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In the middle of preparing COVID-19 lockdown measures, Tropical Cyclone Harold hit the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga over 1-11 April. Reaching up to Category 5, the cyclone forced people into evacuation centres where proper physical distancing became impossible.

Homes and food supplies were destroyed, resulting in what has been called a “double-disaster” for the people and communities affected. Below are some updates from our church partners.

Solomon Islands

TC Harold struck the Solomon Islands first as a Category 3 cyclone, damaging the food bowl region of Guadalcanal, damaging important crops and limiting the local food supply. As a member of the Solomon Islands Christian Association, the United Church in Solomon Islands has been part of an ecumenical response to address the short to medium-term shortage of food. This response has been funded through DFAT on the advice and request of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC).

Vanuatu

TC Harold intensified into a Category 5 as it made landfall in the northern Islands of Vanuatu. Espirito Santo, Pentecost, Malacula and surrounding Islands were hit worst. The Australian Government made funds available for a coordinated response between NGOs, local churches and the Vanuatu Government.

The ecumenical response is addressing the need for clean water and sanitation, non-food items and support to evacuation centres. Our partner the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu (PCV) has facilitated its own response by collecting food and non-food items from congregations in unaffected areas and directing these to communities that bore the brunt of the damage. They are working closely with the government on coordinating the distribution of the resources.

The Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union has donated relief supplies towards the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office to support the COVID-19 response. The requested supplies included soap, toiletries,  clothes, candles, matches, food items and containers for storage.

One of the key lessons learned from Cyclone Pam in 2015 —and now being witnessed all over the world during COVID-19—is that the risk of violence towards vulnerable people increases during such crises. This includes violence against women, girls and children; domestic violence, violence against people with disabilities and the LGBTIQ community. The Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union of PCV are increasing their efforts to address this violence, especially within cyclone-affected areas during their distribution of collected goods. If you would like to support this aspect of the response and help our partners keep people safe, click here to donate now.

Fiji

After Vanuatu, TC Harold lowered to Category 4 and moved towards Fiji, striking Vitu Levu and the country’s eastern islands. At the time, Fiji had recorded a small number of COVID-19 cases so maintaining physical distancing was vitally important but almost impossible as people were forced into evacuations centres. Food supplies were damaged and road blockages hindered the response.

Our partner the Methodist Church in Fiji is responding to the needs of those in the most affected areas and have contacted UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) for support. We have responded through both a DFAT-funded ecumenical response as well as directly with our partners. After Cyclone Winston, MCIF in partnership with UnitingWorld and the UCA, established a Disaster Chaplaincy Network to help people work through the stress and trauma of disaster experiences. We will work with MCIF to refresh the training of this network in the light of this double-disaster and support the deployment of chaplains to support people work through the stress. If you would like to support this aspect of the response, please donate to our disaster fund here.

The Methodist Church of Fiji has donated relief supplies to Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office to assist those affected from Tropical Cyclone Harold.

Tonga

Before leaving the Pacific, TC Harold hit Tonga at Category 4. The tiny islands of ‘Eua and parts of Tongatapu were most affected. This comes after Cyclone Gita decimated these same islands just two years earlier.

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (WFCT) was able to utilise a building repairs storage facility constructed and stocked out of the Cyclone Gita response in partnership with UnitingWorld/UCA (see below pic). The building meant that they could begin the repairs to damaged buildings within the first days and weeks after the cyclone, rather than having to wait for supplies to be shipped in from New Zealand.

FWCT has accessed a funding grant from the Australian Government to supply water tanks to vulnerable families affected by the cyclone and to support health and hygiene advice for COVID-19 prevention. They are also hoping this partnership will strengthen and they can expand the Disaster Chaplaincy Network to be ecumenical; reaching not just those communities affected by cyclones, but all the people struggling with the fear and uncertainty created by COVID-19. If you wish to support FWCT in their response, please donate to our disaster fund here.

