Susy Thomas, Moderator Elect of the Uniting Church WA, was invited to attend an annual Christian convention at the church she grew up in, in Kerala India. The conference was held in February this year, just before COVID-19 restrictions came into place. She shares her experience.
“The love of Christ can be made more vivid through Australian Christian concern, on Christmas day, the one great day of sharing.” Rev Frank Byatt, founder of the Christmas Bowl c. 1956
As Christians, we are called respond to, and faithfully live out, the Gospel call to be generous in our love, and to participate in God’s mission to bring healing, wholeness and hope to those facing hardship and injustice. It sounds like an overwhelming task, but in fact we can reach people in need with the humblest of actions.
Doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there’s something about Swedish blondes in flares. The moment I find ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ in my playlist, smiles light the faces of my four young companions and for a brief moment during the chorus, we’re in perfect sync. At the other end of the clinic, our photographer and videographer bust a few moves in between the serious business of filming the testimony of clinic manager Albert, who has limited English and dreams of a blood pressure machine for his patients.
President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, has called on the Federal Government to take moral leadership and resolve the status of refugees on Manus Island in mainland Australia.
Hundreds of men who remained in the offshore detention centre after its closure on 31 October have been transported to new facilities by Papua New Guinean authorities. Their removal follows a tense stand-off in which the men initially refused to leave.
“Haven’t these people suffered enough? After all this time, is it still impossible for the Federal Government to show some compassion and bring them here?” said Stuart.
UnitingWorld is the Uniting Church in Australia’s agency for working with people in Asia, Africa and the Pacific as they build lives free of poverty, and share the good news of Christ. UnitingWorld believe the two can’t be separated; they keep this work connected through ecumenical partnerships with churches in their communities, caring for people regardless of religion, politics or other boundaries.
Cath Taylor, from UnitingWorld, shares with Revive how this overseas community services agency is making big change from small change.
Australian Aid Funding
Right now, UnitingWorld is combining donations with Australian Aid Funding to give your gift up to six times the impact for people freeing themselves from poverty. In recognition of both the generosity of Uniting Church donors and the success of UnitingWorld projects, the Australian Government has made special funding available to select programs. UnitingWorld must first raise $1 for every $5 available in Australian Aid Funding.
UnitingWorld doesn’t believe in charity – we believe in solidarity. We do everything in partnership with others who are committed to building on their strengths, long-term. This means there’s no expectation of a ‘hand out’ and everyone we work with is striving to make the most of their opportunities. This is the mindset that truly yields big change.
Investing long term
Our approach is to invest long-term in people: providing them with business training and solutions to poverty that give practical tools to take control of life. We help people start their own small businesses like breeding livestock, growing vegetables, selling second-hand clothes and repairing furniture or mobile phones. Once the loans we provide are paid back, they’re used again to kick-start someone else’s future.
Wise use of resources
We don’t waste money building things communities can’t use, handing out items that will need to be resupplied again and again, or using staff from Australia when local people can do the job themselves. We listen to and respect our partners because we’ve known them for years and have good relationships with them – they tell us what they need to make changes, and we get them the resources.
We’re accredited with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) through the Australian Government and we pay a decent wage to our administration staff, rather than relying on the goodwill of volunteers. This may sound boring, but it actually means that not only are we using the best ideas to get things done, you can also be sure that the money you give is accounted for, our staff are well-trained and properly recompensed, our partners have sound business practices and no resources are wasted.
To give an end-of-financial-year donation to UnitingWorld call 1800 998 122 or visit www.unitingworld.org.au/freedom
A delegation of Uniting Church leaders travelled to Lebanon in January with the aim of building relationships with churches in the region.
The delegation included Stuart McMillan, president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rob Floyd, national director of UnitingWorld, and three Uniting Church ministers from the Middle East, including Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, multicultural ministry co-ordinator for the Uniting Church WA.
The group met with the leaders of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the National Evangelical Church of Beirut. They also visited a range of historical sites, including one of the ancient jars from the biblical story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2) and one of the earliest memorial sites of the Armenian Genocide in Antelias.
While in Lebanon, the group also spent some time at Fondation le Grain de Ble, a program for local refugee children which provides camps, clubs, sport, literature, games and entertainment for refugee children in Lebanon, with an aim to share God’s love.
Two female ministers from the Gereja Kristen Protestant Bali, the Protestant Church of Bali (GKPB), are visiting Perth from 30 July to 8 October as they take part in a ten-week English immersion experience.
Rev Ayu Wandira and Rev Betha Meidywati had quite a large English vocabulary when they arrived in Australia, but needed assistance to put those words into full sentences. With support from the WA Uniting Church Adult Fellowship (UCAF) and the GKPB Women’s Fellowship, Ayu and Betha have grown immensely in their English language skills while staying in Perth.
