Monday, December 28, 2020

TELC Deaconess Board (India) Christmas letter 2020

News from Sr Grace Padma, Deaconess Mother of the TELC Deaconess Sisters in India, Deaconess Homes in Thanjavur (Bethesda, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Lydia Deaconess Home and Bethania Deaconess Home).

Please pray for Sr Grace and the Deaconess Sisters, and the work they do with destitute women and orphan children

Greetings to you in the Holy Name of our Jesus Christ. 

Every month we experience your prayer blessings from the prayer letters we receive by email. 

‘I will be with you to protect you and keep you safe’. (Jeremiah 15.20)

God of Immanuel is with us, protected from all dangers and disasters, and provided the basic needs for our orphan children, destitute women physically, mentally handicapped, old age and all sick people, helpers, co-workers and sisters of our Deaconess Homes in these challenging and fearful and worried days. God cared for us in helpless situations. 

The fearful Corona virus pandemic affected casual lives of people and educational lives of children. God is with us, protects us and provides for our needs in all these difficult days. When we were unable to for Church programs for any income, no sale of products, God fed our people and more than enough for us. When we were unable to take our patients to hospitals and doctors, God gave health when sick, God strengthened when we became weak, God gave courage when we were fearful. God upheld us. 

As per the Government official instructions, all our residents from our Homes underwent Corona tests. We made face masks, and sold to all our churches and people in our area. 

Churches were closed. Our Witness Prayer House and Bethesda chapel were open for worship services and Friday fasting prayer. We interceded on many prayer points. Regular monthly communion services were held by our local pastor. 

We received very sad news that our former Administrative Mother of Deaconess Board, Sr Gunhild Stahle, went to God’s Kingdom on 6th October in Sweden. We conducted a thanksgiving prayer meeting in our TELC Holy Comforter Church Thanjavur, with a memorial stone and memorial souvenir. Our Home inmates, children, sisters, and her foster children and well known friends participated, and glorified God for her fruitful service. 

On 10th November, the Deaconess trainee Nagomi was consecrated as Deaconess Sister by our Bishop Rev Daniel Jeyaraj in the TELC Cathedral Church Trichy. 

The next day, on 11th November, the 123rd birthday of our founder Lydia Vedanayaham we offered prayers and reception thanks for our sister Nagomi. 

On 20th November, we arranged a marriage for Mercy Nazrin, who had been brought up at the Home since she was 6 months old. She studied graduate Nursing and served at Bethesda Home for two years with patients with mental and physical patients and those with old age. 

For all these program functions, our local Pastor, Pastorate Committee members, friends and donors, helped us and we thank them for it. 

We also provided food commodities for children who went to single parents and poor relations homes, as they have no income during this Corona pandemic. 

When the ‘Nivar’ and ‘Burevi’ cyclones were announced, we made candles and sold them in our area. It has been pouring with heavy rain, especially this month. All food crops and paddy fields have been ruined, and village huts were floating in water. We killed two snakes and caught a big snake which entered our compound through the drainage system. We sent it to the forest people. 

Medicine prices are high. We need to buy medicine for our sickly residents and elderly sisters.

God has sustained us when we were helpless during the pandemic, and also sustained for 82 years this faithful, prayerful, God concerned ministry through generous faithful supporters. 

With Jesus’ love, we thank our donor friends and convey our loving greetings with prayer for a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year 2021. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion awarded Doctor of Divinity

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion (Deacon, Uniting Church in Australia)

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion, an Adnyamathanha woman of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and an internationally respected theologian, author and speaker, has been awarded the Doctor of Divinity (Honoris Causa). The Degree of Doctor of Divinity is a senior degree that is awarded only for work of considerable distinction, where the nomineee has made an original and substantial contribution to the advancement of theological learning and services to theological education, the Church and the general community. She was honoured for her accomplishments as a scholar and leader, and her life’s work in reconciliation, rural and remote advocacy, education, and inter-cultural dialogue, and her extraordinary efforts towards the betterment of society. Aunty Denise is known for her generosity with her time, graciousness with her dialogue, and wisdom in her teachings. Her nomination for the award received unanimous support from the Adelaide College of Divinity Council.
October 2nd, 2020.
Aunty Denise's has published a book, Yarta Wandatha, and her second book is about to be published.
(Elders are highly respected Aboriginal people held in esteem by their communities for their wisdom, cultural knowledge and community service. They have gained recognition as a custodian of knowledge and lore. Aboriginal people refer to an Elder as 'Aunty' or 'Uncle'). 

DIAKAID COVID grant - Indonesia

The IKADIWA Deaconesses responded to the COVID pandemic in their local area in the following way: 

* Helping people in need to survive from economic impact of Covid19 by distributing staple foods to 200 children’s parents and teachers of pre school around Ikadiwa’s mother house in Siborongborong;

* Public awareness campaigns to sensitize the community about the danger of Covid19 and to prevent the spread of the virus. 

* Strengthening the people in faith and action

The Indonesian economy is now in a precarious position. Many factories are closed and many workers are laid off or at least on unpaid leave. The situation makes many of these individuals face a higher risk of contracting and subsequently spreading the virus. As Deaconesses, we are responding by helping people in need, particularly people from low economic income background. 

On November 11, 2020 the IKADIWA Deaconesses distributed the DIAKAID grant to the children's parents and teachers of Preschool/Kindergarten, in the form of staple foods packages to people in communities in Pematangsiantar. We took them to Siborongborong and Tarutung by cars, which took 5 hours. The journey, and the distribution at 7 places, went very well. The people came to assembly points and used face masks and hand washing. They were so happy to receive the packages. The DIAKAID packages have brought joy to the people.

We are so thankful to the Lord and to DWF Executive Committee and the DAP Executive Committee for placing trust in Ikadiwa to offer practical diaconal ministry to the people around our mother house.

May the Lord bless all of our ministries.

Blessings, Deac. Risma Sihombing


Thursday, December 3, 2020

December 3 - International Day of People with Disability

December 3 is the 'UN International Day of People with Disability'. There are many Deacons and Deaconesses who work with people with disabilities - physical and intellectual. (Would love to hear about your stories and experiences!)