Across the Pacific, especially in the places affected by TC Harold and other disasters, people are asking important questions about where God is during these crises and what or who is to blame for them.

UnitingWorld is standing with all our partners as they grapple with these questions by collating Pacific-led theological resources and commentary for churches to lead their communities through these difficult questions and in responding with faithful action. 

The Pacific Conference of Churches’ annual Pacific Day of Prayer will be observed this year on Friday 8 May.

The liturgy and worship resources for 2020 have been prepared by Kiribati Uniting Church (KUC) with a reflection by KUC Secretary for Mission, Rev Maleta Tenten (pictured above left).

Under the theme ‘Christ our Living Hope’ (1 Peter 1: 3–12), the worship resources reflect on the global challenge of COVID-19 and the impacts of Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold, which recently devastated parts of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.

Rev Maleta finds encouragement in Peter’s letter to Christians suffering persecution under the Roman Empire and encourages Christians today to consider how COVID-19 has put more pressure on those who were already suffering injustice before the crisis.

“There are existing empires in our midst and from outside our regions who continue to control and exert power over the powerless,” says Rev Maleta.

“The Easter message speaks to us to ‘Rise with Christ and not to be afraid’ to start afresh. We have to examine ourselves and our roles as Christians to see and to hear the cry of those who continue to suffer, the oppressed, those deprived of their human rights and dignity, the poor, women/girls and children being abused and violated, those with bleak future for their children and generations because of climate impacts…”

Read Rev Maleta’s full reflection and find the worship resources for the Pacific Day of Prayer below.

Website (Pacific Conference of Churches)

PDF Download


Prayer points for the Pacific Day of Prayer 2020

For the impacts of Coronavirus

  • Victims of Covid-19
  • Families who had lost their loved ones
  • The safety of health care/service providers/volunteers
  • Safety of our countries from this life threatening disease/virus

The effects of Cyclone Harold and other natural disasters

  • Victims of natural disasters
  • Families who had lost their loved ones
  • Support to victims who lost their homes, livestock, farms etc…
  • Children‟s of families affect and for their education

For those who continue to suffer in our societies

  • The poor
  • Women and girls from sexual abuse
  • Violence against women and children
  • Disabilities/disabled people including elderly
  • Gender inequality

For victims of climate change and sea-level rise

  • Those in coastal and low lying islands
  • Poor health due to water shortage and brackish water
  • Poor housing especially those alongside the coastal line due to strong wind and king tides

For West Papua

For the impacts of globalization in our countries

Header image by Natasha Holland: (from left:) Rev Maleta Tenten – KUC Secretary for Mission, Rev Dr Tioti Timon – Principal of Tangintebu Theological College, Bairenga Kirabuke – RAK (Women’s Fellowship of KUC) Project Coordinator and Gender Focal Point.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA). The UCA is a member of the Pacific Conference of Churches.

With curfews and lockdown measures in place across the Pacific, our church partners are responding to COVID-19 and reaching out to their communities in creative and innovative ways. Projects in health, sanitation, education and gender equality have had to quickly adapt to address the impacts of COVID-19 and the safety lockdowns.

The crisis is doubly alarming for people in the Pacific. Health infrastructure is severely limited and there are no welfare safety nets for thousands of people suddenly unable to work. The need for solidarity and support across our region is needed now more than ever.

We’ve been in contact with our church partners and have provided some short updates below.

For updates on all projects, click here to visit the Projects page.



Papua New Guinea

Lockdown measures have significantly curtailed project activities and staff are working from home on unreliable Wi-Fi connections.

The Safe Water for Remote Communities project team has begun refocusing the existing hygiene behaviour change activities towards handwashing and hygiene messages that are specific to COVID-19.

The team has a strong partnership with the Milne Bay Provincial Government and as Papua New Guinea will have curfews and other lockdown measures for the foreseeable future, the team has sought special permission to support government-led educational messages to communities.


