Tuesday, February 18, 2014

DRAE meeting

Rev Ann Wren, DACE President
DRAE President Rev Marianne Uri Ă˜verlandand
DRAE (DIAKONIA Region of Africa and Europe) is one of three regional groups of the DIAKONIA World Federation. The DRAE Executive meets this week. Please hold the members of the Executive in your prayers, and especially DRAE President Rev Marianne Uri Ă˜verlandand. Also, please hold Ann Wren and her team of helpers in your prayers. Ann is hosting the meeting in her Parish in Blackpool. She was recently elected President of DACE (Diaconal Association of the Church of England) for a three year term, with Pat Wright elected to serve as Vice-President.

A prayer for gathering
Lord of our days,
we come to you as many and as one.
With many histories and one history,
with many tomorrows and one tomorrow,
with many ministries and one ministry.
Call us together in faith;
trusting that where we are now
is where you would have us be.
Knowing, deep down
and despite our confusion,
that all is well
and all manner of things shall be well.
Call us together in hope;
believing that there is a new day for the world.
Stir us into action,
that we may be participants
in bringing good news to bear on a troubled creation.
Call us together in love;
embracing the different steps in our common journey
so that, together,
we may be a sign and symbol
of your active presence int he world.
Lord of our days,
we come as many and as one.
Called together by you
in faith, hope and love,
we commit ourselves to ministry
and look towards tomorrow. Amen.
(Rev Leanne Jenski, Rev Deac Susan Wickham, from Singing while it is still dark)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma in mourning

Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu

Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu, President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, died suddenly on February 11th, 2014. He was 66 years old. He had been admitted to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva two days before he passed away. 
Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu was a former General Secretary of the Church, and commenced his term as President in mid-2012 and was inducted as President at the 2013 Methodist Conference in Suva. His leadership was offered during a time of tension between politics, culture and the church. He was deprived of office by the military for many years, and suffered at the hands of government charges about holding an illegal meeting of Standing Committee.
He has been described as one of the Pacific church’s great leaders and had been guiding the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma in a remarkable process of reconciliation and renewal. He was committed to reform in the church so it would be faithful to the Gospel and alert to changes happening in Fiji and across the Pacific. 
Rev Waqairatu was recently quoted as saying, “There have been mistakes in the past and we have not remained abreast with the changes, we have not evolved but it is time to change.”
The late President was also an audacious advocate for the place of women in the church and society and at the 2013 Conference challenged ministers to treat their wives with respect.  “They think they have been called to serve while their wives are just there to cook, clean and do other domestic duties,” he said.
He said that wives of pastors represented the women in the church and more should be done to help build women’s relationship within the church.  He encouraged the pastors of the church to look after their wives and build a strong equal relationship.
This year sees the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma celebrating the 50th anniversary of becoming an independent conference. In a symbol of his humility Rev Waqairatu had planned to celebrate the anniversary by washing the feet of the superintendent ministers and lay leaders of the Church’s 55 divisions.  He was intending to ask these leaders to go back to their divisions and continue the process until every church had held a washing of the feet, as a sign of humility, servant hood and seeking forgiveness.We extend our prayers and thoughts to the church in Fiji, and offer deep condolences to Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu;s family. We also hold in prayer the Deaconesses in Fiji and Rotuma. 

A prayer for the Church and Rev Waqairatu's family

Creator God  and Lover of all people, we thank you for the late President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotoma, the Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu who kept the faith and made witness for Christ; championing reconciliation; upholding the truth, resisting evil and laboring for freedom, justice with love. Grant that his commitment and devotion may bring bounteous fruits in the church and society of Fiji and in this generation and generations to come.
Comfort, O Lord, all who mourn for the loss of those near and dear to them; especially the spouse of the late President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, Jioana and the only daughter Salote.  Be with them in their sorrow; give them faith to look beyond the present trouble, to know that neither life nor death can separate them from your love that is in Jesus Christ.
Bestow, O Lord your heavenly grace upon all who are called to be fellow-workers with you, your church in Fiji and in the world, that by our witness Christ may be lifted up in every land and all people may be drawn to Him. In time of such a tragic loss, and weariness cheer us with your presence; in disappointment give us patience, in the press of affairs keep our spirits fresh;  in success keep us humble of hearts; in failure strengthen us to persevere. Make your people joyful in service and at all times, deepen our sense of dependence on you and give us peace in your Service; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

A statement from the Fiji Council of Churches

Monday, February 10, 2014

Deaconess Day, Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma

Methodist Church In Fiji and Rotuma 

Final year students, Deaconess House (photo: Marion Gledhill)

February 10th is Deaconess Day in the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, a day to affirm and celebrate the ministry of deaconesses in and through the church. We pray for blessings for the Deaconesses and students, and for their ministry in the church.

'God who sings in our hearts, as the flute needs openness to receive the breath of melody, we pray to be open to the many ways that your symphony of love plays in our lives. Thank you for the way that your enlivening Spirit touches us and moves through our beings. Remind us often that each one of us is a special instrument of yours. Together we create the wondrous music in your concert of love. Breathe through us, Music Maker, and let your song weave a melody through all we are and do. May we acknowledge your power at work in us and open ourselves to this blessing'. (Words: Joyce Rupp, Out of the Ordinary)

A brief history:
From as early as 1878, missionary sisters have served the church in Fiji teaching in schools, caring for orphans, providing medical and nursing care and engaging in evangelistic, pastoral and social and community work. In 1953 the Fijian Synod of the Methodist Church of Australasia appointed the first Deaconess Committee because all Fijian annual meetings had recommended to the Synod the establishment of a Deaconess Order. In around 1966, three women - Mulya Dharanji, Sister Ethel Brent and Gladys Campbell - bought a property for the purpose of setting up a Deaconess Training Centre. A multiracial group of volunteers along with the first four deaconess students made preparations and on February 10, 1967, classes began.