Rev Andy Calder (Deacon) is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister, in the role of Disability Inclusion Advocate with the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. Andy has be​​en an ordain​ed Uniting Church minister for 22 years. Prior to ordination in 1995 as a Uniting Church Deacon, Andy worked in a range of community and government contexts in program delivery, policy development and advocacy with people with disabilities. His current role is to broadly encourage and promote inclusion of people with disabilities within the life of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

Andy has undertaken social action research as part of Ph.D. studies, exploring the spirituality of adults with intellectual disabilities. He has partnered with the Victorian advocacy body VALID (Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with a Disability), and interviewed 14 people. His recently completed doctorate is titled: ‘Adults with intellectual disability and their spirituality: voices to be heard by faith communities and the disability services sector in Victoria, Australia’. 

Arising from Andy's research, he developed a ‘Statement of Spirituality’ which has been adopted by VALID. It reinforces the importance and value of people's expression of their particular spirituality, which includes participation in religious communities. This is the first known time a non-faith based disability organisation has proclaimed such a public statement. 

In 2019, Andy was honoured with the Henri Nouwen Award in recognition of his work with people with disabilities. The award is named after Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen, who served as a pastor at the Canadian L’Arche Daybreak community for people with intellectual disabilities and their carers and loved ones.

Andy is the first person outside of North America to accept the award, which is given by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) Religion and Spirituality Division. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Honouring the work of Susanne Watson Epting

Bishop Alan Scarfe at the 168th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, paying tribute to Susanne Watson Epting:

...has been a leader within this diocese for decades, promoting baptismal ministry and the fullness and distinctiveness of the diaconal order. She was an original visionary on what the diocese could do with a place strategically placed like Old Brick [on the campus of the University of Iowa] and is now seeing the fruit of that vision as the Beloved Community Initiative [of which she is co-founder] develops in that very place. God's Spirit has been at work through Her servant in a profoundly prophetic and timely way. Susanne says that she is now officially retired. No one believes her. You will never stop serving in God's Name. And so we thank God for you, Susanne, at this time. 

(Susanne’s husband Bishop Chris Epting was a keynote speaker at the Chicago World Assembly in 2017)

Unexpected Consequences: The Diaconate Renewed by Susanne Watson Epting

"Times change, and the Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Church has not remained static. While the book seeks to update contemporary knowledge about deacons, it also shows how the diaconate may be well positioned to lead the church into change that cuts across governance, formation, and ministry. While the institutional church struggles with its structure and purpose, working to change its reality and perception, the book suggests that there are diaconal leaders who have been working all along for this kind of change. The book chronicles ways in which one church order has grown, matured, adapted, adjusted, and is as effective as it is because of its dynamic nature. It is hoped that other orders might learn from the importance of being adaptable, contextual, and baptismal, while highlighting the primary lens deacons look through as they seek to fulfill what the church has called them to do."

Thursday, November 19, 2020

World Toilet Day - November 19

November 19 is World Toilet Day. It’s a United Nations observance to highlight a serious problem that 4.2 billion people in the world living without safely managed sanitation options. More people in the world have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. More than 840,000 people die every year from diseases related to lack of access to water and sanitation. It's the reason why the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of the UN’s Global Goals is clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

This year the World Toilet Day 2020 focuses on sustainable sanitation and climate change. Climate change is getting worse. Flood, drought and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. Everyone must have sustainable sanitation, alongside clean water and handwashing facilities, to help protect and maintain our health security and stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases such as COVID-19, cholera and typhoid. Sustainable sanitation systems also reuse waste to safely boost agriculture, and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.

So, what does a sustainable sanitation system look like? Sustainable sanitation begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified setting. The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipework. The next stage is treatment and safe disposal. Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production, and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.

Learn more about this year’s theme and how to engage in the World Toilet Day 2020 campaign here.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats the King says to the sheep: ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Perhaps today we could add ‘I was without a safe and private toilet and you helped to provide me with clean sanitation’.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The World Council of Churches asked Carolyn Winfrey Gillette to compose lyrics for a hymn for World Toilet Day. Great lyrics. 

More resources on the Pilgrim Uniting Church website

Prayer: Lord for people who have no access to clean sanitation today we pray. May we who have everything take one small step today to aid those who have nothing, Amen.

DOTAC Board meeting

DOTAC Board - representing the 12 communities/associations of DOTAC, met via Zoom in the week of November 16-20. They all agreed that it was not the same as meeting in person but as a second-best meeting via Zoom enabled them to connect, make some decisions and stay safe.

Some highlights:

The representatives from the region's 12 communities and associations shared updates about the effects of COVID for their groups.  Nine projects related to the region have been funded by special DIAKAID grants; everything from food security pressures to addictions recovery support, from educational technology to sick bay construction, from resilency training to mental health first aid, from an on-line women's community to aid for migrant workers.

In preparation for Advent worship and check in times focused on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  

A new Social Justice Committee is being initiated.  And for one of the sessions Board members attended the second Racial Justice learning and discussion group with almost 30 participants.

A task group to examine and imagine the future of DOTAC was commissioned.  The Board hopes to have a final report with ideas and concrete recommendations by July 2021.

DOTAC Monthly Prayer gathering has been happening on the first of every month since June.  Other ideas were shared and considered for supporting the spiritual practices of our communities.

The Board brainstormed in the area of the Theology and Scholarship of Diakonia, Diaconal Formation and Membership Connections

Gathering God, 

you call the DOTAC Board members 

from their individual lives and their separate communities

to be your people meeting online. 

May your Spirit presence refresh and renew them. 

Affirm in each one the good that you have created in them. 

Remove all those things that seek to distract from the tasks at hand. 

In all the tasks before them, 

enable them to listen to each other,

that they may discern your leading, 

and thus join in your transforming mission in the world. 

May all they do be in response to your challenge: 

to 'love God, and to love your neighbour as yourself'. 

This we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Indonesia (15-21 November 2020)

 The WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle focus is on Indonesia (and Timor Leste and the Philippines) from 15-21 November. 

Our member association in Indonesia is Ikatan Diakoni Wanita Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (IKADIWA). A recent post spoke about the contribution of the Principal of the Deaconess School, Deaconess Dr Serepina Sitanggang, who is retiring in 2020. 