Fiji

The Methodist Church in Fiji (MCIF) have been an active part of the national COVID-19 programme under the Ministry of Health to engage their large national network in precautionary efforts and community education. MCIF President Rev Vakadewavosa has been outspoken on the need to listen to health advice and respect government restrictions, as well as giving theological and pastoral guidance on responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

With national lockdown measures in place, the Methodist Women’s Fellowship through the Gender Equality Theology project are exploring alternative ways to continue to share Gender Equality Theology and Theology of Child Protection and Care messages during this time.

MCIF are also seeking to support families who are struggling with food rations as many people have lost their jobs due to the lockdown restrictions.


Solomon Islands

Rural communities in the Solomon Islands have been flooded with people from urban areas after the government directive for all citizens not working and living in cities to return or relocate to their home provinces immediately. This has created a difficult situation for many families and communities, as well as escalating the risks of domestic violence.

The United Church in the Solomon Islands (UCSI) have identified a need to focus on families in lockdown. They have created educational resource packages, ‘Safety and Protection at Home Under COVID-19,’ using simplified community-level messaging on Gender Equality Theology and Child Protection.

They have begun distributing to congregations and the wider community through regions, circuits, health officers and Assembly Office personnel.

UnitingWorld’s project funding is contributing towards the cost of this work.


Kiribati

The Reitan Aine ki Kamatu (RAK – Women’s Fellowship of the Kiribati Uniting Church) will continue to deliver their radio broadcasts on Gender Equality Theology and Theology of Child Protection and Care through this project.

Tonga

The Free Wesleyan Church in Tonga (FWCT) have been supporting the government-led response to COVID-19 and health and hygiene messaging. With restrictions now lifting somewhat, the church office is back open and FWCT members are allowed to meet in small groups.

With less imports to the country, food supplies are becoming limited so the government has directed families and communities to establish home gardens. FWCT are encouraging all in their church to follow this directive.

In partnership with the Tonga National Council of Churches, FWCT are also making efforts to strengthen their Disaster Chaplaincy Network and deploy chaplains into communities. They will provide mental health support and work with communities as they struggle to find God in the midst of the pandemic and seek to live out a faithful response. UnitingWorld is working with the FWC and TNCC in this chaplaincy work.


Vanuatu

The Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union (PWMU) Project Team are unable to carry out many of their activities as normal, but they will be showing the ‘Violence is a Sin’ message from PCV leaders’ advert, on Vanuatu TV during the lockdown measures. They will also be running a text message campaign and reaching people through alternative media such as Facebook where they can continue to share messages of valuing family life, healthy human relationships, the importance of hand washing and how to make homemade masks.


Tuvalu

The FFEKT (the Women’s Fellowship of the EKT Church in Tuvalu) have a sewing group to support women to earn an income. Since March, the sewing group has been sewing face masks to sell to community members to promote personal hygiene and safety around the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tuvalu, the government has been proactive in putting measures in place to prevent potential transmission, including messaging around the importance of good health and hygiene.

The government office, NGOs and community members have been ordering masks from the FFEKT sewing group and so far (as of 6th April), there have been 126 orders for masks. They are encouraging people to buy two masks each so that they can wash their masks and ensure they remain clean. For those who cannot buy the masks, the sewing group is teaching them how to make their own so that they can provide masks for their family members.


Other resources

The Pacific Conference of Churches has been providing theological guidance on COVID-19 to help people understand what is happening and give practical and pastoral guidance in how to respond. The messages are being adapted by member churches across the Pacific.


Please continue to pray for our church partners and support the relief effort as you are able.

Click here to donate.

Jaya is a 13-year-old girl from a small village of 300 people in rural Punjab, India.

Her father died when she was four and her mother couldn’t afford to raise her, so she left Jaya with her grandmother. Jaya’s grandmother works as a cook, and over the years it became increasingly difficult for her to look after a growing child by herself.

Jaya began studying in a local government school, but the standard of education was poor and when she returned home there was no one who could help her with homework or give her care and attention. With the absence of proper health and hygiene conditions in the village, she often fell ill.

