FIRST TOO LITTLE, THEN TOO MUCH: FAMINE AND FLOOD IN KENYA - AN UPDATE

A few months ago, we reported to you on terrible famine conditions in Kenya due to ongoing severe drought. In a cruelly ironic turn, in the late spring, torrential rains and flooding made the famine crisis even worse. Week of Compassion partner, Church World Service, reports that over 300,000 people along the Tana River in Kenya were affected by floods, and the death toll was 118. While you may think that rain would be a blessing to drought-plagued areas, too much rain in too little time on soil that has been so hardened and baked under the relentless sun (which cannot, therefore, absorb water) leads to devastating runoffs and rivers that overflow their banks.

 Photo: Church World Service

Photo: Church World Service

In hardest-hit Tana River County, over 12,000 households lost a total of almost $4 million dollars’ worth of crops. Aided by your gifts to Week of Compassion, Church World Service is leading the response to the flooding in Tana River County. Together, we are serving 910 households -- or nearly 7,300 people -- as they temporarily reside in camps on higher ground. Those driven from their homes by the floods receive food kits containing maize, rice, beans, cooking oil, and three water containers per household member. Clean water (and safe sanitation facilities) are also a essential priorities for these displaced folks, and Church World Service has made available water purification systems to every household, along with community water tanks and mobile toilets.

 

  Photo courtesy of Church World Service

Photo courtesy of Church World Service

Behind each of these statistics is a family threatened by disease and hunger. Your gifts to Week of Compassion give families relief from those fears and hope for the future.

Thank you for your continuing generosity.

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BEGINNING TO REBUILD IN PUNTA ALEGRE, CUBA

Week of Compassion--in conjunction with Disciples Home Missions, and Global Ministries-- is working with the Iglesia Cristiana (Discipulos de Cristo) to support recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Registration is open for teams of volunteers/ambassadors to assist with rebuilding homes and to build relationships with our Puerto Rican Disciples. For more information, see www.discipleshomemissions.org/pr-response]

As multiple severe wildfires rage across California, Week of Compassion is in regular contact with pastors and partners in the area to provide relief. We will continue to monitor the fires and will continue to support affected communities as they move into long-term recovery in the months ahead.

 

   Julio's and Belkis' destroyed home in Punta Alegre.  Credit: Cuban Council of Churches

Julio's and Belkis' destroyed home in Punta Alegre.  Credit: Cuban Council of Churches

The picturesque fishing village of Punta Alegre, Cuba, lies on the north coast of Cuba, 230 miles east of  Havana. On September 15, 2017, Hurricane Irma utterly devastated the town with sustained winds of 149 mph. Local journalist, Miriam Celaya, wrote: "After the catastrophe, when the inhabitants of Punta Alegre began to come out of the few remaining homes or shelters in which they had taken refuge temporarily, they encountered a panorama of utter devastation. A pile of debris, sea corals, chunks of roofs, scraps of furniture, tree branches, and mud stretched over what once was a quiet coastal town. Some fishing boats had been swept by the sea into the village and floated between houses."[1]

The need after such devastation - which also severed communication and transportation links with the Cuban government - was (and continues to be) enormous. Working with Global Ministries and through our partners, ACT Alliance and the Cuban Council of Churches, Week of Compassion has been making available food kits, household items, newborn care items, basic hygiene items and equipment for access to safe water. The story of two Punta Alegre residents is mirrored by scores of others: In the very centre of Punta Alegre, the home of husband and wife Julio and Belkis was almost completely destroyed by the hurricane. Only the walls of their recently remodeled kitchen remained intact, as well as those of the dining room, which they had to re-roof and now use as a bedroom. Although they are close to retirement age, they both work.

Their income barely covers debts owed for previous purchases of construction material, so Julio and Belkis have no idea of how they will obtain the necessary material for the difficult task of rebuilding their home. With support from Week of Compassion partners, Punta Alegre residents are able to purchase building materials and re-start businesses to restore income for both daily necessities and re-building.

Full recovery from this devastation will take many years, and Week of Compassion and its partners continue to assist the residents of Punta Alegre with the everyday necessities of life that are so often taken for granted until disaster sweeps them away. Thanks to your gifts to Week of Compassion, the residents of this village know that they have neighbors who care and who will continue to care.