The HKBP hospital at Balige is run by the deaconess community IKADIWA. It was from this hospital that three young nurses travelled to Germany 67 years ago, to receive their education as a deaconess. After returning to Indonesia in 1961 those sisters founded the deaconess community and afterwards a deaconess school. Since 1995 they have had their motherhouse at Lumban Pisang-Siborongborong. (the video below is of a HKBP church in Siborongborong). 

Recently, IKADIWA received a DIAKAID special COVID grant for "Food support around Motherhouse in Siborongborong". We look forward to hearing more about the way this grant has enabled compassionate care in the community.

Deaconess students at Deaconess School HKBP

Deaconess students at Deaconess School HKBP
Deaconess Theological College, Balige

Silhouette of church in Balige, North Sumatra

Market day, Balige, North Sumatra

We give thanks for the diversity of ethnicities, cultures and religious beliefs in Indonesia, and especially those who have built bridges between them, and pray for ecumenical and interfaith cooperation to bring justice, peace and sustainability to the country.


We begin our worship in the name of God the Father

who has chosen us to be the channels of blessings;

in the name of the Son,

who became one like us;

in the name of the Holy Spirit,

who has given us wisdom and strength.

Creator of the Cosmos, of eternity and time:

Be with us in this time.

Saviour of the world,

healer of the nations:

Be with us in this place.

Breath of all that lives,

of people near and far:

Be with us in our hearts.


God of here and now:

Stir within our lives. Amen.

(from WCC AGAPE meeting, closing prayer, 2012, Jakarta/Indonesia)

Some photos taken from blogsite.

WCC Ecumenical prayer cycle - Philippines (15-21 November 2020)

This week the WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle has a focus on two Asian countries where we have Deaconess Associations - Indonesia and the Philippines. This post has a focus on the Philippines including prayers provided by the Deaconess Associations in the Philippines (scroll down to video)

Prayers of thanks

* the vital witness of churches in this region;

* those who have resisted bravely and worked for human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation, especially the National Council of Churches in the Philippines;

* those who protest exploitative mining, deforestation and other environmental damage.

We pray for:

* government to eradicate corruption, establish justice and peace, and work effectively for the wellbeing of all their people;

* victims of violence, torture, drug and human trafficking, and human rights violations, that those responsible might be held accountable;

* all those affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters, and for the rebuilding of communities afterwards;

* ecumenical and interfaith cooperation to bring justice, peace and sustainability to these lands.


The following information has been provided by DIAKPhils (Deaconess Associations in the Philippines). 

PHILIPPINES : Typhoon Rolly (International name Goni) has left massive destruction to infrastructure, agriculture, animals and has taken people's lives. Bicol Region was the the center of the strongest winds and rain that brought about flood, lahar (a destructive mudflow) in the Typhoon belt area. This was  recorded as the strongest typhoon in 2020, worldwide. According to reports, damage to infrastructure and livelihood reached Php5.8Billion. Damage to pthe ower facilities in the area affected is Php300Million.  

But relief and aid efforts stepped up and Philippines “Bayanihan” (helping out) culture once again provided help in this difficult condition.  

Our  misfortunes bring out the best in us, helping others even if we too needed the same help; anchoring  our faith to our known God, so that no matter how strong the typhoon that will come, it will only weaken the things that surrounds us but will strengthen the faith that is within us. The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7

We seek help of prayer to God for protection and mercy for those who are deeply affected by Typhoon Rolly.

We pray for consolation, Lord. Create in us a heart to 'have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be our confidence and will keep our feet from being snared'. (Proverbs 3:25-36)

When disasters have left a trail of destruction in people's lives and property, we are reminded that human wickedness is becoming extensive and that we need to be disciplined from our dreadful actions. 

We acknowledge our wickedness, Lord, when your creation is destroyed because of our own doings. Be merciful to us , O God, be merciful to us , for in you our souls take  refuge; in the shadow of your wings we will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1-2)

We know you are not an angry God. You love your creation and you will replace everything that was lost. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:1-2


Sunday, November 8, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Australia (8-14 November 2020)

Along with New Zealand, the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle has a focus on Australia this week. (see previous post on Diakonia Aotearoa New Zealand Association, DANZA). 

There are two member association of DIAKONIA World Federation in Australia - Australian Anglican Diaconal Association (AADA) and Diakonia Uniting Church in Australia (DUCA). 

Rev Christa Megaw and Rev Judy Knowling are members of the DIAKONIA Asia Pacific (DAP) Executive Committee, and Christa is also on the DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. Rev Sandy Boyce is President, DIAKONIA World Federation and remains in close contact with DAP EC to support and resource. 

Deacon delegates from Australia to Fiji July 2019

A creed for Australia

We believe that this ancient land

with its unique creatures

is a precious gift from a loving God

whose mercy is over all creation.

We believe in God’s care for the people who treasured it

through un-numbered generations;

the One who grieves in their suffering

and rejoices in every noble aspiration.

We believe in God’s compassion

for the patchwork of refugees

who for two hundred years have come to this continent

looking for a place to call their home.

We believe in God’s steadfast love

for this nation and all its children;

that he is creating a new people from many races,

colours and gifts, to fulfil a high destiny.

We believe that the best way forward

is the way revealed by Christ of faith, hope and love,

where no needy person is neglected

and no bidding of the Spirit ignored.

(Source: Bruce D. Prewer)


We have wilderness and dry land at the heart of Australia.

We may not venture into it very often

but we know it is there,

it has its place on our maps.

More familiar to us, however,

is the wilderness in our own hearts,

the empty spaces in our own lives,

the desert of longings that engulf us.

Wilderness is a hard place,

but also a place of beauty and grace,

revealed by its sunsets and sunrises,

the glow of ancient rocks,

the moon shining on the sand.

Do not be afraid

of the desert places in your life,

for it is here

that the Good News

may be heard most profoundly.

May it be so.

