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Are you angry during the pandemic? How do you make peace with anger?

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon is Moderator of GMIT, our partner Church in West Timor, Indonesia. Throughout the pandemic, she has shown leadership in public health and coordinated the emergency relief program after the devastation of Cylone Seroja.  I encourage you to read Rev Dr Kolimon’s full reflection below, a truly insightful exploration of God’s presence in the midst of our suffering. I believe the ‘theology of the body’ she articulates is deeply inspirational for Uniting Church members, particularly those living in regions under lockdown.

-Rev Dr Ji Zhang, Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Theologian-in-Residence

At the end of June 2021, my husband began to feel unwell: colds, coughs, weak body, loss of taste. At that time Kupang was windy and the weather was unstable: sometimes hot, sometimes cold. So my husband thought it must have been a cold caused by tiredness from his schedule of long meetings.

I had previously reminded him: “Work should not be too late, too long or too often. It’s a pandemic. Masks should be replaced frequently. If you go home, change your clothes immediately.”

By the end of that week my daughter rang when I was in the office to say she also felt unwell, and I hurriedly finished my meeting and rushed home.

While my husband was still reluctant to test for Covid-19, believing it just to be a cold, I insisted that we were swabbed and we soon found out that our entire family was positive.  Our nephew, Efi, tested negative – Praise God! As long as we were sick he was able to take care of us.

Making peace with sadness and anger

When I found out the result, I felt angry. Why had we not been more careful? Our kids have been learning from home for over a year, but as parents we were always at work, even though as a Synod we help educate others about how to be safe. Often we have adhered to health protocols. But there are times when we are off-guard, such as unmasking to take pictures and eating together in meetings. Everyone should be more vigilant.

It took me a few days to come to terms with the anger and sadness.

We both know we are lucky to have been vaccinated, because while there is still risk of infection, the impact is not as severe. The four of us did not have problems with breathing, something we’re very grateful for.

We also learned once again that the impact of Covid-19 is more pronounced for older people. My 17-year-old daughter lost her sense of smell and had difficulty eating, but it wasn’t as bad as for my husband and I, who had body pain for days. Alberd, 9 years old, had fever and vomiting, a loss of sense of taste for several days and a lack of appetite. Alberd’s spirits stayed high though and he was a great comfort to us.

The Light of God’s Love

On the third day after being declared positive, our situation was quite severe. Our whole bodies hurt, we couldn’t drink or eat; we had fever, nausea, scalp pain. As a Mama, I had difficulty taking care of the family or paying attention to church affairs. I was worried about many post-Cyclone Seroja agendas in GMIT that needed to be taken care of and plans with ecumenical partners and congregations on various islands.

I almost cried in bed. My God, why am I having this experience?

I thought about what might happen if I couldn’t get through this Covid – my mind was everywhere as I imagined how things would be with GMIT. Within our five Daily Synod Assemblies, three people were also infected at the same time as me; all have now improved.

When it all felt very heavy, I told my daughter who was also having difficulty eating:

“Our Covid situation is like walking into a dark alley without knowing if we will ever get out of that dark alley safely. Although it is very dark, one day we will see light at the end of the hallway, as long as we believe that there is light at the end of that dark passageway. Come on, keep eating.”

She replied: “Mama’s dark hallway analogy is horrifying but true.””

We experienced the light of God’s love in many ways: people came to give care and support; some sent Bible verses and messages; my sisters at SoE sent the medicines we needed; others sent herbal remedies; Oepoi Health Center always contacted us to ask about our situation; the Governor of NTT called and sent Chinese medicine; Tanta Yo from the Synod Office guest house cooked for us for a week. There was a friend who sent Timor Island’s best honey; there was a friend who transferred money and said don’t get dizzy with the thought of medical expenses. Fruits and vegetables flowed from all directions.

We really experienced in these dark times the light and warmth of love – even while we struggled with nausea, fever and night sleep disorders, every day we experienced God loving us. Thank you to all who shared the light with us when the night was so intense and we lived as though in a great storm.

What sin?

A question asked by a group of GBI pastors arose: “Are we affected by Covid-19 because we have betrayed the Lord Jesus like Judas Iscariot?”

This way of thinking is very closely related to the understanding of the relationship of disease and curses in our culture. For example, among West Timorese there is a naketi concept. A person can be afflicted by adversity such as illness because there are certain sins or mistakes.  Sin is seen as so powerful that it can jump across generations. Children and even grandchildren a few generations later can get sick because of the sins of their ancestors. To be healed, it is necessary to confess sin.

I myself struggled with the same question as I lay in bed: “What sin have I and my family committed?”

I reflected that perhaps we did not do enough to wear the masks correctly and keep a distance. I also prayed that if something was wrong, the Holy Ghost would rebuke us so that we realized it, opening our hearts to understand His will through the pain we experienced.

