Leah Frazier jokes that she told God she wouldn’t be afraid to share the gospel wherever He sent her — and then she saw the size of the ships docked at the port near her home in New Orleans.
Frazier volunteers with Global Maritime Ministries, an organization that reaches out to seafarers on the 6,000 ships that dock in the lower Mississippi River each year.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they would pick people up from the ships and bring them to their ministry center where they could relax, use Wi-Fi, share a meal or play games. GMM personnel might also take them to local stores to do some shopping.
And always they would share the gospel and offer prayer and Bible studies.
But when the pandemic hit, seafarers were no longer allowed to leave their ships while they were in the port. So that meant chaplains and volunteers from GMM had to go to them.
And that meant Frazier had to climb the gangway up the massive ships.
“It’s super intimidating, I’m not going to lie,” she said.
But it’s an important moment when it comes to gospel ministry, Frazier said. “That first interaction once you reach the ship can be such a gateway into how the whole ship responds.”
On her last trip out to the ships, Frazier climbed the gangway with chaplain Stephen McKinney and said he was “really excited because this ship seemed familiar, but he couldn’t remember exactly why.”
When they got to the top, a man named James greeted them, and McKinney instantly remembered that he had shared the gospel with James the last time he saw him and he had become a believer in Jesus.
“They were just rejoicing,” Frazier said. “It was incredible. It was such a sweet moment.”
Another GMM chaplain, Adam McCarty, was able to lead three more seamen to faith in Christ recently after delivering pizza to the ship.
He baptized them on the deck of their ship, a testimony to other people aboard who were watching.
This year, GMM has made contact with more than 1,200 seafarers from 26 countries, presented the gospel more than 120 times and given away more than 280 Bibles in different languages. They’ve seen 12 people profess new faith in Christ.
Frazier said it’s amazing to see God work through GMM, a ministry that’s dear to her heart. It was the last place she and her husband, Adrian, were able to volunteer together before he died in 2019 from brain cancer.
Originally from Alabama, Adrian grew up at Trinity Baptist Church, Scottsboro, and Leah grew up at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa.
They met at the University of North Alabama and were serving in youth ministry at Leighton Baptist Church before moving to New Orleans to attend seminary.
Season of grief
Not too long after he graduated, they found out he had an aggressive form of cancer. “Obviously that has been devastating,” Frazier said. “We were going to spend our lives serving the Lord together.”
She wasn’t sure what she would do next, and the path ahead would have a few more bumps. But she says in that crushing season of grief, God gave her “an embarrassment of riches.”
Her church — Edgewater Baptist, New Orleans — came alongside her and supported her. She got a new job at a running store, something she loved — she and Adrian were both marathoners. And when she started considering getting a dog for companionship, she won a golden doodle through an Instagram drawing.
“The Lord has been so gracious to care for me,” Frazier said.
And GMM holds sweet memories. The ministry center “was the last place Adrian and I served outside of the church together,” she said.
“We went and made Trader Joe’s spaghetti, and someone else made cake. [The seafarers] were so grateful and kind. I’ll always treasure Global Maritime Ministries.”
The Port of New Orleans brings the nations right to her city, she said.
She asked for prayer for their continued ministry to seafarers and encouraged anyone who wants to be a part of their prayer ministry to set an alarm for 10:02 a.m. or p.m. with Luke 10:2 in mind — to pray for more laborers for the harvest.
She also asked for prayer for Global Fest, an online auction that will start July 30 at noon and end Aug. 9 at 1 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the port ministry.