(Source: adapted, Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre)

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - New Zealand (8-14th November 2020)

The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle for this week has a focus on New Zealand and Australia. This post will focus on New Zealand, and our member association Diakonia Aotearoa New Zealand Association (DANZA), which includes those serving as Deacons in the Anglican and Methodist churches. Their website is here

Rev Anne Russell-Brighty is a member of the DIAKONIA Asia Pacific (DAP) Executive Committee, and also DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. 

Anne (on left) and other DANZA members

You will probably know about the horrifying mass shootings that occurred at mosques in a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019. The Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, held the country together with the idea of 'they are us' (speaking about the Muslim victims) and 'let us be the nation we believe ourselves to be'. Her speech unified the nation together.  In May 2019, PM Adern unveiled the well-being budget, where she gave priority to societal well-being, not just the economic well-being of the nation. She said, “We're embedding that notion of making decisions that aren't just about growth for growth's sake, but how are our people faring? How is their overall well-being and their mental health? How is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.” There set five priorities for 2019: aiding the transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy, supporting a thriving nation in the digital age, lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities, reducing child poverty, and supporting mental health for all New Zealanders. Adern's government created a NZ$50bn Covid response and recovery fund to address both the immediate response to the pandemic and the longer term economic damage left in its wake. New Zealand is free from COVID-19 cases. Her newly formed cabinet represents the diversity in New Zealand - of the 20-strong cabinet, 8 are women, 5 are Māori, 3 are Pasifika and 3 are LGBT.

The Deacons in the New Zealand Anglican and Methodist Church continue to offer important ministry in a nation that aspires to live with diversity, to honour cultural difference, and to focus on building community well-being as well as sustainable growth. 


We are thankful for:

* the beauty of the land and waters of Aotearoa New Zealand and the special relationship that people enjoy with the natural environment

* the identities and cultural practices that indigenous peoples long have maintained, and for their increasing political voice

* how the people have welcomed new immigrants

* how churches have witnessed and worked together ecumenically, especially amid challenges of apathy in highly secularized societies.

We pray for:

* churches to have the imagination, skills and energy to build bridges of understanding in increasingly multireligious and multicultural contexts

* those who work tirelessly on issues of justice for the poor, the marginalized and the dispossessed, especially indigenous peoples

* those seeking refuge and a new life in these countries, and those supporting and providing for them

careful preservation of the fragile land, sea, and resources.

Deaconess Serepina Sitanggang, Principal, HKBP Deaconess School

Acknowledgement of Deaconess Dr Serepina Sitanggang, Principal, Christian Protestant Batak Church (HKBP) Deaconess School (LPD), Balige, North Sumatra, Indonesia, on her retirement. 

(Member association: Ikatan Diakoni Wanita Huria Kristen Batak Protestant)

The General Synod of the HKBP had the foresight to establish the Deaconess School (LPD) in 1971. 

Under the faithful leadership of Deaconess Dr Serepina Sitanggang, many women have been trained for diaconal service in the community. They have developed skills in order to provide spiritual, physical and emotional support in the community. They offer comfort and care. Their ministry has lifted the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the community, those suffering from illness and disease, those living with poverty, and given hope when hope has been scarce. The challenges are great! 

The Deaconesses have received education for diaconal ministry, and in turn provide education in many ways in the wider community. Through the LPD program, they have been exposed to areas of injustice including child trafficking, migrant workers, fraud and corruption and children’s rights, and learned the positive role of advocacy.

The ministry of the Deaconess in turn inspires and empowers women in the wider community to address issues of concern to them and their communities.

It has been said that the most important qualities of a good leader include integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, vision, influence, and positivity. Deaconess Serapina has led by example, displaying very fine qualities of a leader, and inspiring, encouraging and equipping hundreds of women for diaconal ministry. A true leader understands the hopes and dreams of others. Serapina has encouraged students to embark upon post graduate study opportunities and internships in other countries, enriching their lives and strengthening the education offered at LPD.

Deaconess Serapina’s steady and unwavering leadership has been a blessing to so many and had a significant impact on the wider community through the Deaconesses who have taken their learning far and wide. Christians are the minority in Indonesia, and still the Deaconesses boldly embody Christ’s love with courage and compassion. They pray for each another, and help and support each other.

I send greetings on behalf of DIAKONIA World Federation and acknowledge with grateful thanks the inspiring and faithful ministry of Deaconess Serapina Sitanggang. I know that the DIAKONIA Asia Pacific Region would also wish to send greetings, and to value her leadership.

I pray God’s blessings on Deaconess Serapina. I am confident God will continue to lead her steps in the future and that her life will continue to inspire others.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Fiji (1-7 November 2020)

The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle focus is on Fiji (and many other oceania nations), 1-7 November. 

Our member association is the Methodist Deaconess Order, Methodist Church in Fiji. 

Deaconess Meresiana Sadrata is the Regional President of DIAKONIA Asia Pacific, and a member of the DIAKONIA World Executive Committee. 

Deaconess Meresiana Sadrata

The Fiji Methodist Deaconesses' hosted the DAP regional assembly in 2019 in Nadi, Fiji. A very special time, with participants from Fiji, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand (and the U.S. and Germany). 

Participants at DAP Regional Assembly, 2019

Consider incorporating prayers from other countries into your church services

WCC Intercessions

We are thankful for:

* the amazing diversity of people and cultures living on the islands of Oceania

* the magnificent natural scenery and sea life

* the strong, faithful presence of churches in these lands

* the stories and bold witness to the impact of climate change, reminding the rest of the world that we are all in the same ‘boat’ on this planet, 70% of which is covered by the ocean.

We pray for:

* efforts to preserve these island nations in the midst of rising seas

* those adversely affected by earthquakes, volcanoes and cyclones

* those dealing with the legacy of past nuclear weapons testing and with garbage dumping today

* good governance – especially in preserving indigenous cultures –which effectively serves those who are impoverished, hungry, lacking education or unable to make a living.

Friday, October 23, 2020

World Council of Churches Prayer Cycle - North America (25th-31 October 2020)

We remember Canada and the member associations in  Canada

(the next post will feature other member associations in Canada and the U.S.A.)