But I could not accept the idea that we were so sinful that we were punished with Covid.

I wrote to a fellow pastor who had shared his concern:

“Reverend, test all voices … I remain a believer in all seasons of life, and God’s faithful love is eternal. He allows us, His servant ministers, to experience this like any other person, that we may also experience the deification of the world today and find that even in the valley of darkness, God has not forsaken His creation.”

Shepherd Infected with Covid-19

In 2015 I was elected chairperson of the Synod. I remember one of the intercessory prayers when I was elected was that I would not be sick for four years while I led the church. I wanted to always look good, healthy, and happy, and refused to allow myself to be sick. I promised to live a healthy life with a good diet, rest, exercise, and management of my mental health.

But early in 2019, due to exhaustion, I suddenly got sick quite seriously.

I told my husband one morning: “Yustus, I can’t lift my legs. Help me.”

Friends who came to visit me advised me: “Mery, it doesn’t matter if you’re sick. The body needs rest too.”

In the second period of my shepherding ministry now, I have come to terms with my body more, to embrace fatigue, rest, and pain.

When I was infected with Covid, I learnt to better understand the deepest fears, anxieties, and worries of those who are sick. I was infected in the second wave in Indonesia, when every day there was news that 20,000 to 30,000 Indonesians were infected and more than a thousand people died because of Covid.

Every morning from the bedroom when we woke up, we heard birdsong from our beautiful courtyard, but also sirens roaring in a hurry to deliver the bodies to the cemetery. A shepherd who suffers herself is allowed understand mankind’s deepest fears in front of menacing diseases, and learn to say the most honest prayers to God during threat of sickness and death. But if she is sensitive, she can also see and follow God’s unceasing care. Birds singing, brothers caring, comrades supporting. Life isn’t just about crying and anxiety. In life there is also friendship, love, and genuine care.

As theologians, we often preach too quickly about certain circumstances. We want to directly write and connect Covid with bible verses so that we are able to lecture others. The experience of having Covid helped me not to rush to jump to certain theological conclusions.

Instead, in suffering:

Listen to your body language. Feel the heart. Listen to your own feelings and anxieties. Listen to your deepest hopes and longing. Talk to God honestly and listen to what God is saying. Start theology from there. Connect the experiences of suffering, anxiety, hope, and longing with the struggles of the faithful in biblical times. Learn the deepest struggles of today’s people, and see what can be learned as the gospel message for mankind’s struggles today.

Body Theology

A female pastor friend who served in one of the church denominations in Kupang City, wrote to me thus: “Mama, I am still struggling with the issue of concentration. Although it has been 2 months since my COVID illness, assignments from the campus are abandoned. Although I still can write, it is at a creeping speed… According to some friends who are over 50 years old, COVID weakens the life spirit, and we become apathetic.”

I wondered whether a lot of people have experienced something like that? This is interesting to study and reflect upon theologically.

Our family does not yet know what the full impact of Covid will be: are our lungs going to be okay? What about our stomachs, our hearts, and our brains? How does Covid impact people long term?

This disease helps us to be more sensitive to the body as God’s noble and fragile work. Our bodies are glorious because they were created by God Himself in His image and likeness, and because man has fallen into sin. The realization of God’s redemption encourages us to hold our bodies accountable because the body is the fruit of God’s glorious work. The invaded body must be loved and cared for as a form of involvement in Christ’s work of redemption and restoration. The invaded body should not be forced to work beyond its means.

The virus may go after a certain time, but its traces will remain to teach mankind valuable life lessons to care for God’s created body and honor His given life.  One of the theological agendas as a survivor of Covid is the journey towards self, to seriously care for and appreciate the body, soul, and spirit.

Being infected with Covid helped me to reflect more on body theology. The human body and life are theological sites. The body is where we meet God. The body comes from the ground and God has touched it to bring it to life: moving, walking, jumping, full of joy. There is also a time when the body is sick and sad. Because the body was created by God, we can meet God there, in all experiences of the body: sad, happy, sick, healthy. The body reveals something about the work of the glorious God. But the body is also limited. There’s a time when the body no longer exists. As long as the body is still there, I exist. When the body stops working, I am no longer in the world. Body theology helps us to honor and care for the body with gratitude to God who created it, until it is time for the body to return to the ground.

 

The Language of Faith in Times of Crisis

There is something interesting in my experience of spirituality in this time of crisis. I was raised as a child speaking two languages: Indonesian and Meto-Timorese. In childhood when we started attending school in the interior, our teachers used two languages for children who could not speak Indonesian. Everyday we learnt more of the regional language. For the sake of study, I also learned English and Dutch so that now I speak four languages: Indonesian, Meto, English, and Dutch.

