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Author: UnitingWorld

Following years of violence, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has seen a heavy loss of ministers. Many died in the conflict and others were forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

But this Easter weekend, the PCOSS celebrated the ordination of six ministers (one of them a woman), five elders, and four deacons in Khartoum, Sudan.

The PCOSS has been working tirelessly with partners and the Nile Theological College to renew leadership within the church. These new leaders will work towards restoring the foundation of leadership within the church and preaching a message of peace and reconciliation in their communities.

The new church leaders celebrated Easter in a refugee camp that is now a temporary home to thousands of  refugees from South Sudan.

PCOSS General Secretary, Rev. John Yor Nyker said there were around four thousand people present for their Easter celebration, and he heard that there were other events held across Sudan.

South Sudan, gained independence in 2011. Its short life has been stunted by conflict, as political differences between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar erupted into full-blown war in 2013.

The conflict and instability in South Sudan led to a devastating famine last year, leaving over 7 million of people dependent on humanitarian assistance and forcing more than a million people to flee the country.

Related reading: ‘South Sudan church leaders in Easter message stand committed to people in face of war and hunger’ (via World Council of Churches)

Read about how your support is helping the people of Tonga recover and rebuild, where we’re up to with training leaders in China, and why pigs are revolutionary in Bali. Plus a reflection from our National Director, Dr Sureka Goringe. Download here.

Read here:

“Do you feel that your personal expenditure reflects compassion for those in need?”

That Bible study question really got me thinking. When I looked at my life, I saw countless blessings – a quality education, opportunities to travel, a generous and supportive family, great friends and a good job. Yet what was I giving back? The amount was tiny. It came entirely from my excess. I remembered the story of the widow’s offering – the poor woman who gave just two small coins, which was all she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44). She gave humbly, generously and sacrificially. I couldn’t give everything, but I could be more like her.

That week I prayed, I researched, and then I increased my donations more than tenfold. I began to give a good chunk of money – one that I could not miss on my monthly bank statement. It is now one of my biggest regular expenditures, after paying for the roof over my head.

How do I afford it? Well, I now have to be more careful with my money – it is like a permanent Lent Event where purchased coffees and other luxuries are the exception, not the norm. But I don’t begrudge it for one second! I see it as God’s money – my contribution – to making this world a better place.

After reflection, I chose to give my entire contribution to overseas relief, development, and capacity-building projects. Of course, the need within Australia is also great, but I reasoned that my taxes and the Australian Government contribute a lot already to health and welfare in this country.

I chose to give to one organisation rather than many, because the impact would be greater. I would only get one set of mail-outs, and thus a greater proportion of my money would actually reach the people I wanted to help.

I chose to give regular monthly donations because I knew that planned giving was more helpful to organisations. Nonetheless, I still sometimes give to appeals, and I love purchasing the ‘Everything in Common’ gift cards to share the good news with family and friends.

Finally, I chose to give to UnitingWorld because I believe in their work. UnitingWorld’s relief and development projects have Australian Government accreditation, so I know that I am contributing to good projects. In addition, the project partners are people of faith! I believe that the best way to share God’s love is through action. So I wanted my contribution to help with this.

I always thought that I would make a large contribution in my will (and indeed, I still plan to) but doing it while I am still alive excites me more! We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth…’ and I hope that I will see that day – when extreme poverty is gone, when all children have an education, and when the marginalised are empowered. Imagine that!

UnitingWorld works in partnership with local organisations – building skills, capacity and relationships, as well as funding projects. There are so many opportunities for individuals and communities in Australia to become involved in these relationships – including visiting, sharing stories, supporting and praying for our overseas partners. God and relationships are at the heart of the work and with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

This is my story. What is yours? Do you feel that your personal expenditure – of your time, your money, or your purchasing decisions – reflects compassion for those in need? I encourage you to pray and to ponder.

Blessings,

From a UnitingWorld supporter (who has chosen to remain unnamed because it is my story, not my identity, that is important).