* Order of Diaconal Ministries -Presbyterian Church in Canada

* Association of Anglican Deacons in Canada

* Deacons of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

* Diakonia of the United Church of Canada


Diakonia of The United Church of Canada was formed in the early 1980s as an association of diaconal ministers.  However, diaconal ministry has roots in our church dating back to 1890s and the formation of the deaconess communities of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.  Diaconal ministers are commissioned to a ministry of Education, Service and Pastoral Care.  With ministers who are ordained to Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care, diaconal ministers constitute one of two streams of ministry in the United Church.  In 2018, DUCCs gathered for a national biennial meeting in Winnipeg.  The theme was taken from the DUCC Vision Statement “Courageous Risking.”  The  biennial national gathering was to be held May of 2020 in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, and the focus was to be “Faith Inspiring Power and Politics.”  Instead we met by Zoom. Work has been completed on renewing the DUCC website.  We share news in the community through regular mailchimp connections.  Our database has received much attention and now in good shape.  We have also participated in a recruitment video from the national church which highlights ministry options. DUCC is a member in Affirm United, a alliance of GBLTQ+ positive ministries.

WCC prayers


We are thankful for:

the vast expanse of North America with its resources and varied landscapes; may they be preserved, enjoyed and used wisely;

those who were its original inhabitants – First Nations and Native Americans;

church-related organizations that strongly advocate for justice, and those that provide for new immigrants and refugees today, as well as for others who are poor and vulnerable; 

ecumenical and interfaith engagements which are occurring in many communities that previously were mainly white and Christian.

We pray for:

churches facing new challenges, that they may continue to witness boldly to the gospel in evolving multicultural, multireligious and secular contexts;

indigenous peoples in their long struggles for survival, land and rights; and for ongoing healing and reconciliation with those who have come after them;

new immigrants, that they will continue to be welcomed in these countries, and that policies will serve the common good;

effectively countering systemic greed that exploits communities and natural resources;

government leaders that they would advance justice, human rights, and peace for all within these countries and in the rest of the world.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Dn Shaila John Wesley

Shaila will be known to many in DIAKONIA World Federation through attending Regional and World Assemblies. 

Sadly, Shaila passed away suddenly on 14th September 2020 in Belgaum, India. Shaila had served as the Executive Secretary of the All India Women's Work in the Methodist Church in India. It was my  privilege to spend time with Shaila in Bangalore, and then in Chennai, and to meet other MCI Deaconesses. I wrote about my visit in 2014. Shaila is pictured below, fourth from the right. 

Deepest condolences to her family, and to the MCI Deaconesses. 

Romans 14:8 - If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Rest in eternal communion with God, good and faithful servant.

Her niece, Shruti, provided the following information. 

Shaila Kumara John Wesley

DOB: 12-1-1952; DOD: 14-09-2020

Born, Baptised and Schooled in Kolar, Karnataka. She was brought up in a good Christian family. She was a top student through her school and university. Shailamma was an ACC cadet and represented her school in sports and won many athletic medals at school and district level.

Shailamma lived and worked for many years in Kolar as Secretary in the accounts office. She sensed the call of God and decided to become a Deaconess. Her training was in Jabalpur. She worked as a teacher at Gulbarga, and was Principal at Belgaum,Yadgir, and Manager at BGHS and BBHS RR Nager school. She was Superintendent of Hosre Achievement. 

Shailamma was sociable and friendly and always had a smile. She was a very able person. She did a lot of developmental work. In recent years she has been a member of the Executive Council, and Secretary of the Deaconesss Conference. She also served faithfully as Executive Secretary of Women’s Work. 

The 40th day Memorial service honouring Shailamma's life will be held on 23rd Friday October 2020. Shailamma was a beacon of light, hope and strength to the family as well as many others in India and across the seass. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

WCC Ecumenical Prayer Cycle - Brazil (20-26 September)

The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle this week focusses on Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Peru. We hold in prayer the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil, IELCB) and those who serve in diaconal ministry. We uphold in prayer the diaconal sisters in Brazil (Diaconisa at Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil), and also give thanks for the faithful life of Ingrit Vogt.

The Deaconess Motherhouse was established in 1939 by Lutheran Deaconesses working in Brazil. German immigrants had felt the lack of someone who had knowledge in the area of nursing and pedagogy. That is why they requested that Germany send Sisters with training in these areas. Soon Brazilian women desired to work as sisters. In the Women’s Congress in 1938 the foundation of a Deaconess Mother House was approved to be built on Brazilian soil. On May 17th each year the Convention of the Sisters takes place to which all the sisters are invited from close and from afar. It includes women who feel themselves called to diaconal service, who have concluded a professional secular program, without theological formation, when they do not wish to work as ministers in congregations. These women are called diaconal Sisters. Likewise pastors and catechists are accepted into the Sisterhood. 

The Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IECLB) added ordained diaconal ministers to establish a fourfold ministry, which also includes pastors, evangelists and catechists. All four ministries are considered equal in status in the church’s life, share the same salary scale, and require the same basic seminary education with special courses for each distinct ministry. The IECLB established the Department of Diakonia, which encompasses the diaconal ministers, the deaconess community and all the church’s health care and social service agencies and institutions. It also has a commitment to help mobilize people in congregations to do diaconal work. (from a paper by E. Louise Williams)

In 2016, the DOTAC Assembly was held in Porto Alegre. The theme was, Jesus’ Diakonia – From Crumbs to Whole Communion, inspired by the biblical text of Mk 7.24-30. Despite economic advancements, there are many people who still live under the table and feed from crumbs. Who are those people and why they are kept from participating on reflections and decisions that are taken around the table? What are the signs for hope and transformation? What are the chances for changing places: from crumbs to the table of whole communion? Through action and reflection, diakonia intends to promote people’s ascension from under the table to around the table. Diakonia is about "constructing tables at which all people may sit." (Rodolfo Gaede Neto)

WCC Intercessions

We are thankful for:

* the distinctive rhythms, music, dance, food and natural medicine in this area

* the beauty of the region, forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and ocean coastlines, and especially indigenous peoples’ relationship with, and care for, the natural environment

* churches who witness and work both ecumenically and with those of other faiths to build relationships of trust and commitment amid ongoing injustice and oppression

* the diversity of languages and cultures flourishing in the region despite disruptions that have occurred through colonization, and political and economic turmoil.