[1] Miriam Celaya , "The Hurricane Has Delivered Punta Alegre the Coup de Grace." Â https://translatingcuba.com/the-hurricane-has-delivered-punta-alegre-the-coup-de-grace/

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No Holes in These Buckets! Defeating Cholera in Haiti

(Late-breaking update: Even as our partner, IMA World Health, works hard to combat the scourge of cholera, violence in Haiti has made that job much more difficult.  IMA staff have had to be evacuated due to recent violence in Haiti's capital. Please keep these mission partners and the people of Haiti in your prayers)

 An American children's ditty sings (in verse after verse) that "there's a hole in the bucket," and that hole makes it impossible to do something that needs doing.  Fortunately, there were no holes in the buckets distributed by Week of Compassion mission partner IMA World Health to those in Haiti threatened by an outbreak of cholera.   

Cholera is a too-often deadly disease that is borne in contaminated water. Haiti had not seen a cholera outbreak in nearly a century, but after the devastating 2010 earthquake, the disease killed 9500 people. Cholera thrives where sanitation is inadequate, and the earthquake damaged much of the sanitation infrastructure across the island. The situation became much worse following torrential rains and flooding in the fall of 2017.

 

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Victor Daphne, 12, stops on his way home from school, Eglise La Foi Apostolique, to help carry buckets to his community in Port-Margot. The buckets are distributed as part of Haiti's Ministry of Public Health and Population's Cholera Program. (Photo by Kara Eberle/IMA World Health)

Working with Haiti's Ministry of Cholera Program, IMA trained twenty-five health workers and sent them into the most disease-threatened areas to equip people with information about healthy hygiene and the importance of safe sanitation. Along with that information, workers distributed water-purification tablets and rehydration salts - and buckets! Each household received two buckets: one with a lid and one without. One bucket is to carry water from the source to their homes, and the other is to store drinking water after it has been purified. Members of each household also received instruction on additional ways to purify water and on how to treat cholera symptoms with home remedies. Dr. Paul-Emile Dalexis, who manages the program for IMA, describes the buckets as a vital tool. "Without the buckets," he said, "people don't have supplies for water conservation."

Cholera is a terrible disease that can swiftly lead to dehydration and shock. It can be deadly within hours if not treated with oral or intravenous rehydration. Yet it is easily deterred with the right equipment and information - and something as simple as a bucket! Thanks to your gifts through Week of Compassion and the partnership between the Ministry and IMA, 7900 families now have the means and knowledge to protect themselves from cholera and continue living a healthy life.

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A Choice No Mother Should Ever Have to Make by Tana Liu-Beers, Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel

Yesica and Yani were small children when their mother left El Salvador to make the journey to the U.S. They grew up with their grandmother and made weekly phone calls to their mother in the United States. Their mom's earnings from the U.S. allowed them to go to school.

When Yesica and Yani were eleven and thirteen their walk to school changed. Someone started following them as they walked along the only highway leading to their school. After a few days that someone showed his face. They knew who he was. Everyone knew who he was: a gang member who had threatened their neighbors. Everyone in the neighborhood believed this young man and his associates had killed the uncle of a neighbor. Of course, they didn't have proof because the police wouldn't investigate. It was likely that the police were on his payroll. But when he told Yesica and Yani that they had to be his girlfriends, they understood what that meant. They understood that girls forced into his gang were constantly raped by all its members. They understood that to refuse meant certain death.

When Yesica and Yani finally told their mom what was going on, she immediately sent all her savings to El Salvador to pay to bring her daughters to the United States. She did not take lightly her decision to send her daughters on foot and atop trains across thousands of miles of desert and danger. She tried not to think of her own journey. She tried to get the girls on birth control, knowing the likelihood of assault on the road. It was a weighty decision, yet it was hardly a choice.

Yesica and Yani arrived at the U.S. border after being abandoned by a smuggler in the desert. They were detained by Customs & Border Protection. Despite their dehydration and exhaustion, they managed to express their fear of returning to Honduras convincingly enough to be allowed to apply for asylum. Months later the immigration judge refused to hear their claims. They were deported to Honduras in 2012. Their fate is unknown.

***

Tana Liu-Beers, Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel and former representative of Yesica and Yani, notes that cases like these are far too common and are even more likely under current immigration policies. On July 12, 2018, the U.S. immigration agencies, by order of the Attorney General, further foreclosed claims of asylum based on gang violence and domestic violence, which will undeniably result in more youth like Yesica and Yani being sent to their deaths.

