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Indonesia has the highest COVID-19 caseload in all Southeast Asia. More than 4.23 million infections were reported nationwide to the end of 2021, and over 143,000 deaths. Only 22% of the population has been vaccinated, and local governments lack capacity to respond in the most hard-hit provinces.

The World Health Organization predicts an increase in case numbers, likely in outer-lying provinces and islands due to low vaccination rates, easing of movement restrictions, weak community observance of health protocols, and the gradual reopening of schools.

It’s estimated that 2.8 million Indonesians have fallen into poverty due to the pandemic. Indicators relating to livelihoods, food security and gender-based violence have also deteriorated dramatically since 2020.

In response, UnitingWorld is working as part of the ‘CAN DO’ Consortium (Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations) to provide health messaging, increase vaccine education and create opportunities to restore lost income.

Our partner the Protestant Christian Church in Bali, for example, will distribute emergency cash transfers to over 500 households, as well as provide small business training and thousands of chickens to kickstart new businesses. The programs have been designed by our partners in local communities to particularly target vulnerable groups including women, elderly people and those with disabilities.

Supported by the Australian Government, the project will include psychosocial support and referrals for those experiencing mental ill-health or domestic violence as a by-product of the pandemic. Monitoring and evaluation of the project will be rigorous, with the network learning from each other to increase impact right across Indonesia. Please pray for our partners as they enter their third year of emergency COVID-19 activities. They’re exhausted, many have lost family and friends, and are deeply appreciate our love, prayer and financial support.

“After the first explosion, we knew what is coming next, everyone rushed to the mountain; after the 2nd explosion the whole population is on the mountain. We started singing hymns and songs and we prayed as the night fall. We have no time to worry and listen to the destruction of the whole island by the tidal waves” – resident of Fonoi island.

As communication with Tonga gets a little easier, we continue to hear reports of the damage caused by the Volcanic explosion on Saturday 15th January 2022. We’ve heard stories of trauma and loss faced by those who relocated to Tongatapu, and those who were visited by chaplains from the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT). There is extensive damage to homes, churches, hospitals, schools and other property and possessions. Thankfully only three people lost their lives. Destruction of boats, roads, wharves, internet cable, airports, cars and trucks mean that reaching those affected has not been easy. People must line up for an hour of internet access, and so information comes to us in snippets and phone calls happen whenever folks are available. COVID-19 is now in Tonga, adding further stress and the resulting lockdown has restricted movement.

What is being done to assist people?

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga “Tekina ‘I Moana” initiative is the disaster management and recovery arm of the church, and has been busy packing and distributing care packages for affected people.

  • They have done rapid needs assessments in affected villages, and developed a three-staged approach to recovery. They will respond, reconnect and rebuild.
  • They’ve already visited eight villages to distribute water, food, clothes and provide counselling.
  • Within the next two months they plan to provide larger items – tents, temporary mobile toilets, beds, blankets, school bags and materials, boats, chainsaws, generators, petrol and the means to replant root vegetables.
  • In the rebuild phase, several residences and public buildings will be repaired.

Your donations to UnitingWorld have been used to support this initial response work, and funds will be targeted to support some of the ongoing and longer-term efforts.

Thank you so much for everything you’ve done to build the strength of our friends in Tonga. We and the Free Wesleyan Church appreciate your prayer and giving so much! You can find an extensive report on the ongoing recovery and rebuild plans prepared by the Free Wesleyan Church here – it’s absorbing reading and speaks to the competence and commitment of our partners. 

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga have other funding partners and are working closely with the Tongan Government. UnitingWorld is working with FWCT to determine which aspects of their plan the funds you helped us raise will support. For more information, please contact us at info@unitingworld.org.au and we’ll do our best to answer any questions.

Cyclones and droughts are increasing the frequency and intensity across the Pacific. We support our partners to prepare vulnerable communities and reduce the impacts of natural disasters.

Please consider a gift to help communities build resilience to disasters; building better homes, preparing shelters and evacuation plans and increasing our partners’ capacity to provide emergency support and pastoral care.

Support disaster preparation work here

 

Live simply, so others can simply live.

Lent Event calls you to join other Christians in a pledge to give up or take up something in solidarity with those who live with less. Learn about how to be a good global neighbour through our Bible study series and donate to support our work, knowing that every dollar is part of God’s mission in the world, ending poverty and building hope.