In my deepest times of fear and anxiety, I prayed in Timorese. When I prayed in that mother tongue, I was able to express my deepest feelings. Sometimes I feel angry at myself for not being able to find a word in the language of the area for what I want to express. Now I am more fluent in Indonesian than the local language. But I really felt the depth of the experience with God in my mother tongue.

In that language I told God about my worries, about my family, the impact of this disease on my ministry, and my anxiety over all human civilization. Sometimes when praying during times of crisis using Indonesian or other languages, I wonder if maybe what I express is superficial. But when I pray in the language of the region, there are very deep things that are revealed to the Lord and to myself. The prayer became very personal between God and me.

I think this may be related to the experience of faith that shaped me. I grew up knowing God in a believing community in West Timor. My father, who was from Alor Island, married my mother, a West Timorese woman, and they worked in Timor until the end of their lives. I grew up as a child learning to know God, the Word, and his works in a strong community nurturing the culture and language of the region in that environment. I am reminded of the strong faith of my mother and grandmother formed by Timorese culture, the late Elder Banunaek of Oetoli in the Western Oinlasi Church who prayed for us when we were sick, or celebrated with us in the depths of the language of poetry. It was all absorbed into my heart. When I struggle with the deepest things, it’s this language that expresses all longing, hope, and anxiety.

Embracing Uncertainty, Learning to Know Boundaries

I no longer have a definite list of activities and a series of trips arranged in order and detail. My suitcases remain untouched, and now all of humanity finds itself experiencing uncertainty. There’s no plan that’s currently workable. People again study the Bible counsel: “For my design is not your plan” (Isaiah 55:8a).

Since the Enlightenment era, people have felt they can do anything. Mankind has thought with his brain that he knows all things and conquer all things in the universe: “I think, then I exist.” Human reason is considered very powerful.

But the Covid pandemic at the beginning of the third decade of this century is teaching us that humans and their abilities are limited. Even a virus so small and invisible to the eye can make an entire human civilization chaotic. Man is not omnipotent. Science and technology are important and very helpful. But human intelligence and technology must not make man act arbitrarily over the life of God’s creation.

I think Covid also teaches us humans to take a break from our ambitions and busyness. We’re stuck in an age where everything we do is rushed. Waking up early, our agenda is long and our plans are layered: after this we will continue with something else. Even before we finish one thing, the other is waiting. We force our bodies, souls, and spirits to keep running without adequate rest periods.

Covid interrupts our busy life. Covid invites us to pause: to take time for the body, for the soul and mentally, for the family, for the Lord, to rest. This disease gives us the opportunity to truly take shelter, submit to God, and submit our life plans to His sovereignty.

Ecological Repentance

For almost two years the earth has been left helpless. Perhaps it is rebuking us harshly and giving us a hard lesson?

As Thomas L. Friedman said in an opinion piece in the New York Times,May 30, 2020: “These past few weeks we have learned… our earth is fragile… Our pandemic today is no longer just a biological pandemic, but also a geopolitical, financial, and environmental pandemic.”

Without a radical change in our consciousness and attitude toward Mother Earth, we will experience even greater consequences than what we are feeling today.

The economic system of capitalism makes people compete for profit and accumulate capital. For financial gain, nature is mercilessly plundered. The rich get richer, the poor and nature is exploited. The uncontrollable virus is now alerting us to a disturbed balance of nature.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a wake up call moment for all human beings. All of us —governments, communities, businesspeople, politicians, anyone—should interpret it as an opportunity to come back to peace with the earth. We are in need of mass repentance for ecological justice. We must stop carrying out development that is solely oriented towards financial gain. Instead we need to commit together to a development oriented towards the sustainability of life.

Claiming Divine Power

Where is God when the whole world struggles with suffering? Does God care about the tears and suffering of the sick or the family’s hope for their brother’s recovery? Where is God when we fight to maintain the lives of our families who are infected by Covid-19? For the healed there is praise to the Lord, but what about those who die? Is God with those who died because of Covid-19? Are the dead unloved by God?

This pandemic invites the church into the midst of the struggle of human suffering. In this great pain, we are challenged to put our ears and hearts on, hear and feel the screams and moans of pain, and the lamentations of life. This pandemic is calling us to see the fragility and dryness of human life.

It is in this context that this year’s GMIT Synod Assembly developed our ministry theme for 2021 from Ezekiel 37:14. Ezekiel was called to be a prophet at exactly the most precarious moment in the history of the Israelic covenant: the destruction of Israel by Babylonia. In the vision in chapter 37, Ezekiel is taken into a valley full of bones. Like Ezekiel, we are not led to avoid disaster, but rather to stand up and acknowledge the existence of it. The Covid-19 pandemic is real, not a conspiracy of certain parties to seek self-and group advantage.

