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46-year-old Bernadeta has long been a gardener.  

Around her home in rural Timor-Leste, she’s tried her hand at growing more than just staples. 

“I was growing vegetables such as bitter-gourd, string-beans, eggplants, water-spinach, green vegetables, lettuce and spinach,” she says. 

But it wasn’t until UnitingWorld’s partner FUSONA* offered her some assistance and invited her to help lead a gardening group that her garden became the primary source of income for her family. 

“When FUSONA’s staff came to introduce the kitchen garden program to me and my neighbours, I was excited and happy to join because they offered different seeds for us to grow and we don’t need to spend money to buy them,” said Bernadeta. 

So she joined the first training and agreed to lead a gardening group while she expanded her own kitchen garden. 

“The first time we joined as group, I learned new things and we had to decide how we would work together, assist each other and build trust,” she said.  

“At first it was a bit confusing for me as group leader to embrace all members with different ideas, characters, behaviours and mindsets, but we made decisions about how we could work for a better result for group.”  

They decided each person would work on the shared land according to what they were confident in and what they could manage.  

“It was important to acknowledge that each member would produce according to their strength and we formed a working rhythm that was understood among the group,” said Bernadeta. 

“When it comes to harvest time, we harvest and bring to the market to sell. And sometimes people are coming to our gardens and buy fresh vegetables here.” 

The group has decided they need to move to a bigger area of land in order to produce more vegetables to meet the market demand, and are working to figure out a sustainable water source for it.  

“As a group we are so pleased and thankful to FUSONA for supporting us with seeds to produce more in our gardens, said Bernadeta.  

“I love my kitchen garden and hope that FUSONA can continue to support our group with sourcing equipment as we get bigger!” 

We look forward to keeping you updated about Bernadeta’s group and the wider project.  

Thank you for helping make it happen!

Thank you to everyone who donated to support our food crisis appeal or gave gifts of seeds and kitchen gardens from our Everything in Common Gift Catalogue. You’re helping people like Bernadeta to build food security and generate an income for whole families.

*FUSONA is the development agency of the Protestant Church in Timor-Leste (IPTL), a partner of UnitingWorld and the Uniting Church in Australia.

This story comes from Fiona Morgan at Revesby Uniting Church.

 

This is Barry.

He lives in Sydney, loves his job with Uniting. Kayaking down the Georges River brings him joy.

This is Raj.

He lives on the west coast of Sri Lanka, loves his job as a motor bike mechanic. Dancing brings him joy.

Raj, who has Down Syndrome, needed some extra help at school and when he was completing his apprenticeship as a motorbike mechanic. The support he received from UnitingWorld partners in Sri Lanka mean that Raj is now able to do what he loves – in his work and his leisure time.

At Revesby Uniting Church, we place great value on welcoming and celebrating everyone. This Lent, our community chose to raise funds for UnitingWorld’s partners in Sri Lanka, who run community-based rehabilitation programs that support people including Raj.

Our thinking… why not use the things that bring us joy to raise funds that will allow others, in Sri Lanka, to do what brings them joy? Paddle for Participation was created!

During Lent, Barry kayaked 20km up the Georges River to raise funds for UnitingWorld, cheered on all the way by our community.

People gave so generously, raising $4000 over the 40 days of Lent. And because we highly value connection, conversation and hospitality at Revesby Uniting, our community celebrated the Paddle for Participation with a picnic together on beautiful Bidjigal land.

Photo credit: Ian Bertram

   

You can set up your own fundraiser for UnitingWorld.

Find out how here!

In 2024, we are continuing to support five of the brilliant scholars we supported last year: Asinate, Amalaini and Toobora at Pacific Theological College (PTC), and Mela and Luisa at Davuilevu Theological College (DTC). Both colleges are in Fiji. The scholars are now halfway through Semester 1 of 2024 and are all due to finish their studies at the end of this year. We are also continuing to keep in close contact with Rev Geraldine while she finalises her PhD.

