A Week in the Life of Week of Compassion

Hurricane Relief for the Congo

Our brother in Christ and leader of the Disciples of Christ Community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Rev. Bonanga, has shared that a severe hurricane struck several places in the Equator. He has recently returned from a pastoral visit on Monday which took him to all of the affected areas of disaster, including Lofoy, Boende, Boyeka, Ingende and Monieka. "The faithful were very happy to see me and the visit was a joyous occasion but there were also painful moments," he expressed.

Rev. Bonanga recounted that on the night of Tuesday, October 29, "a strong hurricane struck our Ecclesial Posts in Lofoy and Monieka and caused significant damage especially to our two chapels in Eandja and Bonkema and four chapels in the district of Monieka; thus a total of six chapels destroyed. We note that the chapel in Ituka was a historic place for our church as it is in this village that the bodies of our three missionaries who died in a plane crash in 1969 (Ms. Goodall, the pilot and another) were found. We had built a chapel and a health post in their memory."

The members of our Congolese congregations will now mobilize to manufacture new bricks. Week of Compassion funds will assist with the purchase of roofing material (sheets of tin) and nails. In collaboration with funds from the United Church of Christ's One Great Hour of Sharing, which also helps to fund the mission of Global Ministries, WoC is grateful to once again be able to reach out and put our compassion into action as we respond to this most recent disaster in the Congo. For as we know, when even one of our sisters or brothers are in need, we all are in need.

Syria Relief Continues

Sadly, the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues. And so, Week of Compassion continues to respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers in this ravaged land. Our hearts ache for such pain, suffering, and destruction. As in any crisis of this magnitude, the health-related issues are ever-growing. The World Health Organization has now confirmed ten cases of polio in north-eastern Syria. Yet an estimated half-million children in Syria are not vaccinated due to the ongoing conflict. UNICEF runs a vaccination campaign in Syria and Jordan; thus we are hopeful that more children will be vaccinated. Until then, however, WoC funds are already at work with our ACT Alliance and Global Ministries partners throughout Syria and the region, responding to the health and humanitarian needs of children.

Our most active ACT Alliance partner agency in these relief efforts is International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). In October, a mortar attack in Damascus damaged the Church of the Holy Cross where IOCC conducts many of its activities. Please keep IOCC and their staff in your prayers. We thank you for your ongoing commitment and compassion as we engage in this complex humanitarian response.

Coffee Rust Plague in Central America

Meanwhile, Central America is undergoing the worst Coffee Rust plague since 1976. The state of phytosanitary emergency (measures for the control of plant diseases) has been declared in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.

The Coffee Rust Plague is a fungus that affects the leaves and destroys crops and plants. Once it attacks, the only option is to destroy an entire coffee plantation to prevent the spread of the fungus. Affected farms will not yield coffee for another two or three years as it will take at least two years for seedlings to fully grow and produce coffee.

In January, the government of Honduras declared a national emergency because of the Coffee Rust problem, which has affected a quarter of the nation's planted surface. Harvests are likely to decline by up to 30 to 40 percent in 2013-14 compared to 2011-12 levels. As the labor used to harvest the crop will not be needed - with some 1 million people employed in the coffee industry - Fewsnet, the United States Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning System, predicts that food insecurity in Honduras will likely increase in 2014, especially among subsistence farmers and seasonal laborers. That could increase migratory pressures towards North America.

Seventy-five percent of the economy of Honduras´s department (or province) of Santa Barbara revolves around coffee. Coffee sales and sale of labor for coffee cutting are the most important source of income for the vast majority of the population and October is when the demand for labor normally begins. Santa Barbara is the locale of a five-year food security program targeting 426 families in 14 communities. Primary WoC partner Church World Service has initiated a partnership with Comision de Accion Social Menonita de Honduras, known as CASM, and Foods Resource Bank (FRB), another important WoC partner.

These WoC partners recently visited affected communities in Santa Barbara and were able to witness first-hand the devastating effect of Coffee Rust in the fields. The staff team saw the enthusiasm and openness of local families to diversify their farms; expand and make more efficient use of their home vegetable gardens; pilot new livelihoods; work together; and maximize available resources.

In the current CWS and WoC-supported efforts, Santa Barbara families will receive vegetable seeds, plantain trees, aquaculture, chicken coops, help with improving agro-livestock production, agricultural inputs, nutritional education, access to alternative livelihoods and on-site technical assistance in creating integral farm practices and vegetable gardens.

As always, WoC thanks you for your contribution to responding to all of these disasters and so much more. We are able to respond so faithfully, effective, and quickly only because of YOUR gifts, offerings, and compassion. Thank you so much for being a critical part of this ministry and mission.

This week's responses:
Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Missouri, Housefire 
Democratic Republic of Congo, Hurricane Damage
Development and Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation
Chad, Sustainable Recovery
Haiti, Ongoing Earthquake Recovery