Deaconesses have served as chaplains, religious education teachers and in pastoral appointments as assistants to ministers. Here's a story from Fiji Times about deaconesses caring for aged people.

In November 2013, five deaconesses were commissioned: Amalaini Rokodolo, Asenaca Sigabalavu, Merenaisi Maopa, Saini Rogadi and Unaisi Tulou (photos below).

Also, this year celebrates the Golden Jubilee of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma - 50 years since the first Conference was held as an independent church in 1964, after 129 years of being a Methodist Mission, firstly for the Methodist Church in Great Britain and then the Methodist Church in Australasia. The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in Fiji and Rotuma. (We hope to hear more news about the Golden Jubileee celebration during the year, as celebrations get underway!). 

commissioning service, November 2013

newly commissioned deaconesses, 2013

Deaconess Amalaini Rokodolo from Mali Island

These three photos are sourced from Babasiga blogsite.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Photo: Church Women Rising!

This reflection was written by Rev. Irma M. Balaba, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and was read during the celebration of “Church Women Rising”, the church counterpart of the One Billion Rising Campaign on February 6, 2014. Emma Cantor, President of DIAKONIA Asia-Pacific (DAP Region) was also part of this inspiring gathering.
Rev Irma M. Balaba, UCCP (Philippines)

My daughter and I were survivors of the super typhoon Yolanda who opted to take a temporary refuge in Metro Manila. We were in our rented house in Tacloban City on the 8th day of November, 2013 at 6 o’clock in the morning when we witnessed how the strong storm tore down our roof and ceiling. This left us trapped inside the house when the first floor became flooded. We went on the second floor hoping that we will be safe but the ceiling fell down. We decided to just stay in the corner of our room. There, we prayed, appealing to God to spare us from danger and committing our lives unto His divine will on that extremely life threatening situation. We cried and hugged each other and we made a vow not to ever let go no matter what would happen. An hour later, our neighbour rescued us and brought us to their house. That was only when we felt a bit of relief from fear.

On the day after the typhoon, we went to Bethany Hospital for a check-up. I already had fever for four days before the typhoon and on that day, rashes were coming out already on my body. But I was saddened when everywhere else, houses and other structures are flattened and more devastated than ours. The city was awash with floodwater and dead bodies covered with mud littered the streets. I was crying while walking and I couldn’t believe that the typhoon took many lives, properties and the source of living of the people. I felt even more distressed when I reached Bethany Hospital and saw that it was no longer functional, was greatly damaged, no medicines available and no doctors to attend to the patients’ needs.

On the third day and onwards, before I decided to leave Tacloban, I became more desperate because of the scarcity of food and water. In our six days stay in the city after the typhoon, we have never received even a single grain of rice from the government despite of its pronouncements that they are already prepared to respond to the calamity stricken areas. What we got were just the canned good shared to us by our neighbours which they took from the grocery stores in the downtown area. Day after day, I became weaker and weaker as I experienced the aftermath of the tragedy. I was thinking then that yes, we had survived the storm surge, but we might die of hunger and sickness, not to mention that other basic social services are no longer available. This is apparent by the number of survivors who died because of hunger and illness and with the failure of the government to respond to these needs.

My feelings regarding the futility of relying on government assistance became stronger when we arrived in Manila. Out of desperation, my daughter and I went to the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Manila together with the other families from Leyte to ask for relief assistance as we knew that they were storing relief packs in their office. Instead of giving us food packs, the personnel treated us meanly and told us that we will just be an addition to the number of people who are living on the streets of Manila. We were also told that since we were not in the list of those who took the C130 flights, we will not be given relief packs. It was only after a Pastor vouched for our identities as legitimate survivors of Yolanda, that they were compelled to release relief packs to us.

Facts show that Eastern Visayas is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines despite its richness in natural resources. For a long time, these resources have been monopolized and abused by the foreign corporations, landlords and government officials who have used public coffers to enrich themselves. With this sad reality, the people of Sinirangan Bisayas (Waray for Eastern Visayas), with or without natural and human made disasters will always be victims of the unjust system that pervades in our society. The ineptness of the government to respond to the immediate needs of the people in the affected areas only proves that this present dispensation has no sincere intention and political will to uplift the condition of the suffering people in our country. Had it not been for the help of the non-government organizations, progressive organizations, church people and foreign humanitarian agencies, the people would desperately wait for nothing from this inutile government.

With all these depressing situations, I am reminded by the Christmas text message sent to me by my former seminary professor which says, “In the midst of calamities we need to affirm the message and the reason for Christmas. God has decided to be with us and give us hope in the midst of despair and hopelessness. God has come through Jesus Christ to be in solidarity with the suffering people and this is our Good news.” Indeed, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us has given us enough reason to rise and be a blessing to those who are in need and a source of hope to those who are in despair. However, this does not relieve the government from its accountability to the people whom the president calls as his boss. I personally shout for justice for all the survivors of Yolanda who become victims of this apathetic government.

Until now, the call for help is still within our midst. May we be ready to say, here we are, send us