Friday, May 14, 2021

DIAKONIA World Executive Committee

The DWF Executive Committee (EC) will be meeting via Zoom on Tuesday 18th/Wednesday 19th May. The EC has met many times via Zoom in the last year during COVID - and in that way COVID has enabled us to be innovative and responsive in ways that were more difficult with an annual meeting. 

The members of the EC are in many different time zones, starting with Fiji at 8am on Wednesday 19th May and Adelaide at 5.30pm, and members in the DRAE (Africa/Europe) region at 9pm and 10pm, and members of DOTAC at 3pm, 2pm, and 1pm (Winnipeg, Boise and Seattle). We have up to 1.5 hours to discuss the agenda items and then schedule another meeting to continue our discussion. 

There is also a great deal of work that happens in between meetings. 

As well, there are now a number of new Committees that have been formed in the last few months. Some more are in the process of being set up, and some will be set up later in the year. Committees already set up include DIAKAID, Donors, Financial, Justice, Member Connections, and Communications. It's tricky scheduling meetings with people in the different regions, but a very worthwhile endeavour. 

Please pray for the DWF Executive Committee and the new Committees that are taking on and developing some of the responsibilities for DIAKONIA World. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Deepening missional relationships

Rev Mat Harry (Deacon in Uniting Church in Australia): 

It is important for #ChristianCommunities to think not just about the number of #missional relationships a church develops, but also to concentrate on the depth of those relationships.

Melton Op Shop has seized upon the opportDeepunity to deepen relationship with those people they are alongside through the installation of a cafe space.  

This cafe space allows the #OpShop volunteers to listen to the stories of the customers, offering care and support if needed.

'Once a Deaconess, always a Deaconess'

 "Once a deaconess, always a deaconess" is a phrase often heard when talking to the women who are graduates of Harris Memorial College in Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. If they move to the United States, their dedication to serve God and their neighbors continues. Just as deaconesses and home missioners consecrated in the United States, they are committed to lifetime ministries of love, justice and service. 

Deaconess Laurel O’Connor Akin wrote this article for United Methodist Women (March 2021): 

Seventeen deaconesses have transferred their relationship to the United Methodist Women Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner in the United States, with at least 33 more in the process of discerning or working on applications. 

The training that deaconesses receive in the Philippines is extensive. All are graduates of Harris Memorial College, supported by United Methodist Women, where they earn a bachelor’s degree in addition to deaconess training. Classes in playing the piano or organ and singing are required, and deaconesses are appointed to local churches or other United Methodist institutions.

Deaconess Ellen Ronas Dizon became the transfer coordinator for the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner in October 2020, supporting and assisting deaconesses from the Philippines who would like to transfer or reinstate their deaconess relationships in the United States. She graduated with a degree in Christian education and a minor in social work and came to the United States in 1988. 

“My goal was to continue my service when I emigrated to the United States,” she said. “My grandmother and my mother have always inspired me to continue my ministry wherever I go.” 

Dizon contacted Harris Memorial graduates and professors living in the States and began the process of transferring her appointment as a deaconess soon after she arrived. She was recommissioned in 1990, and her work here as a preschool teacher and director led to new opportunities to serve. 

“It gave me the chance to work with new immigrant families who want to preserve their values and culture. I learned to embrace and respect each culture by learning their language and values, and understanding who they are and why they are. I also learned to understand children with various needs,” Dizon said.

“I retired as a preschool teacher and director after 27 years. My retirement has given me more opportunities to serve and the ability to move on to new mission ministries,” she said. “My challenge for myself is to bring awareness and to amplify the voice of the marginalized. No one deserves to be left behind because the Kingdom of God belongs to every being in this world. 

Dizon said God wants her to continue to be active in service. In her role as transfer coordinator she connects with Filipina deaconesses interested in transferring their deaconess relationship to the United States.

“I will serve as their resource and advocate. I will continue to connect, support and do the best I can to bring the love of Jesus to my sister deaconesses, to my extended family at church, the community, and to the Philippines. Our brothers and sisters in all parts of the world must experience the Kingdom of God,” she said.          

Congratulations to newest Deaconesses - 3 May 2021

A video montage of the newest deaconesses welcomed to the Order of Deaconess and Home Missioner (United Methodist Church, USA) on May 3!  

Monday, May 3, 2021

India and COVID-19 grim statistics

Background: India has recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic yet with 3,689 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, as the country’s caseload surged to 19.5 million with 392,488 fresh infections according to government data. This is the fourth straight day India has recorded over 3,000 deaths as the second wave of the pandemic carries on unabated and keeps setting grim new records, data showed on Sunday.

Altogether, 215,542 people have died from Covid-19. India became the first country to cross 400,000 daily cases on Saturday. It recorded 6.6 million infections and 45,000 deaths in April, compared to the little over 1.2 million cases and 5,417 deaths in March. Health care systems are overwhelmed, and a shortage of medical oxygen has emerged as the most serious challenge.

