Aid lifts spirits in ‘desperate times’

Bishop Bijoy Kumar Roul of India believes a COVID-19 relief project funded by Mennonite World Conference will lift spirits as well as sustain bodies.

“It will reflect our love of Christ to them; [that] we care and are concerned for them, and it will also bring a smile to their faces,” said Roul, chair of the Brethren in Christ Church of Cuttack in the state of Odisha.

Yanett Palacios, president of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Guatemala, takes a similar view.

“The church’s response is unique in that we provide accompaniment rather than just distribute rations,” Palacios said. “This means walking together to feed not only the body but also the soul in desperate times.”

Brethren in Christ Bishop Bijoy Kumar Roul in an Odisha market in pre-COVID-19 times. — Henk Stenvers/MWC
Brethren in Christ Bishop Bijoy Kumar Roul in an Odisha market in pre-COVID-19 times. — Henk Stenvers/MWC

MWC’s COVID-19 task force has approved 21 relief proposals from Anabaptist churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Food and sanitation materials are part of all the proposals.

Congregations in more than a dozen countries will bring relief to thousands of families, sharing Christ’s love in tangible ways.

The projects include:

— Food and health supplies for 700 households in regions with widespread job losses in India.

— Food for 1,500 rural widows and elderly people off-grid in Guatemala who don’t receive government help.

— Food, infection-prevention education and psycho-social support for vulnerable families in the Dominican Republic.

— Food, face masks and soap for households in Ghana.

— Installation of hand-washing stations outside church buildings and food packages for vulnerable households in Indonesia.

— Printing and distribution of leaflets and posters to inform people how to protect themselves in rural Tanzania.

— Protective materials and food rations for women-, elderly- or child-headed households in Malawi.

— Food rations for 300 of the most vulnerable families in the three MWC member churches in Nicaragua.

— Emergency food response for families who have lost work in five MWC national member churches in Mexico.

— Livelihood support and biosafety materials for 80 families and food for 350 children in the ministry of the Mennonite church in Iquitos, Peru.

— School work materials for students to do at home and bio­safety measures for church-run schools to reopen in Zambia.

— Food and health kits for 500 low-income community members in Ecuador.

— Training church leaders as health and hygiene tutors for their communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

— Food for members of an outpost church in Sumba, Indonesia, an island that often escapes the attention of the government and has no other nongovernmental organizations at work.

— Soaps, gloves, masks, thermometers, desks and chairs to reopen schools and churches in Angola in compliance with distancing and hygiene regulations.

Vulnerable neighbors

In most cases, church members have established relationships with their most vulnerable neighbors, said Henk Stenvers, secretary of the MWC Deacons Commission.

“Giving out food and supplies builds on those connections and underscores the message of the love of Jesus through help in time of need,” Stenvers said.

Job losses and food scarcity affect church members as well.

“Assistance from the Global Church Sharing Fund empowers church leaders and their congregations to serve their members and neighbors in a time of multiple crises: pandemic, economic downturn and environmental disaster,” said task force member and Peace Commission chair Joji Pantoja.

MWC formed the COVID-19 task force with the support of more than 10 global Anabaptist agencies to respond to needs arising from the pandemic in the Global South.

Under the leadership of the MWC Deacons Commission and delegates from around the world, the team determines criteria of accountability and coordinates responses to project proposals.

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