Ian Hutchinson-Cervantes

Ian Hutchinson-Cervantes

Ian Hutchinson-Cervantes – Mission to Seafarers

Ian (left) pictured on board with two seafarers

Ian, together with his wife Raffy and their youngest son, Tomas, arrived in Panama in Autumn 2018 to establish from scratch the first Mission to Seafarers chaplaincy on one of the most important sea routes in the world. 

God has been amazingly gracious as He has opened doors and enabled this new ministry to grow rapidly in the ports at both ends of the Canal, such that seafarers are being visited, supported and blessed as they pass through.  Whether it is simply some shopping or a local SIM card, or pastoral support, or a communion service or practical advice and advocacy in dealing with employers or bureaucracy – the seafarers receive what they need, given in the love of Jesus.

Covid has of course been a particular challenge, yet there has been a recognition by the authorities of how important this ministry is and, apart from a break during the first wave of Covid, ship visiting has been able to continue and grow.  

The pandemic has led to a significant erosion of seafarers’ rights and quality of life.  For example, the cancellation of Shore Leave (officially to reduce the risk of contracting Covid while ashore) and companies invoking contract clauses that enable them to extend contracts at short notice means that seafarers can find themselves confined to their vessels for 12 or more months.  It is difficult for us to imagine what that feels like but this impacts on mental/spiritual health and family life in dramatic and, at times, tragic ways.

Mission to Seafarers is a vital connection for thousands of seafarers who are away from home for months and do not always have the best of conditions or treatment and can feel very alone and vulnerable.  

Ian, Raffy and Tomas live on the edge of Panama City on the Pacific end of the Canal and have really settled into local life – being helped by being fluent Spanish speakers and already knowing South and Central America well.  Panama is a beautiful country with a very rich wildlife – hummingbirds and iguanas are regular visitors to the garden!