What could you GIVE UP? What could you TAKE UP?
Buying things you don’t need; wasting food; checking your phone; arriving late; gossip; disposable plastic; mindless eating; worrying about things that can’t
be changed; going through the motions; procrastination…
Composting; gratitude; patience; a new skill; prayer; forgiveness; secret acts of kindness; exercise; a budget; a new idea; graciousness; regular giving; meditation; memorising scripture…

Join a team to have more impact!

Join others online who are choosing to walk 10,000 steps a day to raise money for clean water; reducing screen time or technology to support children in school or cut back on plastic use to raise funds for climate change advocacy and disaster relief.

Join us for Lent Event 2022:

  1. Download our Global Neighbours Bible Study or order a hard copy booklet and read a chapter each week of Lent.
  2. Give up something in solidarity with those who have less, or take up a new spiritual discipline for forty days.
  3. Donate to our global neighbours in places of critical need.

You can also take up a 40-day challenge and create your own fundraising page! Click here to create a page for an individual or church.


What about churches?

We encourage you to use the Global Neighbour Bible studies with your congregation and small groups over Lent (they’re really great!). But due to COVID-19 we’ve not been able to visit our partners and those they care for to produce weekly stories of transformation during the six weeks of Lent. We’re sorry that we can’t resource you for Lent as much as we would like.

Instead, we want to invite you to join us for Seven Days of Solidarity

Seven Days of Solidarity invites you to celebrate the risen Christ with us and bear witness to how and where God is changing lives through our partners.

We’ll provide you and your congregation with videos, stories, prayer requests and action ideas to encourage you to lift up your eyes to see where God is at work in the world.

Each day, you’ll encounter the faithful Christian leaders who are training others, equipping people to make a living, working for peace, raising up women and girls, empowering people with disabilities and responding to disasters and a changing climate. Pray and take action as part of our global family of faith.

Come together with your congregation to celebrate God’s faithfulness and pledge yourselves anew to God’s global mission. We’ll show you the incredible gains the Church is making around the world in Christ’s name, and invite you to make a response in prayer and giving.

We believe this is the faith-fuel our Church needs right now, and I’m really excited by this new initiative! If you are too, please ask your minister and organise your church to take part in UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity.

Here’s a great intro video you can show them:

Visit the website for more information: sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au

Our friends in Tonga are incredibly grateful for the support so many of you have shown since Hunga Tonga-Hung Ha’api erupted on Jan 15, causing a tsunami and massive destruction on remote islands.

With your help we’ve raised over $125,000 so far for our partners to invest into their work caring for people impacted by the disaster. Thank you!

If you would like to add your support for Tonga you can still give here.

Project Manager Aletia Dundas, who is helping support the efforts of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) from our office in Sydney, provides an update below.

Would you like to send a message of support?

We’ve organised an e-card that we’ll deliver on Friday to our friends in Tonga. It’s easy to sign and we’d love you to add your prayer or message of support.

Should we collect items to send?

We’ve received many generous offers to donate items for people in Tonga. While we’re very grateful for the support, our partners have requested that people not send items into the country.

Items donated from Australia can clog up ports and prevent much needed aid from quickly reaching those who need it most. The vast majority of donated items aren’t appropriate for the context and tragically, end up in landfill.  Read more here about why cash donations are the best way to show your support.

Your past support in action

We talk a lot about the critical important of disaster preparedness and Tonga is a great example of how your support is making a huge difference!

After Cyclone Gita, FWCT wanted to be able to respond faster to the next disaster. Thanks to your support, they built and stocked a large storage facility to be able to begin repairs to damaged buildings within days and weeks after a cyclone rather than having to wait for supplies to be shipped in from outside. It was used for Cyclone Harold and is now being used to repair buildings damaged by the tsunami.

Back in 2015, FWCT also wanted to create a network of chaplains to support people in the event of disaster or crisis. They requested experts Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson, Rev. Nau Ahosivi and Rev. Alimoni Taumoepeau to run a series of training sessions for their ministers and create the network.

When cyclones Gita and Harold hit, the network was deployed and provided valuable support to people who’d lost their homes and were surrounded by devastation. The experience the chaplains gained during these emergencies meant they were immediately ready when the tsunami hit this month, and they’ve been hard at work visiting affected communities.

Through our partnership, FWCT also accessed a grant from the Australian Government to supply water tanks to vulnerable families affected by Cyclone Harold and to support health and hygiene advice for COVID-19 prevention. Eight were 10,000 litre tanks for communal use in vulnerable areas. Access to clean drinking water has been a critical issue since the tsunami hit, and authorities warned residents to protect water sources in advance from volcanic ash fall. We are still waiting to hear how many were able to do it and how the tanks fared.