In 2017 our partner church connected Jaya with the girls’ hostel project we support, which was set up to help vulnerable girls access high quality education, accommodation and care during the school term.

When Jaya arrived, she was poor in health and lagging way behind in her studies. Spending time with other girls in the hostel encouraged her to stick to her studies until they started to improve. Each year, her grades have gone up, and she now loves having the time to be able to play outdoor games, dance, create art and participate in all the group activities at the hostel.

“Jaya is so loving and respectful towards others,” says the project manager Rev Samantaroy. “Her health has also improved due to the monthly medical check-ups and regular health education sessions at the hostel. She now dreams of becoming a policewoman when she grows up.”

Jaya’s story is an example of how, with proper care and nutrition, access to quality education and a loving environment, young girls can explore their true potential and work towards their dreams.

Thank you for supporting this life-changing project run by our partners in India.

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

Imagine two groups – one male, one female – crouched around a sheet of butcher’s paper.

In regional Bali, Indonesia, village members have been asked to note on the image of a large clock what their activities are throughout the day, with men and women commenting on each other’s use of time. The results are fascinating.

“Activities like this help illuminate the differences between men and women, and motivate people to take action,” says Associate Director, Jane Kennedy. “Throughout Indonesia, women are still often regarded as home makers, ‘overly emotional’ and without the capacity to make decisions or offer community leadership. The result is financial dependency, unequal sharing of domestic tasks, untapped potential and the risk of unchecked violence.”

We’ve heard your commitment to women and men as equal partners in God’s world, and your dreams for healthy and hopeful communities.

Through our partner the Protestant Church of Bali, we’ve been using your gifts help fund an approach our partners call “The Model Village”. We co-operate with a range of donors to address gender justice, health, water, sanitation, education and income development concurrently with the input of all members of the community. Your funding is helping elevate more women into positions of leadership on committees that design and apply for community grants; it’s providing communities with knowledge about how to protect children and other vulnerable people; it’s giving access to innovation like selling locally-produced tea, coffee or handicrafts online. The Model Village works!

We want to keep the work strong as Balinese communities struggle with the impact of COVID-19. Heavily reliant on tourism, the economy and health systems are both at risk of being decimated and plunging vulnerable communities further into poverty.

Your gifts are making it possible.

If you have a heart for this work and the wellbeing of our close neighbours, please donate today.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). Thanks to ANCP, we’re making a huge difference together; lifting families out of poverty and helping people improve their lives.

Attika has been to hell and back. Many of you know her story: her village was destroyed in conflict between Muslims and Christians in 1999; she lived for years as a refugee before returning to a community shattered by suspicion, resentment and economic ruin.

Last year, Attika (pictured above) painstakingly built a new home with $5 weekly savings from a small business our partners helped her establish. A few months later it was destroyed in a series of earthquakes. She lives today in its shell with her daughter, waiting for the chance to rebuild. Due to begin re-construction with a team of Muslim and Christian builders funded by UnitingWorld, the work is now on hold as Ambon goes into lockdown to deal with the global threat of COVID-19.

It’s hard to predict how many of us would react to such a prolonged season of suffering. And yet here’s where this story has a new and delightful twist: Attika has become our church partner’s newest Emergency Team volunteer. Connecting with the Protestant Church in Maluku through livelihood training among a group of Christian and Muslim women, Attika is now a vital part of the volunteer effort. Together, the team deliver food, clean water and emergency supplies to those hardest hit by last year’s earthquakes on the island and check in on people isolated by COVID-19.

“I could never have believed something like this would happen to my home,” Attika told us. “I am so, so sad to see it. But working with the team at Sagu Salempeng Foundation (our church partner organisation) helps me forget my pain and makes me so happy! I have found something to keep me strong.”

N.T. Wright famously said: “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonise earth with the life of heaven.”

Surely Attika’s experience of finding new life in service to others is what he had in mind: absolute dedication to each other in the midst of suffering; the ability to love beyond boundaries; the promise of redemption.

