Tall Ships Outreach

From 26th-29th July 2023, Shetland hosted the Tall Ships Race, an annual international race of traditionally-rigged sailing vessels.1 The event sees dozens of ships from all around the world race along a route which includes a number of European ports, and in 2023 Lerwick was selected as a host-port. Lerwick has hosted the Tall Ships Race twice before, in 1999 and in 2011. On these occasions the event was used as a springboard for outreach among the locals and tourists attending the event. The event being held in Shetland again last year posed a tremendous opportunity to sow the seed of the word with people from all over the world arriving on our doorstep.

In preparation for the event, Anita Keith of Sound Gospel Hall ordered 3,000 reuseable carrier bags with the text of John chapter 3 verse 16 printed on the outside, similar to the bags used in the recent Edinburgh bag outreaches. The bags were supplied by Andy Shanks in Ireland and printed in blue and white, the colours of the Shetland flag. Copies of John’s Gospel were also ordered, specially printed for the event with a picture of the Bressay Lighthouse, which can be seen when entering Lerwick harbour. Prints were also obtained with an image of a Shetland beach, and the text of Matthew chapter 11 verse 28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’.

A team of workers came together, made up of local saints and some from the mainland who had remained in Shetland following the Shetland Christian Youth Camp (SCYC) Fun Week, where they had volunteered as leaders. The team met at the start of the week to pack the bags and, over the course of two evenings, all the bags were filled and ready for distribution. The work of bag packing was undertaken largely by a group of local sisters, joined by volunteers from the SCYC Fun Week. It was a real joy to see young and old labouring together, united by a common aim of the spread of the gospel. Into each bag was placed a Gospel of John, the gospel text print, a copy of the ‘Holidays - Time to Travel’ tract written by our brother Jack Hay, and a little card with the details of the Shetland Christian Bookshop and how to contact us.

The Shetland Christian Bookshop was used as a base during the outreach with workers meeting there each morning for a time of prayer before going out with the bags. Workers stood at the entrance to the pier and throughout the main streets of Lerwick offering bags to the approximately 10, 000 people who attended the Tall Ships event each day.

We thank the Lord that He provided able workers and favourable conditions, and all 3, 000 bags were given out over the course of two days. The response was generally very positive, and many good conversations were had with tourists and locals alike. We were encouraged in our labours as we observed the sea of blue bags around Lerwick displaying the word of God for all to see. We also enjoyed meeting and speaking with a number of fellow believers from around the world, some from as far away as Belgium and even Australia, who were visiting the event and encouraged us in our outreach.

Groups of workers also visited the thirty-seven visiting ships to deliver bags for every member of their crews. Some of the ships had as many as 200 to 300 crew members and we are thankful to the Lord that the way was opened for access to the ships as we had initially been informed this might not be possible. Very few of the visiting crews refused the bags and many gratefully received them. The vessels were visiting from countries as far afield as Uruguay and Indonesia as well as European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands. It is a joy to think of the word of God being distributed around the globe as the ships return to their countries of origin.

We have been greatly encouraged to see the bags being used around Shetland in the weeks and months following the outreach, and to hear that the bags have already been spotted in other countries. We pray that as God’s word goes forth it will be used by His Spirit to the salvation of precious souls. It has also been a great joy to learn that following a conversation during the Tall Ships Event one lady has begun regularly attending the weekly gospel meeting in Sound Gospel Hall. We would ask for your prayers for her continued attendance and that she would come to know Christ as her Lord and Saviour.

It is our prayer that one soul would be saved as a result of this outreach, although we do not limit the working of the Spirit of God, but pray that thousands of souls would be reached with the message of John chapter 3 verse 16 of the tremendous love of God in giving His Son.

‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it’, Isa. 55. 11.


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