Arundhati Roy has called the situation 'a crime against humanity'. 

Thirty-four patients died for alleged want of oxygen in hospitals in the national capital, New Delhi, and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Haryana on Saturday, the Times of India reported. Thirty-one more with Covid-19-like symptoms and “breathing difficulties” died in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh state, the report cited authorities as saying. The Delhi High Court has warned that it will start punishing officials if life-saving supplies of oxygen and medical supplies don’t make it to hospitals.

Indian Railways has converted 4,000 railway carriages into “isolation coaches” with 64,000 beds. As many as 213 coaches had been handed to various states for Covid-19 care.

While the worst-affected cities and states like New Delhi and Mahrashtra are in prolonged lockdowns, states like Odisha and Haryana also announced new lockdowns to halt the spread of infections in rural areas.

India’s Covid-19 taskforce has pushed hard for a nationwide lockdown to help subdue the second wave, the Indian Express reported. Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all efforts should be made be avoid a lockdown.

The federal government fears another lockdown will have a devastating impact on the economy. The lockdown imposed last year after the first COVID-19 outbreak led to job losses as economic output fell a record 24% in April-June 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Modi’s government has been criticised for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies in five states through March and April. Daily cases in these states have spiked since then. (Source: Indaily, 3rd May 2021)

Modi's Covid-19 taskforce didn’t meet for months. The Minister for Health assured the public in March that India had reached the pandemic’s “endgame”. A few weeks before that, Modi had told global leaders that his nation had triumphed over coronavirus. India “saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively”, Modi told a virtual gathering at the World Economic Forum in late January. Now, a second wave has made India the worst-hit country in the world. Only 1.6% of its 1.3 billion population has been vaccinated. “Fake news" continues to discourage many from taking the proper precautions against the continuing spread of the virus. The decision to lower restrictions and allow large-scale political rallies and religious celebrations to continue has proved disastrous as an apparently new Covid-19 variant burned across the country.

New infections have reached about 400,000 a day. Actual cases are expected to be much higher than official figures report. Vaccines are running short. Hospitals are swamped. Lifesaving oxygen is running out. Each day, cremation grounds burn thousands of bodies, sending up never-ending plumes of ash that are turning the skies grey over some of India’s biggest cities.

The virus is cutting across all castes and income groups. No one feels safe from it, and many are falling for scam cures and preventatives being peddled to the unwary by the unscrupulous. 

The continued neglect of the healthcare system has led to its complete collapse under the crushing weight of the pandemic. Poor communities, once again, bear the brunt. Living in crammed areas without sanitation and using shared toilets and water points, they have no means to follow COVID-19 guidelines. In addition, migrant workers employed in the informal sector are once again facing uncertainties. Sporadic lockdowns and curfews have already triggered another exodus of migrant workers, putting them at the risk of not just contracting COVID-19 but also prolonged months without jobs or money.

Please pray

“If we only knew what happened when we pray, we would never cease to pray!” (Louie Giglio)

Sovereign God, your breath that we share, whether in India or the United States of America, unites us. The suffering inflicted on us by COVID-19 also brings us together. We pray for our siblings in India who are overcome by waves of grief, uncertainty and fear. We pray that they may again breathe in your life, peace and presence in this unnerving season.

Merciful God, we lament with your people in India left without time and space to bury their dead and grieve their losses. We join them in hope and confidence that they – in this, their valley of the shadow of death – will find your presence closer and clearer.

Divine Healer, heal our numbness and bring us together that we your people on different continents receive and mediate your grace through our words, deeds and largess.

Spirit of God, you join us in seasons of joy, dancing life and in the seasons of grief, challenging death. You join us in moments when our wounds, emotional and physical, are too deep for words, groaning with us. We join you and our siblings in India that we together with them recognize and proclaim the new life, abundance and peace you have willed for us all.  Amen.

(Source: James Taneti,  director of the Syngman Rhee Global Mission Center for Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia)

God of redemption, for all who this day are walking in fear - bring your peace. For all who this day are facing an uncertain future - bring your hope. For all who this day are grieving losses and heartbreaks - bring your comfort. For all who this day are angry or hurt or broken or lost - bring your very presence to surround them and bear them up. 

(Source: Andrew Gunton, Moderator, Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod)

Please uphold in prayer our DIAKONIA member associations in India:

* CSI Order of Women in the Church of South India, Women’s House (Karnataka)

                Sister Anna John,

*TELC Bethania Deaconess Home (Andhra Pradesh)

                Deaconess Mother Grace Padma,

The Methodist Church in India, Deaconesses Order 

                We do not have a current contact for the Deaconess Order, 

                 but the Chairman/President is Bishop N L Karkare,

You might make contact with words of encouragement, commitment to ongoing prayers for India etc. You might also use the DIAKONIA World Federation Facebook page to communicate. 