Attika refuses to give in to despair, and nor does she long for release. For her, there’s heaven to be found here and now, among the living. This is the reality of resurrection life.

Thank you to all who’ve been part of Lent Event this year. Your gifts are very much needed to continue this vital project, building peace while giving people the chance to increase their incomes and overcome poverty.

Help us continue this vital work with our international partners.

Click here to donate to Lent Event.



YOUR 2019 LENT EVENT GIFTS IN ACTION!

Our staff have just returned from critical training sessions with IPTL, our partner in Timor-Leste.

They’re delighted to report that more than 17 teachers took part in new training to implement strategies that protect children against violence, including verbal abuse. As a result:

  • Attendance in Sunday School is up among children and their parents
  • Education and awareness among community leaders is increasing
  • Seven focal point workers to keep child protection on the agenda have been newly appointed.

Cycles of poverty and violence are deeply entrenched within Timor-Leste, and you’re playing a critical role in shaping the future for a whole new generation.

Thank you!

Recently I visited Sri Lanka, where I was born and had my early childhood. I was there with my mum for family stuff, but I took the chance to catch up with the leadership of the Methodist Church, who have a strong presence throughout the country.

“What exactly is the Prayer Department?” I asked when I saw it on the organisational chart.

The answer was an introduction to two women. Shy and softly spoken, one of them read from a script she’d written, and the other quietly asked that her story be told for her. They both spoke of personal tragedy; of loss and death and plans come undone. But it’s from this experience of pain that they’ve both discovered the power of prayer and they’ve committed themselves to nurturing it as widely as possible.

The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka (MCSL) has a serious commitment to being a prayerful church. These two women lead a program of initiatives to inspire and educate communities across the country, calling people to their knees. They also personally support the leadership in prayer, being available to pray with or for people in complete confidence.

I don’t know why I find this so deeply moving. It’s not a story of outcomes and impact. But I think it was George MacDonald who suggested that prayer is like a child coming to her mother because she feels hungry. The child thinks she needs food; what she really needs is her mother.

That hits home. Four years ago, when I first met the current MCSL President, I asked him why their church was experiencing renewal, and he said to me, “Oh, we started praying.” Truth!

Please continue to pray for our partners, many of whom are dealing with COVID-19 in extremely difficult circumstances. In times of global crisis, people in poverty are always hit in the most devastating ways.

Please, if you’re able, do make a special gift to support our work in work in Sri Lanka, Maluku, Bali, India, Zimbabwe and around the globe. Right now people everywhere are hurting, and we need each other more than ever.

In love and hope,

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld

Click here to donate to our COVID-19 Appeal

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Zimbabwe rose from 29% to 34%. That’s an extra million people living on less than $1.90 a day in the span of just one year.

An El Nino-influenced drought and Cyclone Idai has reduced agricultural production over several seasons, worsening the situation across many rural areas. The economic contraction has caused a sharp rise in prices of food and basic commodities and one tenth of rural households currently indicate they are going without food for a whole day. The unemployment rate has been estimated at 90%. All of this was before COVID-19 hit the world.

These pressures are exacerbating problems for the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe, creating higher rates of human trafficking, child abuse, gender-based violence and discrimination against people with disabilities.

Despite the huge challenges, the Zimbabwean people remain generous and resilient.

Our partners the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) and its relief and development agency, the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA) play a vital role in serving their communities and advocating for the people in national politics.

COVID-19 response and MCZ project update

Our partners MCZ acted early to help flatten the curve with a campaign to raise awareness across their communities.

COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for Zimbabwe, exacerbating already incredibly difficult conditions outlined above. Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate soared more than 500 percent in February, the unemployment rate remains over 90 percent, medicines are scarce and over half of the population is food insecure.

Zimbabwe began a lockdown on 30 March, but many people who rely on being able to go out on the streets to sell produce just to meet their daily needs will face a choice between going hungry for days on end or putting themselves and others at risk of the virus.