For the sake of young people like Yesica, Yani, and countless others, Week of Compassion works with partners such as Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel, Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, and Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program to support advocacy and legal assistance. In the name of Jesus, who himself found safety and shelter in a foreign land, we seek the fair, compassionate, and hospitable treatment of immigrants and asylum-seekers.

Here are some things you can do right now:

  • Learn about how current policies are affecting our immigrant neighbors, and connect with immigrant communities in your area.
  • Call and visit your elected representatives to oppose policies of family separation and support legislation that will keep families together. (Information and resources are available through Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries  and Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel
  • Continue to pray, learn, and speak out!
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SEASON AFTER SEASON

In December of 2017, Marie (named changed for privacy) moved back into her home in Bertie County, North Carolina, just in time for Christmas. Over a year before, in October of 2016, 5 feet of water filled her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew. Since that storm, many others have filled the headlines and captured our hearts and attention, most notably Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which caused such extraordinary damage last fall.

Now, the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season is upon us. In fact, before the official start of the season on June 1, the first named storm of year, Subtropical Storm Alberto, formed in the Gulf of Mexico and doused the Southeast with heavy rain. High winds and high water caused damage from Alabama through Virginia.

  A swollen creek washed out a road at Christmount Retreat, Camp, and Conference Center.

A swollen creek washed out a road at Christmount Retreat, Camp, and Conference Center.

In western North Carolina, a creek swollen by rains from Alberto washed out a road at Christmount Retreat, Camp, and Conference Center, potentially putting at-risk the busy summer camping season so important to youth and adult faith formation. As the summer camp schedule begins, Christmount will be able to make necessary repairs, with support from Week of Compassion. "Talk about fast, and on the ball," said Rob Morris, Executive Director at Christmount. "When the wind and rain washed our road away, Week of Compassion called the very next day. Now we're back up and running... thanks for the work you do."

Season after season, storms come, causing damage and disrupting lives. And storm after storm, Week of Compassion is there to provide support, assistance, and hope. Even as new seasons bring new storms, we walk with and work alongside communities in the process of recovery, not just in the immediate aftermath, but for months to come.

On the other side of the state, in Cumberland and Robeson Counties, as well as in Bertie County, recovery continues from Hurricane Matthew. Week of Compassion has helped enable community organizations to provide furniture to families moving back into their homes, to host recovery fairs where survivors can learn about available resources, and to facilitate home repairs.

Recovery continues, as well, in Volusia County, Florida, where many residents sustained damage both during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma last fall. Volusia Interfaiths Networking in Disaster (VIND), which is housed at First Christian Church, Daytona, has helped dozens of homeowners move back into homes that are more resilient for future storms. "Homes are ready for repairs. We need more volunteers!" says the staff of VIND (click here for volunteer information).

  Volunteers help FCC Port Arthur repair flood damage caused by Hurricane Harvey

Volunteers help FCC Port Arthur repair flood damage caused by Hurricane Harvey

Volunteers can also make an impact in Southeast Texas, where Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding. First Christian Church, Texas City is serving as a mission station with Disciples Volunteering. Texas City is part of Galveston County, an area where already vulnerable communities--with above average rates of poverty and aging populations--experienced devastating flooding. A local pastor and leader in the recovery describes the situation as a compelling story of need, but also one of great hope, as people have been reaching out to serve their neighbors. (click here for mission station information).

In Puerto Rico, where the damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria is still extreme, and where electricity is still unreliable nine months after the storms, the congregations of the Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo) are combining recovery efforts with disaster preparedness. Last month, a group of Disciple pastors began designing and implementing a disaster communication network, which will connect congregations across the island in the event of an emergency. Additionally, as a program of home repairs is getting underway, additional investments in stronger materials and resilient building techniques will make homes safer in future storms.

Thank you for your faithful partnership and generous gifts, from season to season, storm upon storm, year after year.

Prepare Yourself For the Next Storm

From hurricanes to earthquakes to tornadoes, disasters can happen anywhere. If you are prepared before a disaster, you are more likely to be in a position to help after.

Find resources to prepare for hurricanes and all kinds of disasters at Ready.

Encourage your church to be prepared, too!

Emergency Management in Georgia has compiled a great set of resources for congregations called Praise and Preparedness.

The book, Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness Response Tools for Congregations, edited by Amy Gopp and Brandon Gilvin is also a great resource for congregational preparedness. Available through Chalice Press:

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Praying and Working to End Famine

"The Horn of Africa is facing its third consecutive year of drought causing thirst and hunger, decimating livestock, destroying livelihoods, spreading disease and triggering large scale population movements."  There is an almost unimaginable amount of misery contained in this statement from Week of Compassion disaster relief partner, ACT Alliance. Beneath this broad description is a daily struggle to survive by millions of people in what continues to be one of the most under-reported stories of our time.