All students are continuing to achieve great academic results.

In big news for PTC, the College is currently transitioning to become a university to be known as Pacific Communities University (PCU)! This transition includes two new schools of the university, infrastructure development and a communities-based model of education.

Thank you to the supporters of our Women in Ministry project. Your support, both financial and prayerful, is so appreciated by the students, their families, their churches and the team at UnitingWorld.

Blessings,

Mia Berry                                                                 Mardi Lumsden
International Programs Manager                  Donor Relations Manager

Student Updates

Rev Geraldine is continuing to finalise her PhD thesis. To support her studies she is working part-time at the Institute for Mission and Research at PTC, writing up some of their new coursework which she is really enjoying. She is working closely with her supervisors to submit her PhD by June, and then hopes to take up a teaching position at Davuilevu Theological College.

Rev Geraldine

Congratulations are in order for Toobora, Amalaini and Asinate, who all graduated with their Postgraduate Diploma of Theology at the end of 2023; the halfway point to graduating with their Master of Theology (MTh) at the end of this year!

Asinate and Amalaini both noted that one of their standout learnings from last semester was studying different interpretations of the books of Daniel and Revelation. They really enjoyed diving deeper into these parts of the Scripture and shifting their perspectives. Asinate said: “I realised through taking this course last semester that [Revelation] has more to do with the past and what the people of those contexts went through, rather than the future. The book of Revelation is not as scary as we were raised to believe.”

Outside of their studies, Asinate is enjoying being part of the Student Body Association and Amalaini is leading Bible studies for a local youth group most Sundays.

Toobora is currently at home in Kiribati due to delays with processing her and her son’s visas to return to Fiji after the Christmas holidays. She is persevering with her thesis writing from abroad and is in touch with her supervisors, but is wishing to return to the PTC campus as soon as possible.

Amalaini

Asinate

Toobora

Mela has been enjoying putting her learning into practice through her placement church assignment last semester. Mela explains: “These placement churches were meant for us to practically apply what we learned in the classroom, such as ways to serve people, house-to-house visitations, and approaches to talking to a man or woman who is willing to repent.”

Mela found this experience incredibly valuable.

“I have gained skills in approaching different age groups both in theory and in practice,” she said. “I plan to practically use these approaches to meet the spiritual needs of people of all genders, statuses, and races, and to help women with their spiritual needs.”

Mela

Luisa also had some eye-opening experiences in her Institutional Chaplaincy course last semester. As part of the course, she visited different institutions including the CWM Hospital, Naboro Prison, two high schools, Lelean Memorial School, and John Wesley College.

She reflected on her experiences saying, “I can say here that every course I took in my second semester of 2023 was an eye-opener to me. It helps me to know every little thing about the unique spiritual needs of people in the setting where the chaplain serves.”

Luisa

UnitingWorld visit to Suva

UnitingWorld held a Pacific Partner Learning Forum in mid-March in Suva, which saw around 35 people from across our Pacific partner churches meet in Fiji for five days of fellowship, sharing learnings, and shaping future priorities for their regional collaboration. The forum was held onsite at PTC, which allowed us to attend daily chapel and spend time with several staff members at PTC and, of course, the wonderful scholars!

Mia from UnitingWorld shared a meal with Amalaini, Asinate and Geraldine (pictured above) and had a tour of the PTC campus, which was wonderful. Unfortunately, Toobora was in Kiribati at the time.

Past Women in Ministry scholar, Pastor Leinamau from Vanuatu, attended part of the UnitingWorld forum. She is currently completing her PhD at PTC. It was great to reconnect with her and to have her valuable inputs into our conversations on Gender Equality and Child Protection within Pacific churches. UnitingWorld previously supported Pastor Leinamau to study a Master of Theology in 2018-19.