At a time when handwashing is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there are many households who don’t have access to running water; in the capital city Harare alone this amounts to one million people.

This is the context our partner MCZ is working within and the enormous challenges being faced in Zimbabwe’s efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

The lockdown requirements mean that MCZ is unable to continue some of their scheduled activities under the Leadership Training project, such as delivering workshops for lay and ordained leaders. However, many project activities are able to continue despite the situation and MCZ is focusing their efforts in these areas.

One of the activities is obtaining baseline information about church and community awareness relating to child protection, gender based violence, disability inclusion and human trafficking issues. Until in person consultations can be completed, MCZ will obtain information using email, telephone and social media platforms like Whatsapp. MCZ will also focus on developing church-wide policies relating to safeguarding and disability inclusion and in developing training resources that will be valuable once workshops are able to take place.

We continue to support their work and stand with them during these extremely hard times.

Please pray for Zimbabwe and the work of our church partners there.

Click here to support our urgent COVID-19 Appeal

Click here to read a letter we received from our partners on World Prayer Day.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

In a letter to national and international partners, the Bishop of the Diocese of Amritsar, The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy has outlined the impacts of the national 21-day lockdown in India and how the Church of North India (CNI) is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Dear Friends,

As of the morning of 30 March 2020, over 700,000 people worldwide have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and 34,000 people have died due to the virus. The staggering numbers are rising every minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought illness and death for many, but preventive measures like curfews and lockdowns are posing other humanitarian concerns such as loss of livelihood, hunger and starvation.

“I fear that hunger may kill many like us before Coronavirus,” said a street vendor in Delhi. His fear and desperation are shared by the majority of the country’s poor who have been the most hit due to the current 21-day nationwide lockdown in India. Most people who work as daily wage labourers live hand-to-mouth and are therefore unable to afford buying food and medical supplies in advance. In Punjab, we are already receiving reports of riot-like situations in the villages.

Realising the urgency of the situation, the Diocese of Amritsar has already constituted a COVID-19 Relief Operation to reach out to the poor and needy. We are working closely with the local congregations and our project workers, as well as the district administration, to identify those in dire need. Food material is being mobilised through local grocery stores and distributed at key centres in Amritsar and the surrounding border villages.

The Church cannot see its people die either of Coronavirus or hunger. I urge you to support this relief effort generously through whatever means is available to you.”

Unless we act urgently and support the weaker sections of society, our world will collapse under the siege of this pandemic. Your help in this hour of need can save a family from hunger, starvation and illness.

May God bless you and keep you safe!

The Most Rev. P. K. Samantaroy
Bishop, Diocese of Amritsar, CNI

 

The Church of North India is running a domestic appeal for funds and in-kind donations of food supplies, and has also asked for international assistance. UnitingWorld has diverted India project funds for this quarter to support their emergency response and will continue to do this into the new financial year on an ongoing basis until the crisis is over.

Key activities for the COVID-19 relief effort:

  • Providing food packages to families connected to CNI’s community development projects, especially for daily wage laborers who are now unable to work.
  • Helping to amplify government messaging on COVID-19, including health and handwashing awareness, prevention measures and information on how and when to get tested.
  • Conducting door-to-door visits (while practicing spatial distancing) to families connected to the project, to ensure they have what they need during lock down.

Please pray for our church partners and support the relief effort as you are able.

Click here to donate.

UnitingWorld partners in India are cooking for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 lockdown

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

When a crisis like COVID-19 hits, it is the poor who are hit hardest.

I bring you love and greetings from our global church partners and the team at UnitingWorld.

In this distressing time of uncertainty and change, if you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions – anxiety and hope; grief and determination.

Thank you for being our faithful supporters. Your generosity and compassion has changed so many lives. Every person you have helped out of poverty is in a better place to fight COVID-19 because of you.

Watch the full message below.

Want to share this with your church community? Click here to download via Vimeo.