Moreover God gave Ezekiel the task of prophesying to the bones to live again. He was told to prophesy tothe ruakh/spirit of life to enter the bones in the valley. The Spirit is called from the four corners of the earth. Learning from Ezekiel, the church during this pandemic is tasked with voicing God’s intent for the world in disaster.

In human suffering, God does not leave us. The Spirit of Life is with His creation, the Spirit of God gives life and moves the bones that are already very dry (and there is no more life). Just as the work of the Holy Spirit blew when man was created (Gen. 2:7), God continues to work to give life to man. To His frightened and hiding disciples, Jesus was present and breathed His Spirit upon them, restoring them from worry, panic, and fear (Jn. 20:22).  He calls us to repentance, learns from the sufferings of life for the restoration of relations with God, with fellow human beings, and with all creation. He heals us from the worries and anxieties of life.

Where is God in this pandemic? God is in human suffering.

He is in solidarity with those who are terrified in isolation rooms. He hugs the families who have lost their loved ones. God is pleased to use those who care for others as His co-workers for the ministry of salvation.

The message of the book of Ezekiel to the churches this year is that just as God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet in the wasteland, so we must continue to prepare to be ministers of God in this difficult time. On the cross of Jesus, God Himself acted to restore man. He entered into the valley of death as His son gave his life. But no suffering is eternal. No disaster lasts forever. Death has been defeated. Jesus has risen from the dead. God reigns, God cares, God is with us. Although the way of the cross feels very difficult, we must endure to stand by Him, true in faith, hope, and love.

Covid is not just a story about human fragility. Covid also tells about the divine power of God that is conferred so that we hold the promise of hope that He is with us. Even for those who die with Covid, their body is again united with the ground, lying in the everlasting light of God, in the promise of the inclusion of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. ***

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon, Moderator, Evangelical Christian Church of Timor
Kupang, July 2021

P.S. Thanks to my husband and children as the first readers of this paper and for making corrections. A number of friends have read and given some important feedback. I am responsible for the content of this paper.

 

A prayer of the people of West Timor and Indonesia

By Rev Dr Apwee Ting, UCA Assembly National Consultant

Lord

I kneel before you

carrying an immeasurable burden

my body is very weak

my heart is bleeding

from Covid-19

 

I am no longer embracing the bravery

fragility is what I know

I’m not chasing eternity anymore

day by day is in my sight

 

Laughter and crying

joyfulness and suffering

inseparable

 

Lord

come in my dream

presence in my suffering

be real in my loneliness

 

God

is not there

is here

in the midst of pandemic

giving Indonesia

hope and healing

 

I am no longer afraid of

paralysis

vulnerability

death

because

God is walking with me

Restoration is with me

 

 

Doaku buat Indonesia

Tuhan

pada Mu kubersimpuh

membawa beban tak terkira

tubuh terkulai

batin terkapar

oleh Covid-19

 

Kini kusadar

bukan lagi kegagahan kurengkuh

kerapuhanlah yang kudekap

bukan lagi kekekalan kukejar

keseharianlah yang kutatap

 

Tawa dan tangis

senang dan susah

tak terpisahkan

 

Tuhan

hadir dalam mimpi ku

datang dalam derita ku

nyata dalam kesendirianku

 

Tuhan

tidak lagi disana

Tuhan disini

ditengah pandemi

memberi Indonesia

harapan dan kesembuhan

 

Kelumpuhan

kerantanan

kematian

tidak lagi menakutkan

karena

Tuhan berjalan bersama ku

pemulihan ada pada ku

 

 

India’s COVID-19 surge has overloaded its struggling heath system and is causing thousands of deaths per day.

Our Uniting Church partners, the Church of North India (CNI), are not immune. Battling to keep people fed as a second lockdown wreaks havoc, and spreading critical health information to help beat the spread of the disease, they’re on the frontline of the response in their communities.

“The ‘Corona ‘Tsunami’, if one could say that, has left all of us paralysed,” Bishop Khimla of the Diocese of Durgapur told UnitingWorld.  “There is immense suffering as the medical and social infrastructure struggles to cope with the pandemic. The Church has also lost many ministers, both Pastors and Bishops.”

Project Officer Sanjay Khaling was recently hospitalised after contrating COVID-19, while several staff of the Durgapur Education and Social Empowerment project have contracted COVID-19 along with family and friends.

Despite the dangers, the church continues to serve the community as best they’re able. Bishop Samantaroy of the Amritsar Diocese said the church is working on immediate interventions including free distribution of cooked food, dry rations and hygiene products like masks, sanitiser and soap.