Mia with WiM scholars at PTC
Pastor Leinamau

International Program Manager – Climate and Disaster Resilience

Full-time, Sydney-based or remote

As our International Programs Manager and focal point for climate and disaster resilience, you will provide leadership within our program team around these thematic areas – supporting both colleagues and local partner organisations to strengthen capacity and deliver impactful programs.

You will also be the key relationship holder for UnitingWorld’s engagement in a number of strategic climate and/or disaster related consortia (including CAN DO and ACT Alliance) and manage the project and partnership cycle for related projects. As part of managing these partnerships, you will be responsible for the compliance and reporting requirements that come with grant funded projects. You will need to develop a strong understanding of partner’s context, strategic priorities and long-term objectives, and current capabilities, as well as the requirements and expectations of UW and our funders; to deliver the right outcomes.

See the post on Ethical Jobs for full details and to apply.

Happy International Women’s Day!  

The theme this year is a great one: Invest in women: Accelerate progress! 

Women’s empowerment and education in places where they are excluded or marginalised has long been a pillar of global development, but lesser known are the climate benefits. 

Women make up a large proportion of the agricultural sector and produce up to 80% of the food in developing countries. When climate disasters hit, women and girls bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts and they’re typically already held back by pre-existing socioeconomic disparities.  

Women are also at the forefront of climate action and are key players in sustainable development the world over. By investing in women as early as possible and ensuring their full participation, we can hear their wisdom, follow their lead and make powerful change.  

What about us in the church?  

Our church is blessed to have so many formidable and bold women leading the way in faith and justice, both in Australia and among our partners overseas.  

Here are three women we’ve been investing in! 

Rev Geraldine
Methodist Church in Fiji

Rev Geraldine from Rotuma in Fiji is an Old Testament theologian who is passionate about her community and culture. She is currently completing her PhD in theology, which was enabled through a scholarship funded by UnitingWorld supporters (thank you!)

Rev Geraldine is a strong advocate for theological education and the inclusion and leadership of women for a stronger, more vibrant church.

“We as leaders need to give space for all people to speak. Not just for scholars, but people in the community. They are living the impacts of climate change and the social issues we need to know about to direct the priorities of the church and its theology,” she says.

On climate action, she said, “the world I want to see is one where … humanity respects creation, animals and trees, because there is life in them; and where there is kindness, caring and loving. Because I see God in that world.”

 

Rev Jeny Mahupale 
Protestant Church of Maluku (GPM) 

Rev Jeny (right) is the Project Coordinator of an initiative launched last year, working across six villages to teach and equip people to build and maintain productive kitchen gardens to grow their own food.  

Thanks to UnitingWorld supporters, GPM could access the resources needed to roll out the project in some pilot locations and is now expanding across the villages. Rev Jeny’s team has even been running popular workshops to show communities how to make their own organic fertilisers!  

Rev Jeny is also passionate about peacebuilding (she has been recognised by the United Nations for her work) and a central part of the project is to outreach to Muslim communities to build peace and greater understanding of God’s love for all creation. 

She and her team recently gave away 1,000 tree and plant seedlings in a single day as an outreach of the church, and to build awareness about the kitchen gardens project. 

“Please, as humans, let’s work together for saving the earth – saving our children’s future. Thank you so much for all your support for UnitingWorld and for us in the east part of Indonesia. One plant you give, one vegetable seed you share, is same as you share your breath for other people and nature. Thank You. big hug from Ambon-Maluku, East Indonesia.” 

Sophia Lakra,
Church of North India – Diocese of Durgapur 

Sophia is a Program Facilitator for the Community Development Program we support in Durgapur, North India, and is passionate about expanding education access for those who are traditionally marginalised because of poverty, gender or caste.  

During the pandemic, she kept her school’s vacation program going safely by organising a virtual summer camp! Engaging the children’s creativity kept the children connected throughout the holidays during an isolating time. 

“I want to see a world where all children can access education, and all the children who come to our programs are hopeful for a better future. One way to do it is by making children and all people aware of how to take care of the environment. We can plant trees, save water, take care of plants, animals, birds…,” she said recently.