Please remember our partner church communities in your prayers. They face the challenge of COVID-19 often without healthcare, sometimes without clean water or food.

This crisis will come and go, and we must survive it together. We need to be there for the long road to healing and recovery. Because we are people of hope.

Though we may be walking through the valley of shadows right now, let us do it hand in hand with God’s people everywhere. Because we know God walks with us, and that dawn will come.

I pray that you and your family be strong and courageous during this time, holding onto hope and health. And I beg that you stand with us, and remember the poorest and most vulnerable in our global neighbourhood. Now more than ever, they need your prayers and your support.

We’ll continue to keep you updated in the coming weeks.

In hope and determination,

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld

Click here to donate to our COVID-19 appeal


Video transcript

Hi. Like most of you, I’m stuck at home. I’m trying to get work done and stay connected with my colleagues, my family and my friends.

The COVID-19 pandemic means we are all facing a distressing level of uncertainty and change right now. I know that many of you are facing tough times, worrying about the health of your loved ones and what the next few months might bring.

And if you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions too – anxiety and grief; but also hope and determination.

If you’re watching this, you’ve probably been friends of UnitingWorld for a while. I’m grateful for our partnership in faith and service. We at UnitingWorld are praying for you. And our brothers and sisters overseas are praying for you. We know, because they write and tell us so.

I want you to know that the team at UnitingWorld are all safely back in Australia, and while we’re all working from home, they are doing a marvellous job looking after each other and staying connected with our partners.

Last week we shared public health information from the World Health Organisation with our partner churches – hoping they’d be useful for distribution in their churches.

The hardest thing I had to do this week was to read an email from my friend Rev John Yor from South Sudan. He wrote…

Dear Sister – Thanks for sending the information 

We are living by the grace of God because no awareness material has come from the government.

So I will copy the materials you sent and give some awareness to staff as well as groups who were displaced and are not aware of the Coronavirus or how to prevent it. But we have problems with the internet to send information and materials to others.

I am working now at night and water is a problem because it is carried by tanks not pipes lines. Hand washing is very difficult. Many are not able to stay at home because they will die by hunger if they do. They force themselves to go out to work, because there is no food stored at home. Even I don’t have food stored where we are living.

John’s words broke my heart.

When a crisis like COVID-19 hits, it is the poor who are hit hardest.

The people that our partner churches work with everyday are facing the challenge of COVID-19 without health care, internet or Newstart. Sometimes without clean water or food.

Now, more than ever, they need us to stand with them.

This crisis will come and go, and we must we survive it together. And we need to be there for the long road to healing and recovery.

Because we are people of hope. Though we may be walking through the valley of shadow right now, let us do it hand in hand with God’s people everywhere. Because we know God walks with us, and that dawn will come.

So, stuck at home we might be, but we’re rolling up our sleeves and digging deep. And we need you with us.

We’re in urgent conversations with our partners. Many of the projects you support have been put on hold, so we’re working with partners to redirect money and people to help prepare their communities and pass on critical health advice using their church networks.

We are assuring them that UnitingWorld and the people of the Uniting Church have not forgotten them, and are holding them in prayer. Please make that true, won’t you?

We’re planning how to keep ourselves and are partners fit and ready for the long road to recovery.

We’re talking with other international aid organisations and the Australian Government to prepare for what may happen in our region, to make sure that we can work together for best results.

We’re doing all we can to keep people safe. We have stopped all travel, and are no longer going into the office to work. While we will still respond to your emails and phone calls promptly (possibly in our pyjamas), responses to your post mail be delayed. It’s kept safe, and we will get to it, but we can’t access it every day.

Thank you for being our faithful supporters, for your generosity and compassion that has changed so many lives. Every person you have helped out of poverty, is in a better place to fight COVID-19 because of you.

I pray that you and your family be strong and courageous during this time, holding onto hope and health. And I beg that you stand with us, and remember the poorest and most vulnerable in our global neighbourhood. Now more than ever, they need your prayers and your support.

Thank you.

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.