Hundreds of years ago, European missionaries sailed by ship into South Africa to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and distribute Bibles to Africans.   

While the world has changed and many missionaries travel by car, bus and airplane to minister to souls in different regions and countries, this past January the OM Ship carrying a crew of 350 missionaries from 70 nations arrived at the Richards Bay’s port in the Eastern Cape in South Africa for their five-month ministry stay. They are currently stationed at five South African ports and are expected to complete their work in June. 

Approximately 80 per cent of South Africans are Christians. Therefore, the crew’s purpose is to inspire and mobilize local Christians to serve in different parts of the world, especially to those groups who have not been exposed to Christianity. The ship arrived on the African continent in August 2023. By December, they were in Mozambique.

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The crew have organized cultural, educational and motivational events on board and on land. They also conduct vision tests for people in nursing homes, provide glasses and supply water filtration systems to certain organizations. 

Upon arrival in South Africa, the crew was amazed to witness a maritime pilot boarding a ship via helicopter, not at all a typical situation. 

The OM Ship is led by Capt. Christian Montaner, 44, who hails from Chile. He told Religion Unplugged: “Since all harbour pilots are experts in their field, we always conduct operations with harbour specialists from around the world. Boarding a ship through a boat before docking at the port is a normal situation for any [harbour] pilot. However, boarding a ship via helicopter was not a normal situation. The helicopter-assisted arrival at Richards Bay became another memorable arrival operation for me. It is something I will not forget.”

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Montaner said he has been serving as a missionary for the past eight years. Asked why he chose to be a missionary, especially captain of the OM Ship, Montaner replied, “I did not choose what I am doing; I just prayed.”

When he was young, Monatner said he had a close relationship with his grandmother, a regular supporter of missionary work at her church. Whenever he visited her, he used to read prayer letters from missionaries in her house.

“One day, a missionary from OM Ships came to my grandmother's church,” he recalled. “This missionary had always sent her prayer letters, and one day, a postcard from the ship was attached as well. My grandmother put the postcard on the wall of her house and began praying for the ship. Every time I visited her house, I started praying while looking at the prayer letters and ship pictures. Looking back, I believe those times of prayer were within God's plan.”

During his third year at a maritime school, a significant event occurred: His mother died from cancer. 

“I wandered for three years after her death. The absence of my mother, who had always encouraged me to live a life of prayer and reading the Bible, was immense, and my relationship with God was merely traditional,” he added. “During that time, I had to sail on a tanker ship. In the midst of confusion, I prayed to God during the silent voyage, ‘Lord, reveal yourself to me! Show me who you are.’ In the wrestling moments, I felt that God was starting something new within me, so I quit my job and returned to our home in Chile. Other family members were naturally surprised at my decision to quit my job and return.”

He called OM Ship Chile and surprisingly, he was connected to a missionary who had previously received support from his grandmother.

“Everything felt not coincidental, and from that moment, I joined OM Chile and boarding the Logos Hope II ship became the beginning of my OM ship story,” Montaner said.

Anastasiia Leushkina, who was born in Russia, serves as the ship’s media relations officer. She said the ship is “an extraordinary way to attract the attention of local residents, build relationships and fulfill our vision on board, which is sharing knowledge, help and hope with the world.

"Personally, I aspire to inspire and encourage local Christians to uncover their gifts and talents and use them for the glory of God,” she added. “The goal is to impact lives positively, motivate them to move toward their dreams and God's plans for them, not just living an ordinary life but fully fulfilling what God has called them to do.”

Meanwhile, the crew — including the housekeeping team — makes sure everything is running smoothly on board.

Ana Costa, a native of Brazil, leads the team as part of the Hotel Services Department. Her responsibilities, she said, include overseeing the maintenance of cleaning-related machinery and chemical items.

“While working in the hotel services department, I spent a significant amount of time cleaning and organizing to serve others,” she said. “Some may question why I do this kind of job of cleaning, but I want to say that even these small tasks are a way of serving God. I used to overlook the missionary perspective in small tasks, but through the ship, I am personally learning many new things I have never considered before. The ‘Work as a Mission’ mindset brings me closer to God through every task.”

Vicky Abraham is an investigative journalist based in South Africa and has reported for the Mail & Guardian, City Press, Assist News, the Nation newspaper in Nigeria and Nation Media Group in Kenya.