 Photo: ACT Alliance

Photo: ACT Alliance

The horror of this situation is real.

It is so very dry in Somalia that even the famously drought-resistant camels are dying. And in a country where so many people earn their meager livelihoods from agriculture, the death of such animals is life-threatening.  

It is so very dry in Kenya, that upwards of 70% of crops failed last year. Imagine having your food intake reduced by 70%. Imagine it for your children. There are over 2.5 million Kenyans who aren't imagining it but are forced to live it - with the consequent increase in infant deaths, stunting of children's development from malnutrition, and increase in devastating disease due to weakened immune systems from lack of adequate nutrition.

A little further to the north, Ethiopia is dealing not only with the devastating effects of drought, but also with ongoing armed conflicts in parts of the country. The government of Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency for the 10 million people affected, and, as our partners note, "Lives remain at risk due to shortage of food and water, and disease outbreaks coupled with malnutrition are prevalent." In South Sudan, IMA World Health staff member Matt 

Hackworth says, "Decades of civil war, economic and ecological strife keep South Sudan on the brink of famine. As this is the world's youngest country, it is critical now that caring people around the world- including donors to Week of Compassion - support the men, women and children at risk."

One of those children is named Teer Majak. He was brought to an IMA facility where he was diagnosed as severely malnourished with medical complications including convulsions, loss of appetite, high fever, sunken eyes, and yellowish skin. He was stabilized, his medical conditions addressed, and soon he began to grow and gain weight. In just three weeks he showed significant improvement.  Following a stay in an out-patient therapy and feeding program, he was able to be discharged with the hopes of now living a life not wracked with the  effects of chronic malnutrition.

 Photo: ACT Alliance

Photo: ACT Alliance

The horror is real, but it does not need to be the end of the story. Week of Compassion has been responding to these crises and supporting our partners to provide relief.                                                    

                                                                                   

  • Medical feeding centers, like the one that saved Teer provide critical nutrition, as do    school feeding programs and supplies of maize and beans, which are distributed in areas of extreme crop loss.

  • Cash vouchers for food and wages earned through well-restoration projects help bolster agriculture-dependent economies and provide food and water.

  • Water purification and pond de-silting efforts increase the availability of potable water, and hygiene and sanitation supplies help curtail water-borne diseases.

With your partnership and support, we will continue to help relieve the horrors of famine

Join us in observing a "Global Day of Prayer to End Famine" on June 10, 2018. Global Ministries and World Council of Churches websites have ideas for helping make folks aware of the need around the world on that day.

Continue to seek out stories about this situation and help keep the plight of these brothers and sisters in your and your fellow church members' consciousness.

Make a gift  to Week of Compassion designated for famine and drought relief, where 100% of your support will go to provide relief to affected communities.

Plumbing, Learning, and Playing-Improving Lives for Refugees in Tanzania

There are too many stories of refugees around the world which have not received the attention they should have.  One of those is the story of the almost 300,000 refugees who have left the political turmoil of Burundi and sought haven in Tanzania. As with so many refugee situations, a large portion of the impact of such uprooting falls on women.

Women often are the ones responsible for cooking for the family, caring for children, and seeking to ensure that the family is able to maintain basic hygiene--no small task in the midst of crowded refugee camps!

 Photo: ACT Alliance

Photo: ACT Alliance

Through your support, Week of Compassion has been able to respond through our partner, ACT Alliance, in ways that help women and families have adequate food, housing, and water. In the Mtendeli camp, engineers worked to drill new wells and improve the productivity of existing wells. 300 hand washing stations were installed in the latrines for individual cleanliness.  One refugee, who works as a plumber, said: “I give thanks to ACT Alliance [for the] water network improvement. This reduced the risks of eruption of water-borne diseases and gender violence,” as women and girls no longer have venture beyond their households to collect water. Commenting on something most North Americans take for granted, another expressed appreciation for Week of Compassion’s contribution “for the construction of household latrines to our homes, as this helps in reducing risks of diseases, fights amongst ourselves over shared latrines, and environment cleanness as a whole.”