  

Growing up in an ecological crisis. 

 An Australian child born in 2023 will experience four times as many heat waves, three times as many droughts and one and a half times as many bushfires during their lifetime as someone born in 1960. And for those born in more vulnerable parts of the planet, hunger, disease and homelessness are all on the rise due to the impact of changing climate.  

Childhood provides very little respite from these realities. If young people aren’t seeing evidence in their own communities of extreme weather events, there’s plenty of information at their fingertips via social media. 

It’s not surprising then that a recent survey of 10,000 children and young people (aged 16-25 years) in 10 countries, including Australia, found that 59% were  very or extremely worried about climate change, with 84% at least moderately worried 

Action can also be an antidote to anxiety! Acting on climate, in ways large or small, can give hope and courage to others.
Lent Event is a great place to start.

If the young people in your life are worried about climate change, here’s a good article about how to manage eco-anxiety

 

At the same time, spare a thought for children growing up in our immediate neighbourhood, the Pacific and South East Asia.  

These are children who already know what it’s like to live in communities that flood too often, where fresh food is scarce, and waterborne disease keeps them from school. For some, ‘home’ will be uninhabitable by the time they’re adults – in Tuvalu, for example, young people are resigned to the fact that they have no future on their island homes and plan to relocate to Fiji or other parts of the Pacific as soon as they’re old enough.  

In the face of overwhelming challenges, where is the next generation finding hope? Who has the task of educating, equipping and inspiring them to overcome anxiety with action? 

Rev Nyoman Agustinus, Bishop of the Bali Protestant Church (GKPB), believes the Church can play a unique role. 

“We are called by God to see this earth as our home, care for it, protect and preserve its beauty,” he says. “This means that as early as possible we must provide education for children. If children learn to love the earth from the beginning, this will help them to protect the earth so it will be a healthy and comfortable home for them in the future.” 

Parts of the Church throughout the Pacific and South East Asia have been proactive during the past decade in educating members about the important role they can play in protecting the environment, many with the support of UnitingWorld theologians and resources. They see the critical role that the next generation will play and are committed to inspiring children to face the future with hope. Rev Agustinus says:

“In the Balinese church, we urge all pastors to show their love of nature and teach creation care in everything they do. This means catechism education and providing material for Sunday school teachers. We strongly encourage Pastors, Vicars and Sunday school teachers to provide education that is not limited to learning just in the classroom but can extend to a ‘natural school’.  Children can have direct contact with nature, step on mud, and plant trees with their families – as they grow, these trees will remind them of the role they play in looking after the earth for generations.” 

Part of the approach is helping children see that their individual actions are connected to a wider global reality. What impacts people in Bali – difficulty predicting when to grow and harvest crops, extreme weather events that destroy livelihoods, displaced communities due to flood – impacts people all over the world. 

“We want children here to know that individual acts become collective acts, and this is what will change the world. Let’s all be good role models and with our actions we will set an example: our children need to see this solidarity from other Christians around the globe.”

Watch Rev Agustinus’ message in the short video below.

You can play your part in encouraging our young people to overcome eco-anxiety and take action for the planet, both here in Australia and around the world. 

Learn more at www.lentevent.com.au 

 

Under a sky bluer than an eye, fisherman Kekai sets his line and waits.

He’s further from the shore than ever before and, with the crippling cost of fuel for his boat, he’s hoping for a catch. Fast. But it’s quiet on the sea; warmer water means the fish are seeking the deep, and trawlers are cleaning out the area more and more frequently.

As Kekai scans the horizon, he contemplates yet another canned dinner – salt in the water table from multiple king tides is poisoning his vegetable garden and no more fresh food will arrive at his tiny Tuvaluan island until next week.

“This is the frontline of changing climate for Pacific islanders,” says Rev Seforosa (Sef) Carroll, Fijian-born Australian theologian and academic.