Schools have been closed across the area, so girls attending the hostel project in Amritsar have gone home to their villages for at least a month and possibly two. At the Amritsar Social Empowerment and Education project, study centers will continue in each village and the team are doing what they can to support people remotely.

“There has been a drastic rise in cases every day here in Punjab,” Project Coordinator OP Prakash said this week.  “In some [rural] villages people have tested positive but the situation seems under control.”

While this team has experience from last year’s lengthy lockdown, the pandemic is reaching new heights in other areas.

The Eastern Himalayas Education project has had to close the school and move all activities online. Teachers are navigating the difficult task of teaching online while resourcing children who have little or no access to internet or devices.

“We are assured that UnitingWorld continues to be with us in spirit and prayers and believe that this too shall pass,” Bishop Khimla said yesterday. “We very much appreciate your prayers.”

UnitingWorld is supporting our partners to divert project funds to their COVID-19 responses where needed. Donations will be very gratefully received to support their work.

Click here to donate online.

Devastating flash floods and landslides have killed at least 113 people in Timor-Leste (East Timor), West Timor and Flores since the Easter weekend. Officials expect the death toll to rise as there are still dozens of people missing. Our partners are responding.

Can you help? Please click here to donate to our emergency appeal today.

This GMIT church in Kupang is one of the many churches providing shelter for people impacted by the floods.

Across Timor-Leste and West Timor, home to some of the poorest communities in our region, storms and heavy rains sent torrents of water through towns and villages, turning streets into canals and destroying homes and businesses. 30,000 people have been affected and thousands are now taking refuge.

We are still gathering information, but our partners in Timor-Leste, IPTL, have reported being badly impacted. They are reeling from severe flooding and now facing the challenge of communities being cut off from food, water and electricity.

Our partners in West Timor, GMIT, have also been hit hard. Several people have died and a project we support on Rote Island has been devastated. Partner staff have flooded homes and their headquarters in Kupang is badly damaged (see header image). GMIT church buildings have been opened for use as emergency shelters (see image right).

This crisis, of course, is unfolding during a global pandemic among communities who were already highly vulnerable to it’s impacts. Thousands of people have had to access temporary refugee centres, where there is the danger of COVID-19 transmission and experts fear it could cause the number of cases in the region soaring.

Our partners in West Timor have asked for prayer:

Greetings from Us here in Kupang, we hope that everyone is fine in the midst of Covid-19 Pandemic.

In the joy of welcoming Easter 2021, we had to face The Seroja Tropical Cyclone which took place on April 5 at 11.00 WITA and ended on the 6th, at 9.30 AM. This storm is really a tough test for us in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic because it has brought the impact of hydrometeorological disasters ranging from heavy rain, flash floods, and strong winds. The areas affected by this disaster were the City of Kupang, Kupang Regency, TTS, Belu, the islands of Flores, Alor, Rote, Sabu and East Sumba.

The congregation who lives in the coastal areas and its surroundings have moved to GMIT churches because their houses were flooded/damaged by storms … the electricity went out since last night until now because the electricity cable was hit by a fallen tree, we do not have internet access except in certain places .. but Praise God that after the storm God gave us sunny weather so that the cleaning/evacuation process can run well today and the situation has started to be conducive, Thank GOD!

The recent number of victims due to the Seroja Tropical Cyclone reached 2,655 households due to damaged infrastructure, 68 people died, 15 people were injured, 70 people were missing (data as of today and will be updated).

We ask for your prayers and support so that we are strong and able to get through this situation, and can even support one another.

Once again Happy Easter, May God’s love surround us in any situation.

With Love,

TLM Foundation

 

Help us support our partners in Timor-Leste and West Timor

We have launched an appeal to support the emergency relief work of our partners. Funds raised will help provide displaced and vulnerable people with immediate needs of food, shelter and health care. In the longer term, it will support rebuilding, rehabilitation and the re-establishment of people’s livelihoods. Your support will make a huge difference and will be a powerful gesture of solidarity with our close neighbours dealing with the double crisis of floods and COVID-19. Please give generously.

Click here to donate now.

 

Prayer

Uniting Church in Australia Assembly National Consultant Rev Dr Apwee Ting has written a prayer for those in the affected areas.