Rev Janelle McGregor, chairperson of the WA UCAF, has been teaching the pair English using work sheets, exams, Bible reading and other methods. Janelle has a teaching background with experience in teaching English as a second language (ESL). She said that the recent Bishop of GKPB has been keen to support women in ministry. Bishop Suama has taken on the role in September, and is equally as supportive.
“He’s particularly conscious of the fact that women, female clergy, don’t have the professional development opportunities that men have because women have all those sorts of social issues in a very patriarchal society, even as professional women. So he is very keen to have an ongoing program,” Janelle said.
The Uniting Church will be represented by a youthful voice at the World Council of Churches (WCC) with the election of Emily Evans to the WCC Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee is the top governance body of the WCC and implements strategic objectives set by the Central Committee. It meets twice a year and oversees council finances, monitors ongoing program work and appoints leadership staff.
Emily was one of 11 new members elected to the Executive Committee at a meeting in Trondheim, Norway in June. She has worked with the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s Justice and International Mission unit and has been a member of the WCC gender advisory group. She was elected to the Central Committee in 2013 and is on the WCC’s ECHOS Commission, which consists of 20 young Christians involved in the ecumenical movement.
During the week-long meeting, the Central Committee approved a range of reports and decisions. These included statements on the global refugee crisis, the human rights situation in West Papua and a call for prayer following the recent Brexit vote. As a relative newcomer to the international ecumenical movement, Emily hopes to achieve greater understanding of the role and responsibility of the WCC.
“This includes learning about the lives and lived experience of other member churches, gaining a deeper understanding of what true Christian unity means in the world today and bringing back to the UCA new learnings and insights,” she explained.
Rev Eira Clapton recently visited Sri Lanka with UnitingWorld staff, to see the work of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, which is supported by a partnership with the Uniting Church WA. She shares stories from her trip with Revive.
I start a new notebook for this Sri Lanka trip, because a pen and paper are quickly accessible when you want to make notes in a foreign country. On the title page I write the words: “What if we were standing on holy ground?”
Holy ground is difficult to get to. For us it involves a very early start. At 3.51am, I climb into a small bus and we set off on crowded roads out of Colombo to the more remote north-east of the country. These are the areas which have been devastated by the double disaster of civil war and tsunami. There are fewer people to do the work in these areas – many of the young were killed in the war or the disaster, or left disabled by them. The roads are poor so the villages are hard to get to, isolated from each other and from government services. The bus rollicks over dry creek beds and picks its way at a snail’s pace around deep potholes.
Rev Eira Clapton recently visited Sri Lanka with UnitingWorld staff, to see the work of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka which is supported by the partnership of the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Western Australia
I start a new notebook for this Sri Lanka trip, because a pen and paper are quickly accessible when you want to make notes in a foreign country. On the title page I write these words: “What if we were standing on holy ground“?
Holy ground is difficult to get to. For us it involves a very early start. At 3.51am I climb into a small bus and we set off on crowed roads out of Colombo to the more remote north and east of the country. These are the areas which have been devastated by the double disaster of civil war and tsunami. There are fewer people to do the work in these areas – many of the young were killed in the war, or the disaster, or left disabled by them. The roads are poor so the villages are hard to get to, isolated from each other and from government services. The bus rollicks over dry creeks beds and picks its way at a snail pace around deep potholes.
I visit a Church hall in Muthur, where some tiny children have gathered to greet us with their mothers and preschool teacher. They place garlands of flowers around our necks as we enter. This is a Church run school for those who can’t afford to send their children to government run preschools. One mother explains that she sells goods to provide for her family. Sometimes there is money for education, sometimes none. In this place everyone is welcome to come – it is a multi-faith school. The preschool turns no-one away, even though the Church has no funding to support it. The teacher has not been paid for months, and the only food provided to the children comes from what the parents can bring.
The children sing us a song, which sounds like ‘Heads and shoulders, knees and toes’, and we all smile at each other.
Eira’s Law of Spiritual Economics says “you know you are getting close to the kingdom of God when there is not enough money to do the work”. I conclude that we are very close today.
In the next district we visit more preschools in which teachers work for next to nothing and the churches provide emergency aid type nutrition packs for children, as the whole population is under-nourished. We are treated as special guests each place we go.
If you feel jaded about the church, visiting the projects that your church supports with funds, and meeting the passionate workers at the other end, will make you feel better.
In my notebook I write that I am thinking of all the faithful donors to appeals, and wishing they could have been with us. We are thanked over and over by each preschool community, but of course they don’t mean to thank us personally -we just represent the Australian churches.
Anyone seen the kingdom of God? Maybe they could start looking around here.
Rev Eira Clapton
If you want to be part of sharing the work of the Kingdom of God in this place, you can support the preschool project by donating to:
BSB 036-001 Account 92-1834 Uniting Church in Australia
Reference Sri Lanka Preschools
Cheque – made payable to Uniting Church in Australia
Send to: Social Justice Unit, Uniting Church Synod of WA, GPO Box M952, Perth WA 6843
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that donations to this appeal are not tax deductible.