We can’t tell you how much we appreciate stories like this one. If this reflection has challenged you to become a Regular Giver, hop over to our giving page and choose ‘recurring gift’ here

The Methodist Church of Zimbabwe is hard at work conducting Youth Resilience Training. With the 2018 election fast approaching, a major focus of the most recent Marondera and Gweru training have been around peaceful political participation.

61 young women and 49 young men participated in the most recent Youth Resilience Training. Bishop Tawanda Sungai addressed the youth regarding their duties as Christians in peacemaking:

“He started by indicating on the beatitude that says “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God”. He emphasized that as children of God and for us to see God we have to be peacemakers. Elections being around the corner it is the duty of the children of God to pray for peace, participate in elections peacefully, never be used as agents of violence.”

In Zimbabwe, youth are often targeted by political groups as agents of violence and intimidation. With astronomically high youth unemployment rates, they are particularly susceptible to offers to be perpetrators of violence. The 100 youth who attended the training will now be actively working against this risk. They are equipped with a message of peaceful political engagement and they are spreading it far and wide.

There has been a history of violence in past election years. Our partners have indicated that while there is some increased tension, there hasn’t been the same level of violence as seen in the past. The MCZ will continue to work towards peaceful elections through youth training, voter education, and advocating for peace.

Between July and December of 2017, the Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu held nine awareness raising sessions across Vanuatu. The aim of these sessions is to introduce youth, Sunday school teachers, and community leaders to Gender Equality Theology. 707 people were trained in all:

  • 481 children
  • 22 Sunday school teachers
  • 36 Elders
  • 11 Deacons
  • 107 PWMU members
  • 10 Secretaries
  • 6 Presidents
  • 20 Pastors
  • 8 Committee members
  • 3 treasurers
  • 3 Chiefs

One male Pastor who attended the training said, “After the workshop in June, I went back to my parish and encouraged my church leaders. A deacon is now helping his wife do the housework because he always comes to our house and sees me helping my wife with the housework. The message reached other villages and now the people are requesting for Gender Awareness. I am so happy with the changes. We have a strong culture but I thank God that a change is happening and I am happy it started with one of my deacons. For the first time in this community and also this part of the island, I nominated a woman as the Evangelism Coordinator.”

Thank you to everyone who has so generously given to support our friends in Tonga as they recover from Cyclone Gita. Below is a letter we received from the President of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Rev. Finau P. ‘Ahi, expressing his heartfelt gratitude.  You can donate here to support the ongoing recovery efforts.

 

6 March 2018

Stuart McMillan
President of the Uniting Church in Australia

Dear Mr McMillan,

Apologies for the late response to your letter of love and prayers, but have only just had computer access due to power failures. Electricity has been on and off almost every day since cyclone Gita visited Tonga.

On behalf of the Methodist Church in Tonga (a.k.a. Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga), I thank you for the expression of your love, prayers and donation of gifts for the rebuilding of the Church and its people life on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia. Your expressions of love, prayers and partnership with us in this time of bringing life to normal mean so much as you remind us that we do not battle alone. We have partners and supporters like you who are holding the ropes for us and thereby having a direct share in our Church ministry. You are graciously willing to share with us in this practical way and we are already feeling the benefit that your love, prayers and gifts are bringing to our life.

Please continue to pray for us in this time. No doubt we will have many battles ahead in trying to restore Church people emotions and faith that have been lost in this devastating cyclone. We believe as you pray for us we will be able to stand strong in the power of His Might to resist the enemy of doubts and worries and to encourage people to enter into the victory that is ours in Christ. “ Fear not, for I am with you, says the Lord”. My Wife Loukinikini and the family join me in thanking you that you still remember us.

With love and prayers,
Rev. Finau P. ‘Ahio
President of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga

See original letter here

Yesterday, a team of 11 senior pastors in the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan left for Scotland where they will be trained in peace mediation training workshops by the Church of Scotland. The aim is to equip these senior pastors to be peace mediators in peacebuilding and trauma healing programs across South Sudan. Drawing on the strength and support from their partners across the globe, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) is applying news skills and knowledge throughout all of their peacebuilding programming. Tools from this training will directly support peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops supported by UnitingWorld.

