin. He and some friends were breaking into cars and Demario punched a window out. The shattering glass gashed his arm severely. He is still scarred today from the wound. Had the cut slit his wrist, he might have died, he says.

That night he heard an audible voice from God: That’s strike number two. The first strike was you getting kicked out of school. The second strike is you almost killed yourself tonight.

“That scared me to the point that the rest of my junior and senior year, I cleaned up my act.”

While he indulged in devilry on the streets, he excelled in football. As a freshman in high school, he scored 50 touchdowns as a running back.

“I knew then that football was a possible avenue for success for me,” he says.

He won a scholarship to college, but felt like a “small fish in a big pond” who needed to prove himself by drinking, smoking and partying. Stealing groceries at Walmart, he got arrested and landed in jail. He was a freshman and still hadn’t played a single minute of a game — but was at risk of being busted by his coach and possibly sent home with his scholarship rescinded.

He begged his coach for a second chance.

Graciously, he was granted one more opportunity.

That’s when the team’s chaplain fortuitously began to take a personal interest in Demario and share scriptures with him.

Demario had gone to church and knew about the Bible, but the chaplain really opened his eyes to truths that he hadn’t seen clearly before. Specifically, Demario had believed that while he participated in shenanigans, he “had a good heart.”

But the chaplain shattered that deception. “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit,” he said, showing the verses that talk about it.

Then the chaplain explained to Demario that God could give him a new heart.

This is what Demario longed for. So he prayed.

Instantly, he was delivered from alcohol.

Marijuana smoking stopped some time later.

Fornication came to an end a few years later.

Little by little, he tried to submit to God and was becoming a “man of God.”

So he wore the headband “Man of God” and was busted by the NFL.

On Instagram, Demario asked his followers: “Should I continue to wear it, or nah? Should I continue to wear it because of the messaging or would I follow the rule? Which would bring ultimate glory to God?”

A second violation would result in a doubled fine.

Ultimately, he pledged to follow the NFL rule, reasoning that the Bible tells believers to submit to every governing authority. The NFL canceled the fine.

In the meantime, he began selling “Man of God” and “Woman of God” bandanas online, at $25 each, with the proceeds donated to St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson, Miss., where he grew up. So far, $40,000 has been raised. When the NFL handed him back his fine, Demario donated that towards the charity.

“Y’all helped me turn a $7,000 negative into an almost $40,000 positive benefiting people who truly need it!!!” Demario posted on social media. “Do y’all see how that worked?? Let’s gooooo. That’s crazy! Ya’ll are a part of this journey too!! I can’t thank ya’ll enough either.”

Demario is married with four children.

“No matter the case, whether I’m wearing a headband, or whether I’m not wearing a headband, whether I’m talking about a headband, I’m not talking about a headband, I’m always using my platform to glorify God,” Demario said. “And that’s never going to change. Because I believe he’s the one who gave me this platform for that purpose to make his name known. So I’ll always be about that.”

Israel Matthews studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

NFL ‘Man of God’ Demario Davis got in trouble with headband, uses platform to glorify God


Blessings Proceed When We Stop Grumbling!


Oct 10, 2019


I have noticed — Children and youth complain a lot more today than ever before. They think they know a lot more than their elders. Though this has been typical over generations. But what’s new during our time? Excessive information without context.


Remember, as believers we are called to be like Jesus. If we say these elders are failing to be like Jesus then how can we remain strong? The answer is, you’ve already put yourself in a place of backsliding. Some of these children have young counsellors (mentors); the sad part is even these mentors are found constantly complaining against others – Finding fault with the church or leaders.

There are problems, no doubt. No institution will stand tall at the end. Only saints will. The Word of God has already spoken about false teachers and prophets. They will rise from inside churches to distract people from the Word of God.

Make the choice to be the light God has called you to be! We live in an unhealthy competitive world. We should not bring the unhealthy competition of the world into church. We need to care for one another, desire the best for others. Then God will pour His blessings from Zion. May Jesus be found in us all!

Be blessed 💕

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Trusting and Pursuing God is Like Walking The Labyrinth

The process of walking through a labyrinth can quiet the mind. It can connect us to the depths of our being so we can remember who we are.

Trusting and Pursuing God is Like Walking The Labyrinth


My life looks like one big labyrinth. Beautiful in concept. Awe-inspiring from afar. But at a closer look, one finds a series of twists and turns that have no end in sight. Somedays I am excited to see where the path will lead, and other days I am like a stubborn child. My heels dug in, not wanting to take the next step forward. Other days I swear the center is mocking me.

Standing at the beginning of a labyrinth, all you can see is uncertainty.

You can’t fathom the end. You have no idea where the middle is. And have no clue where the twists and turns will take you. Soon you realize there is no short cut to get to the center. Kind of like the journey through healing where feelings of fear and uncertainty rule the process.

The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that represents wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and spiral into a purposeful path. Unlike a maze where many choices must be made to find the end, a labyrinth has only one option. The option to enter or not. Once in, the path takes you to the center and then back out again. All you have to do is have trust and keep going.

Ha! “All you have to do.” Trust. Keep going. Is that all?

The thought of even entering has me running the other way! Trust does not come easy to me and “keep going” is hard when all I want to do is lay down and give up.

And going to the center of yourself is scary! Heck, there are some days I don’t like to look in the mirror in fear of what’s staring back, let alone journey to the center of my being and settling there for a while. Or at times, avoiding the center all together in fear of what I would find there.

What if I find something I don’t want!

Or worse.

Find something I forgot I longed for.

The process of walking through a labyrinth quiets the mind and opens the soul. It connects us to the depths of our being so we can remember who we are. Through our choices, other people’s actions, hurt or trauma our identity may be lost, forgotten or abandoned. But this healing process reminds us that at our center is our true identity. An identity made in the image of God.

Colossians 3:10 ESV “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

God will be there with us.

Walking with us during the journey of healing and carrying us when we want to lay down and give up.

Scripture tells us “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Take note through your journey of healing that a power higher than you is with you. Guiding you forward. There may be stops, pauses or full-on sprints but know God is with you along the way. To restore you to your true self at the center of your being. Just trust and keep on going.

Question from Jennifer Swets, the author.

In what area of your life do you need to trust God more?



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