Week of Compassion also supported ACT Alliance in other vital services that improved lives of women and their families: 1800 participants met to discuss the implications and negative effects early and forced marriage have on women and the community in general and how damaging marriage practices needed to be abandoned. Women received group support with counselors as they navigated their situations. Classes to improve literacy and numeracy provided women and family members better tools for dealing with their situations. Another refugee said: ACT Alliance helped “by restoring hope, dignity, mental and social well-being that promote a sense of normality in the camps and encourage a stable and proactive life. The sports brought us refugees together, enable us forget our differences and increase the interactions while in the camp.”

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Photo by: ACT Alliance

Your gifts and generosity have made a real difference to people who have had to flee their homes. Your partnership helped bring dignity, safety, and diminishment of the threat of disease. Your support of Week of Compassion have done “more than you can imagine!”  Thank you!

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HOPE on this INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

"Just ask your phone, Daddy."  "Mommy, just Google it." "Hey Google....?"  Even ten years ago, such sentences would have seemed nonsensical, but nowadays for most North Americans the easy availability of information through search engines and cell phones is nearly ubiquitous.  95% of Americans own a cell phone, and 80% own a smartphone. Such ready access to empowering information is something that North Americans have come to take for granted.

 Photo: Carter Center

Photo: Carter Center

It's not that way everywhere.  In Guatemala, for example - and particularly among the women of Guatemala - the lack of ready access to information has made life harder than it needs to be.  A report from the Carter Center puts it succinctly:  "we know that information related to education, starting a business, and basic rights is the most critical for women's economic empowerment and the promotion and protection of rights....  With genuine access to information women can make more effective decisions with relation to education, land, and agricultural production."

Through the support of Week of Compassion, the Carter Center's "Global Access to Information Program" has worked with Guatemalan partner Acción Ciudadana to increase women's access to information.  Over 2000 women in Guatemala have been exposed to the opportunity to learn how to find information that will enhance their lives and economic security.  Acción Ciudadana has hired a team of local women to help other women obtain the information they need to better their lives and the lives of their families. Provisioned with laptops, the teams visit villages that have limited information access. Three hundred women have received assistance in making information requests regarding their rights or in securing information about resources available to them or their families. Again in the words of the Carter Center, "With genuine access to information, women can take advantage of opportunities to transform their lives, families, and communities."

Two brief stories show the power of information to create hope and transform lives:  In one of the most impoverished and isolated areas of Guatemala, a woman had been promised chickens from one of the government agencies but had never received them.  A Carter Center staff walked many hours and many miles into this village and was able to help the woman remind the agency of her request and their promise. Not long after, well over 100 chickens arrived -- which gave her children better nutrition (malnutrition in this part of the country is a dire problem) and allowed her to have the means to now supplement her family's income through the sale of eggs.  A second woman, 34 years old, who suffered from epilepsy was assisted by Carter Center staff to find out what assistance was available from the government and to make a request for -- and receive! -- help in accessing a specialist to assist her with her medical situation and the drugs she needed.

On this International Women's Day, we are grateful for your support and financial gifts to the Week of Compassion Women Empowerment Fund, which helped make this work possible in places such as Guatemala and all over the world. Information IS power, and power IS hope - for the betterment of women and their families!  Thank you!

Learn more about Week of Compassion's Women Empowerment Fund.

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Muchas Gracious from Puerto Rico

Dear Church,

Muchas Gracias.

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I had the opportunity to be in Puerto Rico this past weekend to attend the 109thAnnual Convencion of the Iglesia Cristiana (Discipulos de Cristo) in Puerto Rico (ICDCPR) where hundreds of clergy and delegates came together for their annual assembly.  There was time for worship, reports on the different ministries and committees of the church, prayers for one another, and gratitude to God for the gift of being in fellowship with each other.  The General Pastor, Rev. Miguel A. Morales Castro, gave an update on the church's recovery efforts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and while there has been much struggle due to the impact of the storms, the church continues to serve its community and other people in need.

It has been close to five months since the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and today, places that are away from the city, especially remote communities in the mountains, are still struggling to get access to basic needs like electricity and clean water. Many places are still without electricity. They must continue using loud, diesel fuming generators, such as at ICDC in Dajaos, Bayamon, the church where we gathered for our assembly.

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In the midst of so much destruction, the theme of the assembly was "Serving in Spirit and in Truth," based on 1 John 3.18 and Philippians 2.5-11.  As the church tries to rebuild itself, it also recognizes the call to serve the community by partnering in feeding and opening doors.The focus on not forgetting to serve these vulnerable communities remains at the heart of the convencion gathering, and it also remains as our focus for Week of Compassion.

