Pandemic relief funds collected and disbursed by Mennonite World Conference are helping churches and organizations bless neighbors not only with food and education but also hope.
The National Inter-Mennonite Committee brought together three Democratic Republic of Congo MWC member churches — Mennonite Church of Congo, Evangelical Mennonite Church (DRC) and Mennonite Brethren Churches in the Congo — for an application to MWC’s COVID-19 task force. They received funding for multiple projects of food relief and education.
This aid reached the remote Bateke Plateau where Pastor Seraphin Kutumbana of Mennonite Communion of Congo serves six congregations. The COVID-19 funds supported a training on barrier measures, handwashing and distribution of protective equipment.
“What a joy it is for the brothers and sisters [of the Bateke Plateau] to feel themselves a part of the larger Mennonite family,” he said.
MWC gathered a task force from Anabaptist mission and service agencies to review proposals in May for relief funds.
“The fund was created with a recognition that, as with most disasters, the health and economic fallout of the pandemic would be felt unevenly across the global church,” said Henk Stenvers, MWC Deacons Commission secretary.
Donations came from MWC member churches, Anabaptist agencies, the MWC Global Church Sharing Fund, individuals and congregations. As of November, the fund has supported 45 humanitarian initiatives carried out by 53 national Anabaptist churches in 28 countries, with a total project value of $414,711.
“In partnership with Anabaptist mission and service agencies, through the COVID-19 fund MWC has not only extended humanitarian assistance but has stood in prayerful solidarity and fellowship with Anabaptist churches ministering under exceedingly difficult circumstances in vulnerable communities across the Global South,” Stenvers said.
The task force supported projects that represented geographic and Anabaptist diversity, prioritizing basic food and hygiene needs and demonstrating inter-Anabaptist collaboration through organizations such as the Mennonite Church Service Fellowship in India.
“We have been struck by the positive collaboration among Anabaptist churches as they have worked together and supported one another in their COVID-19 responses,” said task force member Joji Pantoja, a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker and MWC Peace Commission chair. “It is our ardent hope such collaboration continues.”
Additional meetings could identify gaps in the global Anabaptist church’s pandemic response, spurring more inter-agency cooperation.
“Regardless of how the task force winds down, we would see value in convening regular meetings of Anabaptist mission and service agencies for the duration of the pandemic to share how they are continuing to respond across the global Anabaptist church to the humanitarian needs stemming from this pandemic,” said task force chair Alain Epp Weaver, Mennonite Central Committee director of strategic planning.
MWC Deacons Commission chair Siaka Traoré of Burkina Faso added that the MWC task force has kept praying about the many ways Anabaptist churches around the world have responded in faith amid the pandemic’s uncertainties and fear.
“Churches share God’s love by offering their resources with vulnerable members of their congregations and their communities,” he said. “MWC has been privileged to accompany these churches in this outreach.”
Relief kits share food, hygiene supplies, God’s love and hope in India
In India, God appeared to Mr. Nagamanickam through a COVID-19 relief kit.
He lives in Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu, in a small house with his wife and daughter. Like many of his neighbors, he was a day laborer — until six years ago when he lost his leg in an accident.
He had been active with the help of MWC member Gilgal Mission Trust’s Peace and Justice Project, but after his accident he had no support.
His wife, Lakshmi, tried to earn enough money to support the family, and his daughter dropped out of school to help. During the lockdown, the family lost all hope. They believed they had no source of physical or economic help and decided to commit suicide.
Before they could act, Gilgal Mission Trust staff came to them with a relief kit containing lentils, rice, sugar, oil, flour, turmeric and basic hygiene supplies, including soap and a mask.
GMT’s application to the Global Church Sharing Fund COVID-19 task force was approved for their outreach to some 3,000 men, women and children like Mr. Nagamanickam.
He thanked GMT with tears in his eyes. His family again has hope for their future.