I travelled with my family as part of an Exposure trip through UnitingWorld to Fiji. One of the most meaningful experiences for me was going by speedboat to the island Ovalau, significantly damaged by Cyclone Winston in February of 2016.

Talking to our guide James Baghwan, we came to understand that the majority of the people on the island barely had the means to provide for their family’s basic needs. They don’t have the capability to move somewhere else, even to the main island, where they would be better equipped during times of cyclones. Even if they did, most are living on the land that their ancestors did, and so have significant cultural and historical ties to the land, which provides them with a sense of identity.

Cyclone Winston was expected to completely miss the island, and so the people were unprepared. You can imagine the chaos, panic, and terror they would have experienced in the mad rush to secure what little they had with heavy materials and find a place where they might be safe. The damage was strong enough to beach a ship, lift up and move water tanks as well as destroy houses and buildings.

James told me people would probably have run up the mountain and lay on one of the ringing roads, holding onto whoever or whatever they could. They would have stayed like this for many hours, desperately hoping and praying that they wouldn’t be blown away or hit by debris, all the while listening to the terrifying sounds of everything they knew being ripped violently apart.

We can only begin to imagine the fear, panic and desperation they would feel and how psychologically damaging this would be. Their whole lives dictated by this fear, trapped in this cycle of working to repair what is lost only to see it destroyed the next time and have to begin again.

This fear would only be intensified by the threat that global warming places on them – of bigger, more powerful, more unpredictable cyclones. Add to this the sheer frustration they must feel watching the powers of the world – who could do something to help them or to help prevent global warming – yet who debate that it exists.

After this conversation, I began to wonder: in the midst of all of this, how do people on that island find true peace and happiness, when they are under such threat and have so little? And the people that we met did seem happy and were welcoming.

And it reminded me of a Bible passage from Matthew 6:19-24: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Thanks to sixteen year old Hannah for allowing us to share her reflection with you.

If you’re keen to find out more about what the Pacific church is doing to protect against cyclones and how they’re working to save lives in disaster, read more about the project or make a donation here.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

‘And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.’ Colossians 3:15
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of reflection regarding the suffering, death, and resurrection of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is also time for self-examination and reflection, for us to redirect and rededicate our attention and action, prayerfully, to the most crying needs in our society.
Let us heed Pope Francis’s call to a day of prayer and fasting for peace in South Sudan the Democratic Republic of Congo, to be held on 23 February, in the first week of Lent according to the Gregorian calendar. Let us join in prayer and fasting, as part of the global ecumenical movement in light of the ongoing social- political tension, violence, and the suffering of the affected peoples in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
In the DRC, 4.3 million people are displaced throughout the country and 13.1 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country this year.
In South Sudan, 2 million people have fled the young nation as refugees and about 1.9 million people are internally displaced, over the past four years of conflict- with 7 million people inside the country – that is almost two-thirds of the remaining population – still need humanitarian assistance.
Children, young men, and women have been among the most affected. Millions of women and girls are exposed to gender-based violence in these crisis-affected areas.
The churches and communities are dedicated and present in these communities, accompanying the affected people through these challenging times. We acknowledge the courageous and hopeful work that carries on each day to serve the people in need. May the prayers of all Christians on 23 February for the gift of peace be a sign of solidarity and closeness to those suffering in South Sudan and DRC.

May God bless you and your ministry during this season of Lent,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary

See Original Prayer

In the mountains of Bali, where it is cool, 5 groups of people in a small community are working to breed goats provided through income generating opportunities by our partners MBM. More than 30% of people in the community are poor. Only 50% of children progress further than elementary school study and 20% of children do not even finish elementary. Up to 10% of the population is illiterate. Access to water and Sanitation is poor and 25% of the community still practice open defecation. MBM is working with the farmers to support them to increase their incomes and change some of these poverty outcomes. The poo from the goats they farm is sold to another MBM project and used as manure to help produce coffee. MBM and our partner church in Bali then purchase the coffee for their staff and congregations, supporting the production of coffee and in turn the farmers working with goats. 59 people benefitted from the Goats’ Poo project in 2016‐17, representing 59 families.