“Diabetes is on the rise because of the change in diet; malnutrition and waterborne diseases plague the children because it’s so hard to grow anything. Clean water and sanitation are really difficult when the land is constantly flooded by salt water.

And it’s really sad, because these are people who are traditionally independent, used to caring for their land, taking from it what they need to survive, and generally in tune with creation.”

Changing climate has wrought havoc on what should be a delicately woven web of relationships between humans and the natural world. And while there’s much more agreement these days about the reality of climate change – most people are aware that we now face not just an ecological crisis, but a ‘here and now’ climate emergency – implementing solutions is more challenging.

So ‘which God’ can fix climate change, and how?

“People in the Pacific are inherently spiritual, it’s just in their DNA,” Sef says.

“But they have this hangover from colonial encounters with missionaries that gives them a view of God that actually isn’t all that helpful. The God many worship is generally seen as transcendent and uninvolved with humanity, responsible for weather and other big events, but somewhat distant.

“Many believing Islanders are convinced that this God won’t let their lands be destroyed because of the promise to Noah in Genesis after the Great Flood. So they wait patiently for the next miracle, even while their entire sense of identity is eroded as they watch their land disappear. Doubt creeps in: where is God in their suffering?”

This is where theology really bites and cultural views of God matter deeply. The temptation to see increasingly devastating weather events as evidence of God’s punishment for sin can lead to doubling down on morality codes, while at the same time jettisoning any sense of personal responsibility or agency in the face of the emergency. Sef says:

“‘Which God’ we worship – our understanding of God’s identity – really matters.  That kind of purely transcendent God is not the God of Jesus, of Emmanuel, God with us. It’s not the God that says we are caretakers with responsibility and empowerment by God’s Spirit. And helping Pacific people to shift from this kind of inheritance theology to one that says that through Christ, God is suffering with creation and God is suffering with us, is really critical. That theology can help people to be proactive and inspire them to action.”

Faith drives meaning and behaviour in many parts of the Pacific Islands. But shifting long-held understandings takes time, and that’s a commodity we simply don’t have.

“We’re sitting on a ticking bomb here,” Sef says. “And it takes time for people to unlearn and relearn theology, and to gain a new understanding of faith.”

It’s why UnitingWorld’s partnership to train ministers and theological colleges is so critical. Resources like Bible Studies and workshops are opening eyes to who God is and how God is at work in and through God’s people in the world. But the work is slow and painstaking, and it can’t be the only solution.

“Pacific Islanders might be the ones most impacted in our region by changing climate, but it’s on all of us to step up to acknowledge the impacts in our own neighbourhoods and across the globe, and to play our part. Every single one of us needs to ask ‘which God are we worshipping?’ A God who is only concerned with our ‘spiritual lives’ or a God actively involved in collaborating with us in reclaiming creation? I dream of a rigorous theology embraced by Christians around the world, inspiring us to action where we are, with what we have. It’s going to take all of us, doing everything we can.”

Watch Sef’s message in the short video below.

This year, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event is creating a movement of people committed to urgency, solidarity and faithful action for God’s creation.

We’re calling on you to do something personal – make a change to your life that benefits creation during the 40 days of Lent and pray it sticks throughout the year.

We’re calling on you to do something practical – make a donation to support projects across the Pacific and elsewhere that open minds to new understandings of God and drive faithful action, empower communities to protect their environment through tree planting initiatives and provide clean water.

We’re calling on you to get political – contact your local representative to chat about their approaches to climate change, educate yourself about policies, and help hold government accountable for their actions.

‘Which God’ will fix climate change? The God of Emmanuel, who is with us in suffering, invites and empowers us for action.

How will it happen? All of us, acting in solidarity and with urgency.

Join us today at www.lentevent.com.au

 

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of coming home – to a physical place, a person or community. In English, the word home perhaps feels a bit restrictive, conjuring up bricks, mortar, a mortgage and soaring interest rates. But for our Pacific neighbours, language has gifted words with stronger wings.

Vanua, for Fijians, means land, home or village. But with multiple subtle variations throughout the Pacific Islands, it captures so much more than that. It gives voice to the connections people have with land, sea and sky, as well as their relationships with one another and their obligations to stewardship. Theologian, Rev Dr Cliff Bird from the United Church of Solomon Islands, explains:

“When we start with the idea of ‘home’ among Pacific Islanders, we instantly have an understanding of relationship and mutual obligation. When we say that creation is ‘home’ not only to people and animals, flora and fauna, but God too, then we are expressing a powerful theological concept that is woven throughout Genesis. And this is a critical part of our framework for teaching people about what it means to act in the midst of this current ecological crisis.”

The period of Lent, Cliff says, is a perfect time of reflection on our relationship to the home we share with our neighbours and God. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the human impact we bring to our home and on the kind of activities that shape the place that nurtures and sustains us.

“When we think about how we treat our individual homes, it can bring focus to the way we treat our collective home – the planet,” Cliff says. “How does what we buy impact on this home we share? What are the commercial and industrial activities that we support, and how do they damage the earth and ocean? How do we dispose of garbage, including the clothes we wear?”

Cliff is heartened by the knowledge that individual acts become community acts and from there, they can become national and global realities.

Watch Cliff’s message in the short video below.

This year, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event is creating a movement of people committed to urgency, solidarity and faithful action for God’s creation.  

We’re calling on you to do:

  • something personal – make a change to your life that benefits creation during the 40 days of Lent and pray it sticks throughout the year.  
  • something practical – fundraise or make a gift to support critical climate action in vulnerable communities
  • something political – use your voice to influence your community to demand urgent climate action

We’ve put together this list of things you can do to make ‘home’ more liveable for all of us, for longer.  Check it out and share it with those who are looking for ideas and encouragement.  

Join us today at www.lentevent.com.au

Lent Event is inspired by a simple but powerful idea. That every one of us has a role to play in building a world free from poverty and injustice.

It’s especially true of the issue of climate change.

Climate change is worsening every threat to peace, security and human wellbeing in our world.

It’s going to take all of us, doing all we can, with all our hearts, to fight it.

We believe people of faith have a powerful role to play in taking meaningful climate action, as well as inspiring hope and courage to face the future.

Join us for Lent Event. 14 February – 28 March, 2024

Commit to 40 days of faithful action for God’s creation. Start wherever you’re at with a large or small sustainability challenge. Use it to fundraise to help vulnerable communities who are fighting to build resilience and mitigate climate impacts. Raise your voice.

Along the way, we’ll be considering the role of faith in caring for God’s creation through a series of short devotions and video interviews with our partners and theologians.

Here’s a little pitch video with the help from some of our partners sharing the world we want to see…

Sign up today and start inspiring others to join! www.lentevent.com.au

The second annual Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders’ Summit (PAELS) took place in December.

More than 70 young Christian leaders from across the Pacific and Australia came together for connection-building, leadership development and dialogue over a week-long program, coordinated by Micah Australia*.

As part of the program, delegates were hosted for worship services at Blacktown Regional Uniting Church and Campbelltown Uniting Church.

At Blacktown Uniting, President Elect of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Charissa Suli, gave a sermon that encouraged the young delegates to boldly share their stories and their authentic selves.

“Your advocacy and voices are critical in shaping a future where the dignity of all human life and God’s creation is recognised and celebrated,” she told them.

Delegates went on to two days of advocacy training and a day of meetings with more than 50 members of Parliament in Canberra, where they discussed key development priorities for young people and their communities.

Raúl Sugunananthan, Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly was one of those leaders. He spoke to us at Parliament House about the importance of community organising and political advocacy to make change. Watch what he shared below.

*UnitingWorld is a member of Micah Australia, a movement of Australian Christians to advocate on the most urgent global justice issues facing our world today – extreme poverty, rising conflict and climate change.