Week of Compassion is working with our partners in slowly transitioning from immediate relief to long-term recovery efforts. In partnership with the Iglesia Cristiana (Discipulos de Cristo) in Puerto Rico, we are developing a long-term plan to partner with local congregations and agencies in rebuilding many homes, but more importantly, many lives.

As I received words of "Muchas Gracias" from so many of our brothers and sisters on this island this past weekend, it's really a gratitude to you, our church and supporters, in this long recovery work.  We remain committed to rebuilding Puerto Rico for the months and years ahead, as well as other places around the world that have experienced disasters.  In a few months you will hear from us about opportunities to partner with us in Puerto Rico to help and work on some of these homes.

Through your gifts to Week of Compassion, especially this week during our special offering, you are joining Disciples in Puerto Rico in "Serving in Spirit and in Truth." Your generosity strengthens our partnership in the much needed, long term recovery of the island.

Muchas gracias,

Rev. Vy Nguyen, Executive Director

Week of Compassion

 

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REBORN FROM THE MUCK AND MUD

2017 saw a series of disasters, both in North America, and around the world. One of those that received too-little attention was a devastating mudslide in Mocoa, Colombia.  In the early morning hours of April 1, 2017, increased rainfall caused the Mocoa, Sangoyaco and Mulata Rivers to overflow, which in turn generated a mudslide in the municipality of Mocoa, capital of the state of Putumayo. Over 20,000 men, women, and children were made homeless, the local water and sewer systems were badly affected, ten local roads and seven bridges sustained damage. Six neighborhoods were totally destroyed and seventeen were seriously damaged.

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Because many of the folks in the Mocoa area depend for their livelihoods on agriculture -- growing cassava, coffee, cacao, among others, as well as raising poultry -- the mudslide triggered a serious threat of food shortages for hundreds of residents. Agricultural production capacity was completely destroyed due to the disaster. The local market was also destroyed, and with no income from these activities, many residents could no longer pay the debts they'd incurred for small business or agricultural purposes.

Through your gifts and prayers, Week of Compassion was able to work with partners to assist the residents of this disaster through immediate supply of food, water, and temporary shelter, along with cash gifts to 150 households to allow them to resume their work quickly and to pay livelihood-related debts. Disciples Global Mission Partner Michael Joseph reports "Some bought hens, some pigs, and some bought supplies for family-run businesses (stores, beauty salons, barber shops and restaurants).  The project also provided them with workshops in trauma recovery, investing, and financial skills."  Michael also shared some of the thoughts from those this effort helped: "This project helped us take a step forward. Today my wounds are healed. Now I can go forward even stronger than before."  "With this money I was able to get my beauty salon up and running. I even had enough money left over to buy something for my children for Christmas. Thank you for giving us this money with no strings attached."  "This project has allowed me to start over again. When I lost everything I felt so small. I asked several banks for loans, but they turned me away because I had lost everything. This aid has allowed me to be reborn."

It is truly amazing what such a seemingly small amount per family has been able to do to allow folks to quickly recover from their losses and move forward with their lives and work!

Thank you for your gifts that helped make these things possible. 

As we enter the season of Lent, we recall that God created humans from the muck and the mud. From dust we were created and to dust we will return, yet through the love of God we are also reborn into eternal and abundant life. We pray for you and our partners for a blessed Lenten season. 

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2017 Grant Distribution and Hurricane Recovery

Dear Church,

It feels like every few years extreme weather hits closer to home. Its powerful impact, whether experienced through gushing waters, ravaging winds or scorching fires, has affected our homes and churches. The news has shown us devastating images from Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, California, and the Pacific Northwest. In 2017 your Week of Compassion was able to respond at the beginning of these disasters, and now the long road of recovery begins.  While the minds of many have already moved on, we continue to coordinate and accompany local communities in the rebuilding process.  The work is just getting started.

 Members work to rebuild their church building in Northern Nigeria. Photo: Brethren Disaster Ministries

Members work to rebuild their church building in Northern Nigeria. Photo: Brethren Disaster Ministries

Other domestic and global disasters did not make it on the news. There were floods in Arkansas and Missouri and in Peru, Colombia, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, just to name a few. There were droughts that created starvation and famine for millions of mothers and children in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Kenya.  And of course, there are 66 million people who have been displaced globally because of conflict in their homes. Your Week of Compassion responded to calls for help across the globe. And, we continue to work with partners to alleviate the pain and loss felt in many of these communities. Your generous gifts have made all of this possible.     

