Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baptist Minister Serves Flock Adrift from Seas

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baptist Minister Serves Flock Adrift from Seas

Article excerpt

When the Rev. George Wood came to this country from Liverpool, England, 40 years ago, the young optometrist discovered that he didn't have the credentials to practice in the United States.

He became a master machinist and then an over-the-road trucker. His driving career ended when one of the cars he was hauling toppled and crushed his leg. So Wood entered Youngstown State University in Ohio where he got a bachelor's degree in world religions.

"I had no idea what I was going to do with that major, but God knew all along," he said.

Wood became a Southern Baptist minister who would serve sailors from around the world in two Louisiana port cities. After Wood was called to the ministry, he enrolled in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a master of divinity degree. He joined the New Orleans Baptist Seamen's Service and two years later in 1980 formed the Bethel Maritime Ministries Inc. in Lake Charles, La.

Wood and his volunteers visited ships, provided sailors with transportation, legal aid, food, hospitality, counseling and religious guidance on request. The men represented 50 nationalities and a variety of religions, including Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Shinto.

"We visited the ships every day and made friends with the men by offering them free services," Wood said. "The first thing they usually wanted was to make a telephone call home."

Wood emphasized that he never pressured anyone to follow his religion.

"We were there to listen and to help," he said.

Wood, 62, and his wife, Doreen, live in St. Peters with their daughter and son-in-law, Valerie and Donald Anderson. Wood has congestive heart failure and moved to St. Peters three years ago to be treated by the Andersons' family doctor. Wood has no medical insurance and was recently taken off a heart transplant list.

Wood stays active with Bethel Maritime ministries from home. He edits the newsletter and handles correspondence. Wood said that Lake Charles businessman Bob Robbins had taken over the visitation and chaplain duties of the ministry.

Wood sorely misses serving the seafarers of the world. …

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