Our Blog

Filter By:

← Return to Blog Home

Women On Mission - September 2022

main image

Go Fund Me For A Van

The International Seafarer’s Center of Burns Harbor began its outreach in 1972. Marshal Bundren joined the work in 1974. Committed to his church and seafarers, Chaplain Marshal Bundren continued to pull alongside ships on the South shore of Lake Michigan in his 15-passenger rust bucket until December. That’s when things took a surprising turn. Reed Wilson, second officer aboard the M/V Burns Harbor, had watched the van as Bundren made rounds for years. “The thing was falling apart,” said Wilson, regarding the beat-up vehicle Bundren used. “It had 369,000 miles on it, one headlight, no brake lights, and was missing inside door panels. There was lots of rust. Bundren was afraid the starter might fail if he turned the engine off.”

Since 1974, Chaplain Bundren has served seafarers along the entire southern coast of Lake Michigan. When funding changes occurred in 2011, depriving the ministry of any denominational support, he continued the chaplaincy independently, just his hand-me-down Chevy with duct-taped windows and one room of borrowed office space provided by a stevedoring company on Burns Harbor. Two years ago, Bundren had to move out. The ministry on wheels then became his office, chapel, post office, and taxi for the more than 1,200 seafarers he cares for during a ten month season.

Wilson and Bundren crossed paths for more than 23 years. Bundren frequently transported Wilson from the ship to his pickup truck in the parking lot of a Burns Harbor steel mill. Wilson grew to feel strongly that his ministry van needed replacement. In early December 2018, Wilson set up a GoFundMe account: “Marshal’s Van.” The site was up the day after Christmas with an impressive response. “I was dumb-founded,” the mariner said. “On the first day, six grand came in!” Wilson used social media and word of mouth to spread the news of the account. The message went by radio as ships passed in the night. “I posted it on Facebook and friended every sailor I knew,” he said. Over $30,000 was raised within two weeks. “It was sort of a ‘pinch me and wake me up’ moment,” said the 67-year-old chaplain.

To pick up the new van, the pair traveled from Burns Harbor to Detroit where they overnighted at Wilson’s home. The next day, they continued to Findlay, Ohio where Wilson had located the best vehicle for the money. Marshal’s new 15-passenger Ford van is a huge step up for the mobile ministry. “It was amazing,’ said Bundren.

“It is important that seafarers have someone to help them navigate when in port,” Bundren says. Bundren’s goal is to help them fulfill the needs they have, whether it is shopping for a computer for a son in college or cosmetics for a wife. “I want to create the most positive experience they have while in the United States. Working with seafarers is my life,” said the single chaplain. I married a ministry. It has been my wife and my children for all these years. I share meals in the mess room and see many crew members weekly as they travel between the Port of Duluth/Superior and the southern shore of Lake Michigan. 

Oakhill has supported the ministry since 1991.

Women on Mission will meet Thursday, September 1st at 1:00 pm in the Grace classroom across from the Fellowship Hall. All ladies are invited to attend.

Posted by Women On Mission with