Doa buat Nusa Tenggara Timur

 

Tatkala angin menyampaikan pesan nya dengan topan

Tatkala gerimis menyampaikan kesan nya melalui badai

Air mengalir tidak lagi bersahabat

Angin bergeliat tidak lagi berdesah

Manusia terhenyak

Kita tersentak

Tertunduk

Terkapar

Terkoyak

 

Tangis sedih mengiringi duka yang dalam

Luka dalam menetes darah

Berpisah tanpa kata kata

 

Nusa Tenggara Timur

Ku peluk dalam doa dan duka

Ku sebut nama mu

Ku jemput

dengan kepedulian

 

Nusa Tenggara Timur

Tidak sendirian dalam penderitaan

Ibu Pertiwi memeluk mu

Anak anak nusantara menopang mu

Tuhan pun ada  bersama mu

Prayer for Nusa Tenggara Timur

 

When the wind conveyed its message with a hurricane

When the drizzle conveyed its impression through the storm

Running water is no longer friendly

The wriggling wind was no longer sighing

Human gasped

We gasped

Bowed

Sprawling

Ripped apart

 

Sad tears accompany deep grief

The wound is dripping with blood

Parting without words

 

East Nusa Tenggara

I embrace in prayer and sorrow

I say your name

I’ll pick you up

with care

 

East Nusa Tenggara

Not alone in suffering

Mother Earth hugs you

The children of the archipelago support you

God is with you too

 

Header image: Our partner TLM’s headquarters in Kupang, West Timor after the storm. TLM is the development agency of our church partner GMIT.

The West Papua Council of Churches (which includes our partner, GKI-TP) has sent a Pastoral Letter for Easter condemning the increasing militarisation of the Papuan provinces and ongoing human rights violations by security forces. The letter also highlights serious environmental and land rights concerns.

In response to these issues, Papuan church leaders have reiterated a long-standing call for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out an investigation into the human rights situation in West Papua, and for an independent third party to provide for the needs of people living in areas affected by recent military operations in the highlands.

The Papuan church leaders also call for “prayer and fasting support from people and church leaders in the Pacific.”

Read the full Pastoral Letter

“Prayer is a vital discipline for me. It is talking to our father for wisdom and strength. It’s a place to take refuge.” -Pastor Dorothy Jimmy, Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union, Vanuatu.


The World Day of Prayer
is a global ecumenical movement led by Christian women who welcome you to join in prayer and action for peace and justice. It is run under the motto “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action,” and is celebrated annually in over 170 countries on the first Friday in March. The movement aims to bring together people of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common Day of Prayer, as well as in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.

 Here are three prayer requests from our partners in Vanuatu:

 

    1. Pray for those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis

Cindy Vanuaroro, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union in Vanuatu and Chair of the World Day of Prayer Committee has asked the Australian Church to pray in solidarity with the people of Vanuatu struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“While we are thankful for achieving zero cases of COVID-19 in Vanuatu, the economic impact of the pandemic has been huge here. Thousands of people have lost jobs in Vanuatu, particularly in the travel and tourism sectors. People are living day-to-day to provide for their families. I often see newly unemployed people are walking the streets not knowing what to do.”

 

  1. Pray for women and men in Vanuatu working to end violence and build equality in their communities.

Cindy has also asked us to pray for the work of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu to help people and communities understand God’s plan of equality between women and men.

Currently, 72% of women in Vanuatu will suffer violence at the hands of men in their lifetime (double the global average), so the work of the Church is critical in creating advocates for anti-violence and equality, using he Bible to speak powerfully to hearts and minds.

Here’s a great story of change showing their work in action:

 

  1. Pray for the next generation in Vanuatu: the children of today and leaders of tomorrow

Pastor Dorothy Jimmy, the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu Women’s Missionary Union asked us to pray with the PCV for wisdom in help guide their youth during so many modern social changes and uncertainties, and that they hold onto what is special and unique about their traditional cultures.

“I would like the church in Australia to pray for the church in Vanuatu as we lead our youth to uphold cultures and traditions that are important to us. The importance of family, social connectedness and all the things that unite us as a people. May we hold onto it and continue to pass it on to the next generations.”

Thank you for joining us in prayer in solidarity with our partners and neighbours in Vanuatu.

You can find resources on the official World Day of Prayer website: www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org

Download the above as a PowerPoint

UnitingWorld has been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and its impact on our partners and their communities.

We want to keep our staff, supporters and partners safe and we want to do our part to protect their friends, families and the broader community we work in.

As we work with vulnerable people in places that will be severely affected by the spread of the Coronavirus, our priority is to our partners and their communities, and we will seek to carry on our vital work with as little disruption as possible.

We have put in place a detailed risk management plan, and we will be updating it regularly. We are also in regular contact with our partners who are creating their own, and helping where we can.

We will have reduced staffing in the office, but we are set up to answer your calls and emails as always. Please bear with us if our response to your traditional mail is slightly slower than usual.

We ask you to join us in prayer for all those affected by the Coronavirus, particularly the vulnerable people and communities we work alongside. We don’t know what the full impact of COVID-19 will be on our partners and their communities, but we are preparing ourselves to stand with them, and respond as we can. Most of them do not have access to the same health care systems, insurance or savings that we may enjoy.

Now more than ever, we need to help and pray for one another. We will keep you updated as we know more.

Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all (Galatians 6:9-10)

Rev Dr Mery Kolimon, Moderator of our partner in West Timor (GMIT), has written a prayer below in English and Indonesian. NOTE: We published the prayer unedited out of respect for our partners. Please consider cultural differences and the difficulties of translation in your reading. 

Header image: Our partners in Papua New Guinea run community education on handwashing and water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) to prevent the spread of deadly water-borne diseases. Read more here.


 

FORGIVE US, MOTHER EARTH

A prayer by Mery Kolimon, 16 Mar 2020

 

Beloved Mother Earth,

All other creatures,

Fellow germs and viruses,

Forgive us for belittling you,

Exploiting, attacking, and hurting you, even

Wanting to destroy you.

With COVID-19 since the beginning of this year

We learn

The Creator has made all things good.

All creatures are our brothers and sisters

Living by the Grace of The Creator of life

Blessed by the Earth that gives food each day.

Yet we have hurt Mother Earth.

We have destroyed our brothers and sisters.

With a desire for more and more wealth, more and more prosperity

We have damaged the earth without mercy.

We dump our waste everywhere

The oceans, mountains, fields, and forests

Broken by our actions.

Even the bowels of the earth have been dredged without mercy

For gold, coal, manganese, marble, and other minerals.

Forgive our pride and greed.

Forgive our arrogance and evil ways.

May this plague be an opportunity for us to learn

That our human economy is not everything.

The economy must move with ecology.

Ecology and economy must be balanced for the sake of the oikoumene,

So the Earth can be a home worthy of inhabitance by all creatures.

May we learn with our minds, all of creation is not our enemy

We must organize our lives more wisely

To distance life from extinction

So that we of this generation

May experience the intention of The Creator of Life that is truly good.

Forgive us, Mother Earth,

Forgive us, fellow members of creation.

Please accept us back in the dance of divine life

Where we hug each other as brothers and sisters

Sharing energy with each other for life that is mutual and whole.

 

MOHON AMPUN, IBU BUMI

Mery Kolimon, 16 Mar 2020

 

Ibu bumi terkasih

Segala ciptaan yang lain,

Kuman-kuman dan virus sesama ciptaan

Maafkan kami yang telah merendahkanmu

Mengeksploitasi, menyerang, melukai, bahkan ingin menghancurkanmu.

Di wabah COVID-19 di awal tahun ini

Kami belajar

Sang Pencipta membuat semua sungguh sangat baik

Semua makhluk adalah saudara

Hidup dari Anugerah Sang Pencipta kehidupan

Dinafkahi oleh Bumi yg memberi makan setiap hari.

Namun kami telah menyakiti Ibu Pertiwi

Kami menghancurkan saudara-saudara kami.

Hasrat utk makin kaya dan makin makmur

Membuat kami merusak bumi tanpa ampun

Sampah kami buang sembarangan

Laut, gunung, padang, hutan rusak karena perilaku kami.

Bahkan perut bumi kami kuras tanpa ampun

Utk emas, batu bara, dan mineral lainnya.

Ampuni kesombongan dan keserakahan kami.

Ampuni kepongahan dan kejahatan kami.

Biarlah ini wabah ini jadi kesempatan kami belajar

Ekonomi manusia bukan segalanya

Ekonomi harus berjalan dengan Ekologi

Ekologi dan Ekonomi harus seimbang dalam Ekumene

Agar Bumi jadi rumah yg layak didiami semua makhluk.

Kiranya dengan budi kami belajar sesama ciptaan bukan musuh

Kami mesti menata hidup lebih bijak

Agar jauh kehidupan dari kemusnahan

Agar maksud Pencipta itu kehidupan yang sungguh sangat baik itu

Dapat kami alami juga di generasi ini.

Ampuni kami Ibu Bumi

Ampuni kami sesama ciptaan yang lain.

Berkenan terimalah kami kembali dalam tarian kehidupan Ilahi

Yang saling merangkul sbg saudara

Saling berbagi energi utk kehidupan bersama yg utuh.

 

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.

We received the below correspondence from our partners in Zimbabwe today about the situation in the country and to thank everyone for joining them in prayer on World Prayer Day. The letter is by Junior Vutoyi, who last month became National Director of the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA).  She is the first woman to hold the position.

The letter was read out in the office today during a morning tea for World Prayer Day and International Women’s Day.

 


 

For such as time as this… (Esther 4: 13-14)

It is during this time that the communities that we work with look up to MeDRA for any form of assistance as we work to deliver social justice support to the marginalised. This is a very difficult time for Zimbabwe as we are going through a very difficult season. Only God will see us through!

