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, Albany, and New York City.
We Are Resilient TOGETHER
MESSAGE FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Lighthouses Always and Now
Dear Friends of Seafarers International House (SIH):
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
I write this to you early in our 150th anniversary year of 2023, as I reflect on the year prior, 2022, and our “branding symbol” of the lighted lighthouse. I’m always aware of the 2 million “people on the way” - seafarers and migrants - who have found a lighted welcome on their dark and often unsafe journeys to the port of New York, and subsequent other ports, over these past 150 years. The Gospel writer Matthew takes that light metaphor and expands it to have Jesus say that not only are all of us the lights of the world, but that we are lights for the world now. Not some quaint lighthouse symbol from 150 years ago, but now, today, as we welcomed 20,000 seafarers and 23 asylees from 15 countries in 2022 alone.
Although we have had retirements of two faithful, long-serving port chaplains this year, Revs. Luisito Destreza and William Rex, the light continues to shine in that we have two additional port chaplains, Pastors Kate Drefke and Lowell Chilton in Albany. In 2022, almost 3,000 Christmas-at-Sea satchels were collected and distributed - a new all-time record of light shared.
The scenarios may be a bit different from year to year, but the approach is always the same: we provide housing (subsidized for seafarers, and at no cost to immigrants), as well as practical and spiritual support, thus providing a light-house welcome.
Here in Manhattan, we have been aware of the effects of “Title 42” this past year. Title 42 is a pandemic-era policy that both the Trump and Biden administrations have used to immediately expel arriving migrants back to Mexico or their countries of origin, except for arrivals from countries with which the U.S. does not have good diplomatic relations - namely Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and Nicaragua.
As a result, these unmoored migrants from four countries make up a very small portion of those allowed to stay in the U.S. and pursue asylum claims. Then, in a most cruel twist, they are bused to New York City from Texas and Florida, resulting in Manhattan being disproportionately overwhelmed with migrants arriving - sometimes as many as 3,500 migrants per week. At Seafarers International House, we have been able to house some asylees from Venezuela and Colombia. We are grateful for our housekeeper, Damaris, at the Markle Residence (our temporary home). She is originally from Venezuela herself and can assist these new arrivals in their own language and help them to navigate the city. She is a human lighthouse for such a vulnerable population and embodies the Biblical call to be lighthouses in our own contexts, and to be lighthouses now.
Thank you for all you do as our financial and spiritual supporters who enable Seafarers International House to be a lighthouse now.
Pastor Marsh (right) received Christmas-at-Sea satchels from church member Jeannine Comito, former SIH Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) intern, and Pastor Zach Dean of Calvary Lutheran Church in Hauppauge, NY. Photo: Selfie by Zach Dean, late September 2022.
We Are Hopeful TOGETHER
2022 PROGRAM IMPACT
19,943 immigrants and seafarers directly benefited from SIH services.
1,764 lodging nights provided to 169 seafarers in Manhattan.
15,135 seafarers were visited and counseled on 1,368 ships, receiving the essentials they requested.
1,701 seafarers were transported to a mall or medical facilities.
3 months (April–June), during which a community partner cared for people recovering from COVID-19, at the guesthouse.
2,915 seafarers, regardless of faith, received Christmas-at-Sea satchels filled with warm clothing and holiday greetings prepared by volunteers, to recognize these essential workers. This is a new record!
23 immigrants received free lodging, for a total of 537 nights. They hailed from Benin, Cameroon, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saint Lucia, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe (see highlighted countries on the map below).
2020 FINANCIAL REPORT
Operating gains in 2022 help replenish our endowment for future emergencies and build reserves for a new property, to include mission-based guest rooms and offices. Our partnership with Breaking Ground is a major factor in our financial recovery, providing building lease revenue to support our mission to seafarers and immigrants, as well as contributing to reserves for our own future home. Donations are essential as we enter our 150th year of caring for those in need.
Program services accounted for 82% percent of expenses, with only 18% spent on support services and fundraising. Net assets increased from $7,870,434 in 2021 to $8,816,744 in 2022. These figures reflect unaudited revenue and expenses, and are subject to change once audited. To request the audited 2022 financial statements, send an email to [email protected]
We Are Church Together — Living Like Christ in Our Communities!