Easter is almost upon us, and as you clear your inbox for the last time before the Long Weekend, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider these stories of New Life emerging from the Partnerships you’ve been supporting this month.
From our brand new Climate Change Response Project in the Pacific to the wrap of Lent Event, we’re seeing new opportunities for people to participate in a world where change is possible and hope comes even in the darkest places. And isn’t that what Easter is all about?
With thanks for your Partnership in the ongoing reality of Jesus’ resurrection,
See here for a reflection on Living the Resurrected Life.
Maina Talea is a young man with broad shoulders and a wide smile. He needs them both. His homeland, the coral atoll Tuvalu, suffers chronic drought, food shortages and widespread flooding- there are people who believe the country will be uninhabitable within 50 years due to the effects of climate change. But Maina, who works for UnitingWorld’s Partner Church the EKT, says he’ll be the last to leave. Through education, theological reflection and adaptation, he believes there’s hope for the people of Tuvalu.
Most of Tuvalu’s housing lies only 1-2 metres above sea level. As a result, many family homes are flooded by high tides and severe storms. They are also surrounded by water-born rubbish. While the people of Tuvalu have traditionally been farmers and fishermen, Tuvalu’s crops are struggling and its fish are moving to cooler waters. The end result is that the community is forced to import food to survive and the packaging causes a major waste disposal problem in a tiny nation that is 60 times smaller than the city of Sydney.
“Our people feel that God is abandoning them,” Maina says. “We are a very spiritual people- more than 98% of Tuvalu belong to the EKT (Protestant Church). We have always believed that God provides. But when there are no fish, and the crops die out, when there is no water for us- it causes a spiritual crisis for our people.”
Galvanised by the need to help their community find new hope, the EKT in Tuvalu, along with a number of other Pacific Churches, approached UnitingWorld to partner them in the Climate Change Response Program in the Pacific.
“This is our home and we are always hopeful that we can respond to this challenge,” Maina says. “We need the support of our brothers and sisters, not just praying for us but assisting us here and now.”
Your gift to the Climate Change Response Program in the Pacific will bring new possibilities to the people of Tuvalu and Kiribati. To see some of the stories from Tuvalu, click here.
Please consider making a generous donation HERE.
When Gavin White decided to give up his bed, his hot shower and most of his food budget, he knew that his experiment could be life-changing.
“It was a bit of an attempt to experience what it’s like to live the way people in developing countries do, but it was hopelessly inadequate, really.” Gav says wryly. “I still had my car, my sleeping bag, I drank from a tap whenever I wanted to, and people were constantly attempting to feed me! There’s so much excess food in our culture you could spend nothing and still eat like a glutton.”
In spite of its limitations, the ‘experiment’ has opened up all sorts of new possibilities for Gav, helping him appreciate the depth and simplicity of relationship with God.
“I’ve realised that this is not just a thing for 40 days, this is a springboard to something new in my life.” Gav says. “I have to try to find a better balance. I can easily spend far less money on meals and not go hungry. I can free up more money to give where it is needed. I can spend more time in the space I create for spirituality.”
Gav isn’t the only person to have been challenged to new life possibilities by Lent Event this year. In more than 180 churches throughout Australia, children, adults and congregations have all thoughtfully put aside time, food, possessions and money as a way of sharing resources and standing in solidarity. As your generous gifts begin to arrive here at UnitingWorld, new possibilities open up for our Partners in the area of nutrition, sanitation, health and education.
For the past week, two of our staff members have been travelling in West Papua, where there are changes in the wind. Jakarta has recently promised to focus on a new form of rapid development in the region. But will this bring the respect and cultural identity West Papuans yearn for?
Writing in West Papua after visiting the small coast village of Tobati, John Barr reflects on some of the challenges facing Papuans today.
“The residents of this village are victims of nearby urban growth as the city of Jayapura expands and traditional lands are consumed,” says John, Associate Director for Church Solidarity (Asia). “Gardens that have been tendered for centuries have now disappeared and the vast sago swamps that provided basic foods have been sacrificed to urban growth.”
As a new main road is constructed nearby, the residents of Tobati are preparing to farewell their way of life. Growth in the area is set to dramatically increase as Jayapura expands to accommodate thousands and thousands of newcomers who arrive every week from other parts of Indonesia.
The questions that face the residents of Tobati are not dissimilar to others in West Papua.
In the light of the failure of Special Autonomy, Jakarta has promised to focus on a new form of rapid development in West Papua. Known colloquially as UP4B (“Unit to Accelerate Development in Papua and West Papua”), this latest initiative promises to accelerate economic development and build better relationships between Jakarta and Papua.
There is no doubt that development is important in West Papua. Poverty is widespread and health indicators are among the worst in the world. The incidence of AIDS is increasing at an alarming rate and the mortality rate among mothers and babies is the highest in Indonesia. With the majority of Papuans living in remote village, access to health care is difficult and premature death and disability are common.
But justice and respect for Papua is fundamental. Papuans yearn for a better life and many believe that this can only be achieved through developing local capacity and self-sufficiency. This is commitment the Uniting Church shares.
“Papuans want to achieve the same status and respect as any other Indonesians. They yearn for their culture and their identity to be valued for what it is – a gift from God,” says John.
UnitingWorld continues to partner with the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua in community development initiatives, focusing on health care and livelihood generation.
“During this past week I have seen many of the challenges that the people of West Papua face firsthand,” says Rob Floyd (Associate Director, Relief and Development). “But I have also been encouraged by how people in communities are responding. I look forward to continuing to work with our partners in West Papua and to seeing people’s lives changed”
Importantly, UnitingWorld is also supporting the Church in a meaningful dialogue with other church networks and the Indonesian Government concerning West Papua’s future.
To read John Barr’s blogs on West Papua, visit our blogs page.
Heavy rains in Fiji have caused widespread flooding, devastating homes, livelihoods and communities. The floods are a nightmare, a cruel and vicious blow in the lead up to Easter.
Associate General Secretary for the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, Rev Tevita Banivanua, said the area affected has been devastated by flooding in recent years. Major floods in 2009 left thousands homeless and devastated the local infrastructure and economy. Heavy rains also caused havoc as recently as February this year.
“This was the worst,” Rev Banivanua said. “The big reservoir overflowed and the water levels rose so fast.”
The Methodist Church leadership met in Suva to hear reports from the West of the country and plan ways to help their congregations affected by the severe flooding.
“We can’t even get to Nadi by road,” Rev Banivanua said.
Rev Banivanua was particularly concerned for children and students. He said the government had closed all schools and Universities. Many children had lost their school bags and books in the rush to evacuate the low lying areas.
At UnitingWorld we will be praying for the people of Fiji, for people who have lost loved ones to the devastating waters, for the tens of thousands of families whose lives have been turned upside down
We invite you to join in prayer with us.
Easter is a story of the triumph of hope over despair, the rebuilding of life and community after annihilation.
We want to contribute to that hope for the people of Fiji.
Once the floods recede UnitingWorld will be sharing equipment and materials with our partners to help Fiji rebuild and to support families as they make sense of their world again.
Will you join us?
If you would like to make a contribution to flood relief efforts in Fiji, please call us on 1800 998 122.