This past weekend I was in Iowa with a local congregation, promoting Week of Compassion’s special offering. One of the things I always enjoy in my travel is the invitation to come into a person’s home and share a meal, and on this trip I was able to have a potluck dinner with a few people as heavy snow started to pour down on the city. Often, my travel can be long and far, and sometimes the itinerary can be extremely busy. But it’s always the meals in someone’s home that I find the most meaningful. Whether gathering around a rectangular table or a round one--or more often, sitting on the family’s floor on a mat that has been passed down for generations--I always look forward to the meals that we share together.
On my most recent visit to Sierra Leone, we sat in small chairs around a circle, where we ate local cassava and were able to feed one another. The children were running around and chasing one another. During the meal, we also heard stories of families trying to rebuild after losing so many of their loved ones to the ebola outbreak several years ago.
On my visit to Myanmar, we sat outside on someone’s deck as our hosts served fish and rice. We heard stories of families that are now able to send their children to school to get an education, and where the adults can work in the field to generate income to support their family. Because of these opportunities, the families are also able to support their local community.
Meals are the time that I lay my itinerary aside, and gather with our friends and partners as they share stories of joy and despair; of pain and healing; of hope, reconciliation, and new life taking shape all around.
The gratitude that I hear expressed around these tables is not extended toward me, but toward you: the Church. Your support for Week of Compassion enables us to serve communities, providing the necessary support to rebuild and look ahead to a more hopeful future.
Like our friends around these many tables, I too am grateful for your continued support for Week of Compassion; especially during this week when congregations across the United States and Canada share in the special offering to support our vital work around the world. Your ongoing generosity enables us to implement our mission as the relief, refugee, and sustainable development fund of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.
In 2018 alone, your gifts allowed us to distribute over $2 million to communities experiencing disaster of many kinds. As the global refugee crisis continues to escalate, we provide emergency support in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for refugees fleeing their homes due to violence. We continue to work with and rebuild communities affected by domestic disasters within the last few years, including those in South Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and North Carolina that were affected by hurricanes; areas in Northern and Southern California affected by wildfires; and communities in the Midwest affected by tornadoes and severe storms.
Though many communities affected by disaster and conflict no longer appear in news headlines, we continue our presence in places of ongoing recovery. We also work to strengthen communities through clean water sources; access to education for young girls; and food security, in such places as Ghana, Honduras, Cambodia.
In the midst of ongoing disaster relief, we also work closely with partners to promote preparedness as part of our long-term strategy. Working with communities and congregations long before a disaster means we can help provide immediate relief after a disaster. This approach helps communities to be resilient and sustainable.
This is just a small glimpse of the work that you enable--not just during special offering, but around the year, and around the world. Through the ministry we share together, we are able to not only walk with people during times of crisis; but also empower them to rebuild their own communities. Together, we continue to extend the table farther; and our gifts do more than we can imagine.
Rev. Vy T. Nguyen, Executive Director