Thank you so much for supporting our partners in Tonga before and after this crisis. It’s truly making a huge difference.

We’re excited for two big events this half of 2022 and hope you’re ready to be engaged and inspired!

Lent Event

Live simply, so others may simply live.

Lent Event calls you to join other Christians in a pledge to give up or take up something in solidarity with those who live with less. Learn about how to be a good global neighbour through our Bible study series and donate to support our work, knowing that every dollar is part of God’s mission in the world, ending poverty and building hope.

What could you GIVE UP? What could you TAKE UP?
Buying things you don’t need; wasting food; checking your phone; arriving late; gossip; disposable plastic; mindless eating; worrying about things that can’t
be changed; going through the motions; procrastination…
Composting; gratitude; patience; a new skill; prayer; forgiveness; secret acts of kindness; exercise; a budget; a new idea; graciousness; regular giving; meditation; memorising scripture…

Join a team to have more impact!

Join others online who are choosing to walk 10,000 steps a day to raise money for clean water; reducing screen time or technology to support children in school or cut back on plastic use to raise funds for climate change advocacy and disaster relief.

Visit us at www.lentevent.com.au for all the details.

Seven Days of Solidarity

Celebrate with us the work of our global neighbours!

Seven Days of Solidarity is your chance to hear inspiring stories of Christians at work in some of the world’s most challenging places. When you sign up, we’ll send you a story for each day of the week that includes ideas for action and prayer. Get your congregation on board and celebrate over two Sundays with a launch video and original worship music, impact stories, prayers, a sermon and easy ways to support the work in giving. We’re celebrating Seven Days of Solidarity during Lent (28 March to 4 April) but you can choose any time that works for you or your church.

Find out more at www.sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au

Have you seen the film “Don’t look up”?  

 A stellar performer for Netflix throughout January, it follows the progress of two astronomers as they desperately try to warn a pre-occupied population that a killer comet is on a collision course with the planet. In response, politicians, celebrities and ordinary people find refuge in the idea that if they simply ‘don’t look up’, they’ll be protected from reality. 

It’s an uncomfortable watch, but many of us probably have some sympathy with the desire to keep our heads low and our focus narrow right now. It can feel like the only way to stay sane.  

There are, however, really life-giving reasons to keep looking up.  

Looking up focusses us on the story of Christ.

At the foot of the cross, Jesus’ friends stayed to look up into the reality of his suffering and then to care for his body. They found redemption not only in their own actions, but in the ultimate, astonishing act of God in bringing new life. The same is true for us.

Looking up, and sharing the stories of others, allows us to realise our collective power to bring about change.

Understanding our experience relative to others around the world also helps us celebrate our wins and work against the losses.  

UnitingWorld calls you to embrace this call by taking part in two events in the first part of 2022. 

 Seven Days of Solidarity, during Lent March 27-April 3 or any time that suits you, shares a vision of God at work through our global neighbours. You’ll hear inspiring stories of the challenges faced and changes created by ordinary Christians around the world. Better yet, respond in worship, prayer and giving across two Sunday Services. Find out more and download videos, prayer, sermon and liturgy at www.sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au. 

 Lent Event, from March 2 – April 14, is a call to live simply so others can simply live. For forty days, take action to bring about change for others. Join a challenge to give or take something up in solidarity with those who live with less. Ask friends to support you, and hear about how your efforts can put power in the hands of ordinary people to earn an income, keep their children in school or get access to clean water. Check out www.lentevent.com.au for details. 

Together, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event and Seven Days of Solidarity point us back to God’s faithfulness and focus our eyes, heart and hands on building a Kingdom of peace and justice.  Look them up this January – you won’t regret it. 

 

Over the past few months, we’ve been sharing stories with you from the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor, where Rev Dr Mery Kolimon and her team have been responding to the twin crises of cyclone recovery during the pandemic.

We told you the story of Yan and Alex, who are being cared for by the church after Yan’s wife and Alex’s brother were both tragically killed in flooding after Cyclone Seroja. We celebrated the news of Dolvince’s pregnancy, another survivor of the floods, and of Valentino’s joy swimming with friends in spite of a disability that threatened his life when he had to flee a landslide caused by the cyclone.

Rev Mery writes to us: “Dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, thank you so much for your help that enabled us to support people in Timar, Sabu, Rote, Flores and Alar hit by the Cyclone Seroja disaster. After the emergency response we are now doing some projects on building back houses and church buildings. We are also doing some training for carpenters in order to build back safer. Besides this, we are

doing economic empowerment (gardens, small business training) for the families impacted by the disaster. God bless you too in this difficult time of the pandemic and thank you for your support and prayers.”

Your generosity has yielded $77,481.40, which we’ve been able to use to support this work in Timor and among other partners impacted in a similar way by disaster. Thank you so much!

Waluwanja gets up for work every day at 5am. After a drink of hot coffee, he’s straight into his back garden, clearing out weeds, watering each plant and making sure no pests are getting in. He grows all sorts of vegetables, but lately he’s been testing out mustard greens, carrots and rice paddies, which he will sell wholesale to street vendors in his community. When a crop becomes ready for harvest, he cleans, prepares and delivers the produce direct to his customers one by one.

Waluwanja learned how to run a productive garden business through UnitingWorld’s partner TLM in West Timor. In one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia, TLM acknowledge that people’s ability to improve their lives and their communities depends on opportunities to earn a sustainable income.

A few years ago, Waluwanja visited a community garden project run by TLM that produces food and teaches people about sustainable agriculture. He walked away with knowledge and inspiration to prepare the large plot of land behind his home to grow fresh food as well as his income.

Then when he lost his job, it was the perfect time to commit to the project.

After slow beginnings, hard work and many 5am mornings experimenting with different organic fertilizers and planting strategies, he started to build a customer base among the street vendors around his village.

He says his secret is delivering early and delivering fresh.

“I have more than 15 vegetable sellers around the village and they are happy to buy from me because I always deliver early in the morning so the vegetables they are selling are still fresh.”

The income it generated enabled him to meet his daily needs, but Waluwanja realised that if he was going to grow the business even more, he was going to need help. So he reached out to some of his neighbours to work with him and he’s now thrilled that he’s creating incomes for others.

Waluwanja’s garden business is now so productive that at different times of year it generates an income averaging between IDR 6 – 18,000,000 or AUD $545 – $1,636 per month. Lately he’s been keeping busy building a new stall to sell his vegetables and other daily necessities direct from the front of his home.

Waluwanja says he works so hard because he wants to earn enough to be able to send his five children to school and eventually university.

“Thank you so much TLM Foundation for giving me a lot of knowledge about agriculture and village governance, so that I can grow to become a successful farmer”.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and impacted the lives of 27,162 people like Waluwanja in 2020-2021.

Thank you ANCP and our supporters! We can’t do this life-changing work without you.

Click here to support this project. 

People with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable people in Sri Lanka. Without support, disabilities can become a huge barrier to accessing appropriate education, employment and full participation in community life. Because of this, people with disabilities are up to five times more likely to live below the poverty line.

Some people never get the support they need to truly thrive.

That was nearly the story for Raj, a Tamil man who grew up on Sri Lanka’s West Coast. From an early age, his parents knew he was different because he couldn’t speak as well as other children and his teachers said he couldn’t understand their lessons and instructions.

His parents became worried and confused. Without adequate schooling, how could Raj get a job? Who would look after him when they were old?

Not long before he was due to start high school, Raj was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Local disability organisation Deaf Link became aware of the family and offered Raj a place in a disability-inclusive class in their school nearby.

Deaf Link is a partner of Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) NGO UnitingWorld, providing access to education for children with disabilities and occupational training to adults with disabilities.

Purpose-made for children like Raj, the class provided a place for him to feel included and valued while he learnt the skills he would need to succeed throughout his life.

He remembers it fondly. “It was good, better. I got to do sport and dance! I got to talk more,” said Raj.

Once he graduated, Deaf Link helped Raj find work. They know that education can only take you so far if you do not have connections that can lead to opportunities.

After being approached by Deaf Link, a mechanic agreed to take Raj on as an apprentice and for the past two years has been teaching him the tools of the trade. Raj now proudly demonstrates his welding prowess, chats with regular customers and jokes with his supervisor throughout the working week.

“We know what a difference we can make when we work together to support these families, and how much potential people with disabilities have,” said Rev Gnanarajah, who founded Deaf Link after his own son was born deaf.

Rev Gnanarajah can confirm Raj still loves to dance at every opportunity.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and impacted the lives of 2,625 people with disabilities in Sri Lanka in FY 2020-21.

Thank you ANCP and our supporters for making this life-changing work possible!