For women and children, the situation in Zimbabwe at the moment is a very difficult one with the inflation level having reached unprecedented levels. The political and economic situation is deteriorating daily, and this is causing a lot of anxiety within the general populace. With the price of bread at $25 and $190 for 10kg of mealie meal (maize) – life is not easy for the women and children. This is increasing the burden on the women and affecting the future of children. School fees are unaffordable and putting food on the table for the family is a nightmare. The health sector has collapsed, and maternal health has been greatly compromised. Teachers are one of the lowly paid professions and they are putting very little effort on their job. Hope for a long-awaited improvement in the living standards is slowly fading.

The poor women and children both in the rural and urban areas are a sad story. With some communities suffering from a double tragedy from Cyclone Idai, the drought and floods, the situation is bad.

An ideal and aspirational world would be a place when all children can afford to go to school, have access to basic meals, clean safe water and the women have access to maternal health. People should live a dignified life.

As MeDRA, we have a role to play in all this. To give hope to the hopeless. To restore dignity. To fundraise for projects to ensure a “society that enjoys abundant love and God given dignity” through access to safe clean water, gender justice, increased household income, food secure households, shelter and everything and anything else that ensures that people live a dignified life. We have a role in the society “at such as time as this” Esther 4: 13-14 – the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s theme for this year. We really wish we could do more as a church organisation. To help all in need.

We are grateful that you are with us in your thoughts and prayers. With your support, we look forward that one day we will “rise, take up our mats and walk”.

Be blessed today and forever more.

Junior Vutoyi, National Director
Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA)
World Day of Prayer 6 March, 2020

 

Artwork for World Day of Prayer by Nonny Mathe, a Zimbabwean artist. Read more about it here.

 

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.

The World Day of Prayer this year is held on Friday 6 March.

The day is an ecumenical initiative that was started in the 19th century by Christian women in the United States and Canada to bring together women of different races, cultures and traditions for a annual day of prayer for international mission.

It is now a worldwide movement of ‘Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action‘ that promotes closer fellowship, understanding and action for international causes throughout the year.

The movement is initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions but the World Day of Prayer is an invitation to everyone.

This year the host nation is Zimbabwe, a country facing huge challenges:

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

An El Nino-influenced drought and Cyclone Idai 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 indicated they are going without food for a whole day.

The unemployment rate has been estimated at 90%.

All of this has caused additional issues for the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe:

Human trafficking: Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Child protection vulnerabilities including child marriage, where 32% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18.
Gender-based violence (including sexual exploitation and abuse) – 35% of women aged 15-49 years have experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime
Disability discrimination: people with a disability have lower education and employment opportunities, are often unable to access health services, and are at greater risk of sexual exploitation and abuse

Despite these challenges, the Zimbabwean people are generous and resilient. They remain optimistic and are working to improve their nation. 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.

The World Day of Prayer is a call to pray for an end to the challenges facing Zimbabwe, but also to recognise and celebrate those who are working for peace, reconciliation and social transformation.

Please join us in praying for Zimbabwe and taking time to consider how we can seek closer fellowship and take action to support our neighbours there.  

Read more about our partnership with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

Find World Day of Prayer resources here

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.

A Prayer During Times of Disaster

Leader: We come before the God of compassion who aches with those hurting in the world,

and before the risen Christ who heals. We stand in silence and offer up our prayers.

As the candle is extinguished, we acknowledge the darkness that disasters bring to the lives of many.

Leader extinguishes the candle.

Leader: Let us pray.

All: God of mercy, love and compassion

Christ who enters into the pain of the whole creation

We cry out to you for all the suffering people of the world,

and especially today the victims of natural disaster –

the dead, the injured, the bereaved;

and those who have lost everything and their livelihood.

Leader lights the candle

All: God of mercy, love and compassion

Creator who calls us to care for people and the earth,

Fill us with love for our neighbours that we may know

the encouragement that comes from solidarity

Give us the wisdom to act; generosity, courage and unity

Most of all we pray that the God

of all comfort and renewal will be powerfully present

In and through your people

In Christ’s name we pray.

Amen.

Prayer by Cath Taylor

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the human rights conduct of the Philippine government’s so-called ‘war on drugs.’

The letter expresses concern over “gross human rights abuses that continue to take place in the Philippines” in the form of widespread extrajudicial killings carried out during police anti-drug operations since July 2016. The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) supports a joint statement made by 38 member states of the Human Rights Council in June, which urges the Philippine Government to allow an independent UN investigation into the killings.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines estimates there have been more than 13,000 extrajudicial killings linked to the anti-drug campaign. The Philippine National Police say less than 4,000 drug suspects have died in “legitimate police operations” from July 2016 to January 2018.

UnitingWorld is in regular contact with UCA partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who have sent a word of thanks for UCA solidarity in their advocacy efforts.

Please continue to pray for our partners, human rights defenders and an end to the killings in the Philippines.