As we enter the month of February, you will have another opportunity to show compassion to those in need by giving to our annual special offering.  The Week of Compassion Special Offering allows us to come together as one church in the United States and Canada and give abundantly to the vital work we do together.  These gifts bear witness to the powerful work of God and allow us to respond to crises in places close to home and far away. Your partnership through the Special Offering answers the voices in the wilderness asking for food, water, and shelter and lets communities who are struggling to find hope know they are not forgotten.  For this, so many are grateful.

Below you will find our distribution chart for 2017 showing the ways your financial gifts went to help people all over the world.  These numbers represent rich and powerful stories, some you already know and others that we will share with you throughout the year.  They are a witness that your gifts--your treasures and your hearts--are with vulnerable people who needed them most.  Lives are made better by your support.

Your gifts build a better world in ways More Than We Can Imagine.

Thank you,

Rev. Vy T. Nguyen

Executive Director

 

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ABUNDANT WELCOME

The Mediterranean Sea can be hostile. For refugees and migrants it can be a dangerous and deadly barrier--the waves more like walls, the whitecaps like barbed wire. Those who face the crossing do so in desperation and in hope for a future they can only imagine.

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Mediterranean Hope offers a ministry of welcome for those who have recently arrived across the sea. The Waldensian Church in Italy--one of our partners in Europe through Global Ministries--helped establish the Mediterranean Hope program which assists refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East who survive the treacherous crossing of the Mediterranean from North Africa, providing them with basic needs, offering programs to help with their integration, and advocating for their well-being.

Late last year, Mediterranean Hope colleagues shared that there were fewer people arriving in Italy because of a deal struck between the Italian and Libyan authorities, paying Libya to prevent migrants from leaving. Such financial deals between European and North American governments to Middle Eastern and North African countries to restrict the flow of migrants and refugees are quite common.  They reduce the influx of "undesirable" people to the global North, but as a result, create "bottleneck countries" to which people have fled for a variety of reasons, including conflict and war.  Almost 5 of every 6 refugees are now in developing or middle-income countries and almost a third are hosted by the least developed countries in the world-such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco.  

Where financial deals and international attitudes restrict hospitality, and increase inequalities experienced by refugees, Casa della Culture, or "Home of Culture," (a center in Sicily operated by Mediterranean Hope) emphasizes relationships. It is a place for people-Italian and new arrivals-to talk together, reflect, and enjoy fellowship across linguistic, cultural, and religious differences.  In a dinner encounter, our group met a woman who was delighted to share of the welcome she experienced-despite having lost her months-old child during the Mediterranean crossing; another whose family had remained in Morocco, but who had found gracious hospitality among the Waldensians; and yet another who simply enjoyed being able to express herself through dance during evenings of fellowship.  All of these welcomed us one evening with the generosity (and foods) of their cultures, and much graciousness.

Week of Compassion and Global Ministries continue to work together to support churches' responses to the refugee crisis in the Middle East (read more about how Disciples are responding to the Syrian refugee crisis).  By providing food and water, clothing and medical aid, and basic education for children, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) enables many partners, including the Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue and the Orthodox Initiative, among others, to provide a witness of Christian love to Syrians, Iraqis, and other refugees, people of different faiths, in their time of need. Beyond simply providing items, your gifts help provide an abundant welcome. Your gifts mean More Than we Can Imagine.

NEW YEAR OF GRATITUDE

As we begin the new year, we are grateful for your partnership and support.  Below is a list of all our responses from the fourth quarter of last year. Each response is filled with hope and gratitude and represents a place where you, the church, offered presence in time of need. As we look forward into this new year, we know the work is just getting started.

This week, 21 clergy and their families who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey have been in Arizona for the Care for the Journey retreat. "Our well-being is sacred," said Angela Whitenhill, the Mental Health Initiative Manager for National Benevolent Association, to those gathered. Week of Compassion, NBA, and the Pension Fund cosponsored the retreat, with program assistance from Family and Children's Ministries of Disciples Home Missions, to support clergy and their families as the new year begins. Participants are practicing skills for self care, processing their experiences together, and renewing for the long journey of recovery.

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Fourth Quarter's Responses

 

DISASTER RELIEF AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

Africa

Angola, Refugee Response

Cameroon, Boko Haram Conflict Relief (2)

Chad, Boko Haram Conflict Relief (2)

Ethiopia, Drought Relief

Nigeria, Boko Haram Conflict Relief (2)

 

Latin America and the Caribbean

Costa Rica, Tropical Storm Relief

Dominican Republic, Hurricane Relief

Haiti, Hurricane Relief

 

Middle East and Europe

Iraq, Internally Displaced Response

Jordan, Refugee Response

Syria, Emergency Winter Relief

 

Southern Asia

Bangladesh, Flood Relief

Bangladesh, Refugee Response

Myanmar, Internally Displaced Response

 

United States and Canada

California, Emergency Relief for Undocumented Families

California, Wildfire Relief (4)

Florida, Hurricane Irma Relief (4)

Iowa, Storm Relief

Missouri, Tornado Relief

Puerto Rico, Hurricane Relief (4)

Texas, Hurricane Harvey Relief (11)

United States and Canada, Long-term Disaster Recovery

Louisiana, Long-term Flood Recovery

Missouri, Long-term Flood Recovery

Texas, Hurricane Harvey Long-term Recovery

US Virgin Islands, Long-term Hurricane Recovery

 

 

DEVELOPMENT, LONG-TERM RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION

 

Africa

Angola, Women Empowerment

Kenya, Children Education

Zambia, Sustainable Agriculture

 

Latin America and the Caribbean

Colombia, Conflict Transformation

Paraguay, Chaco Sustainable Development Support

 

Middle East and Europe

Israel/Palestine, Youth Empowerment & Just Peace (2)

Serbia, Roma Sustainable Development Support

 

Southern Asia

Indonesia, Food Security

 

THE DARKNESS WHERE GOD MEETS US

73 days.

61 days.

100 days and counting.

As Week of Compassion staff have traveled in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, visiting with communities affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria, we have heard these time markers from friends, partners, and strangers. In the midst of conversations about setting up volunteer housing or procuring building materials--93 days. Over a dinner of plantains (imported, since few plantains survived the storms)--68 days. They signify the number of days people have been without power.

In Puerto Rico, the power grid is operating at 70% capacity, and the first priorities for power restoration were public services, like schools and hospitals, and commercial customers, like grocery stores and hotels. Thousands of residences are still without power. Similarly, in the US Virgin Islands, territory-wide power restoration was only at 60% as of last Friday.

Today, Thursday, Dec. 21 marks 106 days without power for many who lost electricity during Hurricane Irma.

  A generator at Iglesia Cristiana (Discipulos de Cristo) in Feijoo, Naranjito, Puerto Rico is one of the sole power sources in the mountainside town. Photo: Week of Compassion

A generator at Iglesia Cristiana (Discipulos de Cristo) in Feijoo, Naranjito, Puerto Rico is one of the sole power sources in the mountainside town. Photo: Week of Compassion

As we discussed logistics and long-term plans, these counts were reminders of the humanity at the core of our work. The shipments of lanterns are not about pallets and ports, but about people. The counts served, too, as concrete evidence that the frustration and exhaustion our friends experience is warranted, and is born out of struggle, heartache, and loss. The number of days without power became a signifier of the pain of waiting and also of the resilience of people who continue to serve one another in love, even as they begin their days with cold baths in unlit houses.

This season of Advent is, itself, another signifier of humanity, of struggle, of longing for restoration. During this time, we move into the darkness of the world. Days grow shorter and dark nights longer. Yet, through the stories of our faith and the traditions of the season, we also enter into the darkness of the womb, in which the Spirit dwelt, and into the holy space of a stable dark, where the Word was made flesh.

In her Advent Devotional, This Luminous Darknessartist and author Jan Richardson writes:

"In the womb, in the night, in the dreaming; when we are lost, when our world has come undone, when we cannot see the next step on the path; in all the darkness that attends our life, whether hopeful darkness or horrendous, God meets us. God's first priority is not to do away with the dark but to be present to us in it. I will give you the treasures of darkness, God says in Isaiah 45:3, and riches hidden in secret places. For the christ who was born two millennia ago, for the christ who seeks to be born in us this day, the darkness is where incarnation begins.

Can we imagine the darkness as a place where God meets us-and not only meets us, but asks to take form in this world through us?"                       

On this longest night of the year, we await--again--the birth of Christ among us. In this night of darkness, we give thanks for the ways God has taken on flesh through our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and through your gifts to Week of Compassion.