We pray for:

* Christians to have the courage, imagination and energy to build bridges of peace and understanding against conflict and division, and to pursue justice for the poor, marginalized and dispossessed

* an end of corruption in all levels of the society, including economic exploitation which impoverishes and hinders economic growth from benefitting all.

* immigrants and refugees seeking a new home, and those who accompany and support them

* cocoa farmers to find sustainable incomes from other crops, for an end to drug trafficking, and effective assistance for those who are addicted.

God of Life,

prepare our hands for a touch,

a new and different touch.

Prepare our hands for a touch,

a touch of encounter,

a touch of awakening,

a touch of hope,

a touch of feeling.

Many are the worn-out gestures.

Many are the movements frozen in time.

Many are the useless excuses just to repeat attitudes.

Give us daring

to create new titles of community,

new kinds of affection,

breaking away from old ways of relating,

encouraging true, meaningful ways to move into closeness.

(Ernesto Barros Cardoso, Brazil. Gifts of Many Cultures: Worship Resources for the Global Community, Maren C. Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy, United Church Press, Cleveland OH, USA, 1995, p.4.)

And the waters will flow from your altar, Lord

and flood the earth.

And we will be like a garden watered,

cared for, exposed to life. 

Oh! let these waters come,

impetuous and pure,

and destroy the powers

and clean the paths

which my people will take,

singing and rejoicing

in an endless celebration,

the Word, Life, Freedom

and the Resurrection! 

And the waters will flow from your altar, Lord,

and clean away the debris

and we will have courage to act,

to serve,

to change the world. 

And the waters will flow from your altar, Lord,

life will be rekindled,

and we will see the new creation,

act of your love.

(Simei Monteiro, Geneva, Switzerland. English transl. Colleen Reeks. Whole Life, Holy Life, Ernesto Cardoso, ISER, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#IECLB - Masks of Hope

Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil

We can not provide all the care we would like.  Time does not permit it; always someone else is in need of some compassionate service.  In these difficult times, many people have had to interrupt their professional activity or lose their jobs. For this reason, Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil (IECLB) Diakonia, in its various locations, has motivated organizations and faith communities to initiate diaconal campaigns, emphasizing the necessity that Diaconia must move on, even if in different ways, with care and hygiene, in the fight against the coronavirus.

The involvement of IECLB Diakonia and diaconal communities was great in the campaign for making masks. Several individuals, families, and communities of faith have been working hard, whether in sewing or in the donation of material. This activity is just one example of what so many people have done in the IECLB: placing their hands at the service of the diaconal Gospel of Jesus, assisting people in their sufferings. It is estimated that more than 20,000 masks have already been made and donated. 

In addition, there is a lot of love being donated: clothes, food distribution to promote human dignity, hygiene materials, information about prevention, listening to the tired people who needed care and comfort.

A diaconal action can save someone or minimize their suffering!

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10.10

May the diaconal love of Jesus transform lives through these beautiful acts.

Diác. Dionata Rodrigues de Oliveira

Diác. Ma. Carla Vilma Jandrey

Coordenadora de Diaconia e Programa Diaconia Inclusão

Secretaria da Ação Comunitária

Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

COVID 19 lockdown and community connections

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown, social isolation, financial stress and insecurity about the future, have taken a toll on mental health and emotional well-being. Rev Christa Megaw, a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia, invited her congregation to consider ways to support people in their neighourhood. The responses were creative, and addressed the need for community connection despite the requirement for ‘social isolation’. 

After conversation with a local café owner with overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed customers, the church responded with donations to a Pay it Forward program to supply coffee to people through the café. 

The teenage shop assistants who continued to work, despite the stress caused by abusive customers and the threat of COVID-19, were so appreciative to be acknowledged with the gift of boxes of chocolates provided to local supermarket staff. 

School teachers and other school staff who were expected to continue to work, despite the lockdown, were experiencing stress as they tried to juggle face to face learning and the challenges of transitioning to online learning. The church gave packs of ‘Wellbeing’ cards to the teachers of four schools, to help them focus on caring for themselves, as well as their students. 

The church also delivered activity kits so families could do crafts with their children at home, which were then displayed on the glass windows and doors of the church buildings. 

While there was no ‘church in the building’ with the churches also in lockdown, the church found creative ways to be in the community, bringing some joy and welcome respite to those living with stress, anxiety and financial uncertainty due to the disruption brought about by COVID-19. 

Fiji - COVID 19 and Cycle Harold

 The Methodist Deaconess Order of Fiji had to manage both COVID-19 and Cyclone Harold in April 2020. They were able to support 2 Deaconesses serving in the outer islands with the provision of groceries. Houses had been blown down, and some neighbouring families had taken shelter with the Deaconesses. The Deaconess Order also provided food for vulnerable people on the street. In addition, the Deaconesses learned that children in most of the Methodist Schools had come to school without lunch due to the fact that most of their parents had been laid off work. The Deaconesses serving in schools were encouraged to work with teachers and parents to recognise the plight of the students, and to provide lunch packs.

(Deaconess Meresiana Kuricava is President, DIAKONIA Asia Pacific - DAP)

ELCIC and the pandemic

Here are two examples of how the ministry that two of our ELCIC deacons are involved in has changed due to the pandemic situations here in Canada. Deaconess Pam Harrington is a psycho-therapist from Ontario, and Rev. Karen Wedman is a diaconal minister serving in an administrative role with the Good Samaritan Society in Alberta.

Pam writes: I am doing therapy with people who have high anxiety due to Covid-19, trying to soothe their fears and anxieties and focus on what they CAN control in such an out-of-control time in history. People who are isolated sometimes lose touch with reality and are caught up in mixed messages on the media and can be easily manipulated, coerced and exploited. They also lose hope. It is helpful to have a community of support, so helping them build connections and find people they can relate to, either in social bubbles that are safe or by virtual means, is really important. 

Karen writes: I am serving on the EOC (Emergency Operations Committee) working on pandemic plans for the whole of our organization.  We meet each day and discuss current staffing issues, PPE (personal protective equipment), extra legislative requirements, employee support, etc. that is required in light of COVID. My role is still administrative, however, I send out a weekly devotion to all employees to lift them up in prayer and in gratitude for who they are and the work they provide. 

Karen works with another ELCIC deacon, Sarah Rudd, and says this:  Sarah is heavily involved at our care home that has over 75 cases of COVID. Unfortunately, the virus spread quickly and Sarah is assisting the care home, arranging extra shifts, meeting with residents and families, sitting with the dying and dealing with families who are grieving. As manager, Sarah is also coordinating the ministry of the other chaplains that have been brought into the care home to help at this time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives and ministry. It is encouraging to see the ways Deacons are responding to the needs of those they serve, as those needs have changed during this pandemic. 


COVID responses in British Columbia

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of the least of these” Matthew 10:42

In a hot climate, a cup of cold water must have been a rare treat. I wonder what is a cup of cold water in the Pandemic in my context? I am a Canadian Anglican Deacon in Victoria, British Columbia.

Here, COVID has caused 195 deaths. Yet overdose deaths have climbed in the pandemic reaching a peak of 710 deaths as of June 2020. In June alone there were 175 deaths. We have more than one crisis. We have learned to social distance, wear masks and sanitize/wash our hands, but when the topic of a realistic, non-prohibition style response to substance use is raised, there is great resistance.  Might the cup of “cold water” be legal safe drugs? Could the cup of “cold water” be free alcohol to prevent painful nerve shattering withdrawal?

Hope and recovery walk hand in hand but the battle with addiction in times of isolation is difficult. Recovery at the best of times is complex. How can we offer nurture? People need the basics, safe secure housing, food security and respect. In recovery this is crucial along with access to treatment, supervised injection sites, safe available drug/medication supply.  They need supportive relationships as do their families who are further isolated by stigma.

We offer trauma informed yoga, online weekly meditations on scripture and the AA 12 steps, prayers, 5th steps, education/awareness, conversation, advocacy for change, information on community resources; from online AA meetings, to agencies who specialize in substance use needs. Our staff and volunteers from the congregation participated in the 3rd overdose prevention Naloxone training. We are working to offer a cup of “cold water” in Pandemic times.

Rev. Canon Nancy E. Ford, Director of Deacons

Deacon to the City out of Christ Church Cathedral,

ELCA responses to the pandemic

The Deaconess Community of the ELCA answered our question: "What losses and opportunities have members of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA experienced as they faithfully respond to their diaconal calls and work for the flourishing of all God’s creation?" They shared....

~ Sr. Shana Williams (pictured above):  The pandemic has affected my call mainly in a loss of in-person interaction with students, families, and colleagues. It has made everything we do exponentially more difficult. It has highlighted our strengths as a tiny school district, which lie in the relationships and trust we build with students and families.

~ Sr. Melinda Lando: As a healthcare provider, the impact of COVID-19 has forced me to adjust the care I provide to my patients. It has meant hot having direct, face to face, contact with my patients, but rather via telehealth. While this is better than no contact with them, I miss the direct, face to face and physically present  encounters. I've missed this tremendously.    

~ Sr. Clare Josef-Maier: As a campus minister, I realized with dismay that students whose worlds were turned upside down with the pandemic were going to look to me for wisdom and stabilizing. My own capacity to serve them felt like it was crumbling: no more in-person connections through which to gauge their individual needs and support their communal life together, information changing as often as I changed my clothes, my own bearings shaken by the personal impact of the pandemic to my family. But this experience has reminded me that narrow/antiquated definitions of leadership hold us back - the mere presence of caring engagement and accompaniment alongside students as they "surf the waves" of this time empowered their resiliency both as individuals and in community to one another.

 ~ Sr. Kriss Buss: As a hospital chaplain, I have lost the familiar space to grieve with patients and families and staff as they grapple with illness and the rhythm of life and death. In the midst of the pandemic, safety and responsible fear has separated so many families and patients and created many limits on our physical interactions, at the most emotionally charged times. And yet I have learned that there is a breaking in of love and grace in phone calls, the opportunity to hold someone's heart from a distance of six feet or sixty miles. I have learned that we become more aware of deep connection to one another when we must be aware of the distance. I am thankful for constantly thinking of new ways to care for my patients, families, and staff each day as we uphold the sacredness of life and death.

 ~ Sr. Dottie Almoney: The losses I have experienced in my call as a parish Deaconess is the loss of physical community. What I have gained is the knowledge that we can reach more people if we keep incorporating zoom for meetings and learning as well as worship that is live streamed after this pandemic is over!

~ Sr. Mary Arie: We live in a crazy time - what we took for normal is now a mere memory. I am called to pastor two small rural churches - everything is different. The way we do funerals is the most impacted - at the gravesite - no close contact with family. But the Holy Spirit is still comforting the loved ones. The words of comfort are still being said. To be flexible is the key. 

ProGente Connections’s Pandemic Respons

 A Deacon founded and led nonprofit near Boston, MA

Lori Mills-Curran

 ProGente Connections is a coalition of Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA) and Presbyterian (PCA) churches empowering and supporting the huge population of Brazilians living west of Boston, MA.  A Lutheran and an Episcopal deacon were instrumental in its founding.  PGC has served immigrants for several years with English classes for adults, children’s Portuguese classes, immigrant rights advocacy, citizenship help, and Orientation to American culture classes.    

 Amid an unprecedented political attack against immigrants, the US immigrant community is experiencing a storm of fear, illness, legal jeopardy, unemployment, isolation and hostility. Most are not eligible for government payroll loans, unemployment benefits, medical insurance or food aid.  Many lost service sector jobs or businesses.  Many are exposed to the virus daily with limited protective gear or information about its use. Childcare is gone and evictions loom.   Coming from areas with no rule of law, many people are terrified by recent US social unrest.  Extended families are in danger of infection in Brazil.  

 ProGente Connections has assembled practical aid such as food and cleaning supplies.  It is tapping local churches and charitable organizations for support for current needs, while moving all possible programs online.   PGC currently serves 47 families.  

 (Photo: Lori Mills-Curran, Deacon, Episcopal Church, Boston)

Cheryl Plummer, Hospice Chaplain (Lutheran Deaconess Association)

 Cheryl Plummer, Lutheran Diaconal Association, is a hospice chaplain. During this pandemic she has continued to be at the bedsides of those near the end of their lives, to offer spiritual comfort and support, religious rituals, and connection to loved ones in the hospital, extended care facilities and private homes. The hospitals are a somewhat eerie and different place during this COVID pandemic, the hallways are empty, no visitors and no routine procedures, but the units themselves are overflowing and busy with lonely patients. For patients who have the COVID virus Cheryl’s ministry has become one of praying in the hallways into the nurse’s phones into the isolation rooms, and comforting and reassuring their loved ones by phone.  Hospice patients in the hospital, who do not have the virus, are allowed one visitor at a time so visits are sometimes long as I wait as each family member is allowed in to the hospital to have their turn to pray and say their goodbyes. Even though our hospice patients can have one visitor at a time, sometimes due to their loved ones being elderly, or having underlying health conditions, or due to them having small children, their loved ones may not be able to be at their bedside as they are dying. So the chaplaincy team has been doing their best to help all those who are sick and dying to connect with those they need to hear from, to hear the voices that will comfort them the most. Even if someone is near the end of life and no longer responsive, the chaplains will help their family see their dying loved one’s face, share in prayer together, and say those things they need to say to them, the things that person needs to hear, that they are loved and will be missed, but it is alright to go be in God’s embrace. 

Cheryl recounts that recently she sat at the bedside of a dying patient and just held the phone while his daughter and then his son and then his wife each called and said their goodbyes, telling him what a good father and husband he is, and that it was alright, that they would take care of one another and his rescue dog, and that they loved him. I comforted each of them as they grieved from afar, with me as their presence for him, close enough to hear their loved one breathe. He died the next day.  

One of the hardest things is that hospice chaplaincy is usually a ministry of touch and hugs. So she has learned that one can hug and express caring using an extra compassionate word or prayer. Hospice chaplains all have moments of doubt and exhaustion and some fear during this crisis. A huge part of Cheryl’s ministry is supporting the rest of the hospice and hospital teams. She has cried a lot but then goes on and puts one foot in front of the other, to continue to provide spiritual care another day.

(Cheryl is a Deaconess in the Lutheran Diaconal Association, and a hospice chaplain)

COVID19 responses in Winnipeg - Josh Ward

In Winnipeg (Canada), United Church of Canada Diaconal Minister Josh Ward serves as the Community Minister at St. Matthews Maryland Community Ministry – an outreach ministry that works to provide support and build community alongside some of the most vulnerable people. When COVID first erupted, most of the support programs had to be cancelled. But there was no intention of abandoning the community entirely! So, fully masked, goggled, and gowned, Josh and the team continued to provide food service at the door for the first months of the pandemic. Where our drop-in normally sees 60 or 70 people in a day, those days saw up to 150 people each day coming to our door for food! The network of partner churches provided incredible support, which was even more incredible when you consider that they were also closing their own doors and trying to figure out next steps for their congregations as all this was going on. A local business person stepped up to provide hot lunches 4 days a week. With all this help the increased demand was able to be met. Though providing food is an important service, St. Matthews Maryland is truly about building relationships and a safe community for folk who don’t enjoy that elsewhere in their life. It was easy to overlook in the early days of the pandemic, when it felt more like a food line. But one thing that was really encouraging was seeing how people in this community responded to the pandemic. They were patient and generous. They took care of each other. They followed safety guidelines and social distanced when they were lining up for food. Instead of panic, we saw smiles and gratitude. A pandemic is exactly the kind of time when a strong community is needed most! So it was totally fulfilling to see how this community banded together. It confirmed for us that what we are doing in this community is working.

Thankfully, COVID hasn’t hit Winnipeg as hard as it has in other places. The community program is currently in the process of slowly re-opening in a safe way, with social distancing protocols in place. The commitment remains to build relationships and a strong community, so that everyone in the community knows that no matter what COVID throws at us next: We can handle it together! (Josh is based at 1JustCity - St Matthews Maryland Community Ministry, Winnipeg).

Sisterhood Bethesda in Basel, Switzerland - supporting COVID-19 projects

Member associations have offered financial support for projects in other countries. The Sisterhood Bethesda in Basel, Switzerland, maintains its commitment to diaconal work, even though the small community of 20 elderly Sisters is no longer able to conduct projects of their own. The three projects outlined here are indicative of their generous support to vulnerable people in a time where hope has been diminished and the future looks grim for so many people.

In collaboration with the relief agency Connexio (Network for Mission and Service of the United Methodist Church) in Switzerland, the Bethesda Sisters have offered emergency aid, focussed on alleviating the suffering of vulnerable people and food insecurity. 

In Argentina, food packages have been distributed to people in slum areas who have lost their income as a result of quarantine measures. In North Macedonia, protective clothing and disposable tableware was purchased to continue meal delivery and home care ministries for old and sick people. In the DR Congo, pastors’ families, whose income had diminished in a way that they could no longer live on it, received a big sack of corn meal each. Thanks to the love in action of the Bethesda sisters, thousands of people have been helped quickly and efficiently. 

The Bethesda Sisters have also funded relief work offered by Osteuropa Mission Schweiz (OEM -Eastern Europe Mission Switzerland), an independent Christian relief agency that advocates for ethnic minorities, the socially weak and disadvantaged, and is committed to fighting poverty that impacts the most vulnerable. OEM church members of all ages have prepared pots of soup outdoors, each of 100 litres. Soup, bread and vegetable salad have been given to needy people on the streets. As the food packages were given out, the church members prayed with the people and blessed them.

The Bethesda Sisters have also supported relief efforts in the Philippines, in collaboration with the agency Onesimo, a faith-based, non-profit NGO working among street children and their families and at-risk young people in Manila. It helps young people whose lives in the slums, or streets, are filled with hopelessness. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Onesimo has distributed food packages to thousands of families. In spite of the pandemic, about 400 young people are still cared for in the community-based rehabilitation programs in the slum churches. As schools have been closed, the young people are relying on alternative school systems, such as provided by the rehabilitation programs. Many of the slum churches have no computer nor internet provider. They were so thankful for financial support, so that the young people could continue their training through online learning.