You might also explore practical ways to help including: 

Oxfam, Milaap, Hemkunt Foundation (specifically oxygen cylinders) etc, and also check out your denominational and ecumenical agencies, and NGO's, which might have options for much needed practical support. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Coronavirus expenses impacting health care expenses in Germany

The Board of Stiftung Kreuznacher Diakonie (one of the member institutions of the Kaiserswerth Association KWV) has criticised the injustices in the distribution of the Coronavirus premiums in an open letter. New laws and the corona pandemic are making health care expensive and those on public insurance are picking up the tab.

They write: The so-called Corona premiums of the past few months for people working in care were and are the right signals. But in practice, these premiums lead to massive injustices. This is partly due to the tariff structures to which such a large institution as the Kreuznacher diakonie Foundation is subject. To a large extent, however, is in the legal requirements for the distribution of state-funded premiums. This must change when new Corona premiums are decided and paid out. After all, the financial resources for the workers do not, or are, insufficiently, available to the people who bear the burden of the pandemic and make a decisive contribution to the disaster.

The letter calls on all political actors to ensure fairness in the distribution when deciding on further support measures and not to add further injustices.

Here's an article with more background information. 

(Coronavirus will continue to have an impact on financial matters, in many different ways, for many years to come and an added burden on vulnerable people). 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

1st May 2021 - 41st anniversary of the Diakonia Sisterhood in Korea

(adapted from Christmas 2020 letter)

Many things have been brought to a halt by Covid-19 and everything became unusual. This is how we lived 2020. We no longer meet as many people as possible and we, ourselves, no longer meet in person. We hold a video conference through Zoom, but such a conversation is still an uncharted territory. It is unpleasant and unusual to see how we are living such things. 

“How shall this be?”

We say this when we encounter our expected events in our life. An unexpected event is something that we didn’t foresee, something out of the ordinary. Faced with the unexpected occurrence of Covid-19, we scrutinize the way. The moment in which an event, or something unknown comes along is the point in which our thoughts begin to act. In other words, we say that our thoughts are fundamentally the result of a “direct encounter” with an unexpected event. Previously unknown situations keep us awake. Distance from familiar things!

There are no holes in our thinking, in the framework of our life and in the laws governing familiar things. Whenever we live according to the rules, God cannot work. That which is really unexpected for us, is definitely there in order to invite us to God.

The birth of Jesus Christ toppled over our usual life, the life of the old human being. He comes to us in God’s own way, which surpasses our expectations. This is why, through the birth of Jesus, we change internally from a familiar to a new and different “me”.

If something unexpected happens to us, we say: “Let your will be done.” It is a capitulation. Just as Mary wished for “it to be done to her according to (the angel’s) word” (cf. Lk. 1, 38). If God allows us to leave behind our life as we knew it and to do new things, it feels weird, unpleasant, painful. However, it is certain that he invites us to a new life. We receive his invitation, in a most particular way, on Christmas Day in the Corona era.

2020 in retrospect

Throughout 2020, our Diaconal Sisterhood had to avoid meeting any outsiders and to give up any external activities in order to protect our nursing home from a Coronavirus infection. In the 40th year of its existence, the Diaconal Sisterhood had planned several events. But these were all cancelled. On the 1st of May, we just prayed softly. We remembered in our prayers all our friends and benefactors, both foreign and domestic, which have been at the side of the Sisterhood ever since 1980.

The Diaconal Family Community held retreats in August and November. The Divine Service for the renewal and registration of Family Community members took place on the 20th of November. In the morning of the same day, Professor Emeritus Cho-Nyon Kim delivered a lecture on hospitality for foreigners. In the afternoon, 14 members we renewed, 8 of whom became life-long members. Ahn Jung-mi, Oh Chang- young and On Jeong-hyun made their initial vows, entering the community. As a result, the Family Community, having a total of 12 life-long members and 9 potential members, has become a member of the community bound together in reciprocal trust. Because of the Coronavirus situation, the number of participants was small, but those unable to participate gave their renewal promises in writing and sent in their congratulations and greetings.

On the 29th of December at 8:00 p.m. we held the year-end Zoom conference of the Korea Diaconia Family Community. 14 persons participated. Sr. Ree Young-sook (Superior)  read the words of praise and prayer and then spoke about feeling and living the presence of God which is acting in our lives.

On November 22, Noh Young-soon, the oldest sister in our Sisterhood returned to God’s embrace. She had been in Diakonia’s nursing home for the last 6 yet 6pm, she was called in peace by the Lord. 

Diakonia Home Welfare continued to grant scholarships and to take care of the beneficiaries’ life. We also visit and care for poor families who migrated from other countries, including North Korean refugee families.

Diakonia’s nursing home was completely cut off from the outside world and had to rely mostly on its own programmes. Caregivers and personnel worked very hard, offering games, physiotherapy and nursing. We are thankful that, helped by the prayers of many people, we came to this day without experiencing any difficulty.

We thank you all for being close to us in prayer, even though physically you had to be very far away during this last year.