By Ted Richardson
A FEW weeks ago, a seafarer was medevacked off a ship.
He was diagnosed with the late stages of leukaemia. His outcome is uncertain.
A shipping company brought his wife, Divine, out from the Philippines to help build his spirits.
Our pastoral care team has spent a great deal of time working with Divine and her husband Armando at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Rosie Jones, a Filipino staff member of the Apostleship of the Sea, was the primary person helping Divine with her hospital visits and with her emotional needs.
Recently, Divine lost her father-in-law, Armando’s father, who died back in the Philippines, adding to the trauma that the family was going through.
Capuchin Father John Spiteri went to the hospital to anoint Armando, as his condition worsened and he was placed in intensive care.
At the same time this was happening, our Rosie was heading back to the Philippines for a 10-day break with her husband and son and to reunite with her own family.
On Friday, February 5, Rosie phoned our Brisbane office from the Philippines to say that she had arrived safely and was waiting in Manila Airport for her flight to Mindanao, about two hours later.
If you have ever been to Manila Airport, there are thousands of people swarming through the terminal, catching planes to various destinations and it is one of the busiest airports in the world.
I suggested to Rosie that she go and have a cup of coffee to fill in the time before her flight.
A mere 30 minutes later, Rosie called again but this time she was in tears.
I asked what was wrong? Had they cancelled the flight? Had she lost her luggage? All sorts of problems raced through my mind.
Then she told me her story.
While she was having her coffee, a young Filipino woman sat down beside her and asked.
“Have you come in from abroad or are you just waiting for a plane to go home?”
Rosie replied, “I have just flown in from Australia.” The young lady said, “From where?” Rosie told her, “Brisbane”. And the young girl said, “I have a brother in Brisbane.”
The conversation went on and it turned out that this young lady was the sister of Armando.
She knew he was in hospital and that his wife had gone to Australia to be with him, but did not know much about what had happened to him. Rosie had photographs in her phone of both Armando and his wife and was able to show her.
Rosie got her phone number and texted her all of the photos, so that she could show the rest of the family at the father’s funeral. Our pastoral care does not usually reach out quite this well. It needs the help of the Holy Spirit, to put us in the right place at the right time.
So when I say that God works in mysterious ways and you look at the many tens of thousands of people passing through a major airport at that particular time on that day, the fact that you come together with a family member of a very ill seafarer, what other explanation could you possibly come up with?
If you are going to say sheer luck, the odds would have to be in the trillions to one.
Ted Richardson is the director of Stella Maris Apostleship of the Sea Brisbane, a ministry of Centacare Brisbane.