by Jason Zuidema, ICMA/NAMMA

Christiane Sengebusch, Vom Wartesaal zwischen den Meeren zum modernen Seefahrerzentrum: Chronik der Deutschen Seemannsmission Westküste e.V., Brunsbüttel, 2020. 60pp.

This small hardcover volume traces the history of the Deutschen Seemannsmission Westküste in Brunsbüttel, Germany. Written by Christiane Sengebusch, the book helps understand the growth and development of this seafarers mission organization on the North Side of the mouth of the Elbe river on the North Sea, about an hour’s car ride North-West of Hamburg.

The story of the mission begins in 1951 with the founding of a home for young fishers in nearby Büsum, in conjunction with the Deutshen Seemannsmission Schleswig-Holstein. The work grew to include a seafarer dormitory and women’s home. In 1962, the organization gained independence as the Deutsche Seemannsmission Westkûste, e.V.

The original seafarer home and women’s facility closed in 1974 and 1977 respectively, but a new seafarers’ centre was opened in 1978 in Brunsbüttel. This building was replaced in 2001 with a spacious new facility funded by a generous grant from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust. In June 2013, an additional small drop-in centre was inaugurated near the Glückstadt port, a few kilometers up the Elbe River.

Though the buildings were important for the mission, the history of this mission is especially about its people. The chaplains and deacons were key factors in the success of the work throughout its history. Pages 32-42 of this book present their stories. Like their predecessors, the current chaplains Leon Meier and Anja Brandenburger-Meier are models of a team that completes the wide variety of tasks for a mission to run well.

Yet, so many other people are necessary for a seafarers’ ministry to thrive. The book also introduces members of the board of trustees and volunteers over the years. As one example of faithfulness, Pastor Ernst-Ulrich Binder chaired the mission for more than 27 years from 1975 until 2003. It is also great to hear stories directly from volunteers on pages 51 and 52.

A helpful chapter to understand the work of the Mission is entitled, “Willkommen im Club.” This chapter describes the daily work of the seafarers’ mission and the many different services that are offered to seafarers. The Brunsbüttel seafarers’ centre is open 363 days a year – from 15h until 22h.

The book is a quick read and a good introduction to one seafarers’ ministry organization. It should be helpful for anyone that wants to reflect on the successes and challenges of helping seafarers and their families over a number of decades. Among other points, the author helps understand how this one organization found faithful solutions faced with the profound changes in German maritime companies and decline in German seafarers. Finding resilience across generations is a lesson that this book can teach future seafarers’ mission personnel.

You can order the book for 9,50 € + postage by emailing: