We Are Church Together

Seafarers International House

Seafarers International House

The Rev. Marsh Luther Drege, executive director

MISSION: Seafarers International House (SIH) is the Lutheran response to the urgent needs of vulnerable seafarers and immigrants. SIH offers hospitality, social assistance, and advocacy to a multi-national and multi-faith community in maritime ports on the Eastern Seaboard and in New York City.


We Are Resilient TOGETHER


Dear Friends of Seafarers Interna­tional House (SIH):
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the wa­ters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; for I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:2-3
Haven’t we all felt overwhelmed this past year? And yet, you have helped us weather the storm caused by the pandemic, with your overwhelming support ... this imperfect storm that disrupted the lives of so many of us, as well as those often unseen seafar­ers during the crew change crisis and invisible asylum seekers detained in jail-like facilities, while the immigration process ground to a halt.
You, our supporters, expressed com­passion for seafarers and immigrants during the time of crisis by increasing contributions significantly. When we had to cancel our major fundraiser, the 2020 Setting the Course Banquet, in­dividuals, shipping industry partners and unions decided to send dona­tions instead of buying tickets, so that our six port chaplains could continue to visit ships, which some likened to “float­ing prisons” because travel bans made crew changes impossible for most.
Spring was financially disastrous as we had to stop operating the guesthouse, which typically subsidizes our mission with about 75% of total income. Trag­ically, we had to part with our guest­house staff, first hoping to rehire them in the summer, then by the end of De­cember. Saving our organization when our services are needed most, we re­ceived a “gift” in the form of a respite organization (Comunilife) that leased our space from April to July to attend to community members recovering from COVID-19. With that blessing, we were able fulfill our continuing mission to seafarers and immigrants, while contributing the health insurance of the laid-off staff members throughout the year. And all through the pandem­ic, we have been able to house seafar­ers in a midtown hotel, now temporarily known as “SIH relocated.”
The Right of Asylum Online Advocacy Event was a great way to reach new friends—over 100 people attended all across the nation, with over 2,000 seeing it on social media in the days after. Many participated in lobbying against new asylum rules and sent contributions to support our work with asylum seekers.
When senior groups, businesses, and congregations could not meet in person to assemble Christmas-at-Sea satchels, they contributed financially and assembled satchels in their homes and, in the end, showed 2,080 seafarers during the Christmas season that their sacrifices are appreciated.
We have been overwhelmed by the gifts of “imperfect storm weatherers” like you who enabled us to serve almost 20,000 people in the ports and at SIH relocated, where we now provide lodging and social work assistance.
We thank the amazing individuals, congregations, synods, foundations, shipping industry partners and unions who helped us through the tempest of 2020 and who prepared a solid ground for 2021, during which we will continue our service to seafarers in the ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey and CT, and housing seafarers and asylum seekers who are beginning to re-emerge after the lockdown.
We are overwhelmed by your support. If you would like to learn more about our ministry, watch the 5-minute video on our home page: www.sihnyc.org, and share it with your congregation or assembly.
A seafarer in the port of New Haven, CT, for a moment does not feel overwhelmed thanks to the encouragement of Port Chaplain Ruth Setaro.

We Are Hopeful TOGETHER

19,746 immigrants and seafarers directly benefited from SIH services while their lives were disrupted during the pandemic
2,080 seafarers, regardless of faith, received Christmas-at-Sea satchels filled with warm clothing and holiday greetings prepared by congregations and volunteers, to recognize these key workers
12 asylees stayed for free at the guesthouse and at SIH relocated a total of 442 nights; we also hosted 11 local disaster survivors
18 volunteer visitors brought hope to eight asylum seekers, before detention center visits had to be cancelled
3 months (April – June) during which a community partner cared for people recovering from COVID-19 at the guesthouse
14,644 seafarers, the invisible essential workers, who often worked on extended contracts, were visited on 1,407 ships, receiving essentials they had requested during the crew change crisis
1,351 seafarers were transported to the mall or medical facilities before COVID-19 restrictions made shore leave impossible for most mariners
72 seafarers received, at times, free lodging at SIH relocated when between job assignments due to COVID-related disruptions and quarantine requirements
2 advocacy campaigns, one championing seafarers to be recognized as essential workers, and another online campaign attended by over 100 people, drawing attention to a failing immigration system and opposing new rules that would have dismantled asylum to the United States
Masked seafarers enjoy postcard by Arnd 2020.
COVID-19-related challenges are reflected in our finances, with lodging revenue that accounted for 72% of income last year, dropping to just 17% in 2020. Overwhelmingly, it was our supporters’ response that enabled us to fulfill our mission with contributions accounting for 34% of income, up from 22% in 2019. Even with the ability to lease our building for three months to a partner organization that took care of COVID-19 patients in recovery, operating expenses exceeded revenues by $551,048. Program services accounted for 83% percent of expenses, with only 17% spent on support services and fundraising. Net Assets increased from $6,150,830 in 2019 to 6,159,175 in 2020. The figures below reflect unaudited revenue and expenses, and are subject to change, once audited. To request the audited 2020 financial statements, send an email to [email protected].


God's Work. Our Hands, TOGETHER

The lives of often unseen seafarers and immigrants have been disrupted during the pandemic. Seafarers International House assists them for example with 2,080 Christmas-at-Sea satchels (filled with knitted scarves, warm clothing, nuts and holiday greetings) delivered to mariners this past Holiday Season.

MNYS members and their congregations can participate in Christmas-at-Sea (https://www.sihnyc.org/christmas-at-sea) or as volunteers visiting detained asylum seekers to give them hope (https://www.sihnyc.org/volunteer).