“I have seen entire families in the garbage dumps looking to quench their hunger. I have also watched with sadness as they return the elderly from the hospitals because there are no possibilities to attend them, nor medicines to supply them,” said Erwin Francisco Mirabal González, a Mennonite pastor in Venezuela. “We pray to the Lord for strength to endure and not to resign ourselves, confidence to keep our work in the midst of adversity, willingness to continue proclaiming the gospel...and to experience his shalom.”
He coordinated COVID-19 relief for his church in partnership with Mennonite Mission Network and the Colombian Mennonite Church until he became infected and died.
The Mennonite World Conference (MWC) COVID-19 Inter-agency Task Force has approved 35 relief proposals so far, with several more approvals in process, including assistance for Mennonites in Venezuela.
Food and sanitation materials are part of all the proposals from Anabaptist member churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With the the assistance of MWC’s Global Church Sharing Fund, local congregations will bring relief to thousands of families, sharing the love of Christ in a tangible way with church members and their neighbours suffering hunger and lost income:
- Food and hygiene kits for 500 households in five regions in Brazil.
- Food aid and emotional and spiritual support for 300 men and women in Honduras.
- Dry rations, seed grants for small business and an awareness campaign for 700 villagers in four areas of Bihar, India.
- Short- and long-term labour opportunities for 250 men and women through agricultural farm development in Parrapat, India.
- Food and hygiene kits for 3,000 families in six regions of Bihar, India, and 300 landless agricultural labourers in Tamil Nadu, India.
- Equipping 20 farming families in three regions of Uganda.
- Community-based nutritional, educational and health-care support for commercial sex workers in Ethiopia.
- Installing 104 handwashing stations in public spaces outside church buildings and distributing food to 90 families in Indonesia.
- Community-health education and food relief for thousands of men and women, and purchasing thermometers for community health survey in Nigeria.
- Equipping 250 households with skills and tools for fruit and vegetable production in Sierra Leone.
- School support for children, a lunch program for the elderly, sanitation material distribution and economic activities in Venezuela.
- Public awareness campaign and hygiene materials to prevent infection and to mitigate gender-based violence in households in Zimbabwe.
“In most cases, church members have established relationships with their most vulnerable neighbours,” says Henk Stenvers, the secretary of MWC’s Deacons Commission. “Giving out food and supplies builds on those connections and underscores the message of the love of Jesus through help in time of need and scarcity.”
Job losses and food scarcity affect church members as well.
“Assistance from the Global Church Sharing Fund empowers church leaders and their congregations to serve their members and neighbours in a time of multiple crises: pandemic, economic downturn, environmental disaster,” says Joji Pantoja, a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker who chairs the task force and MWC’s Peace Commission.
Mennonite World Conference formed the COVID-19 task force with the support of more than 10 global Anabaptist agencies to respond to the needs arising from the pandemic in the global south. Under the leadership of the Deacons Commission and delegates from around the world, the team determines the criteria of accountability and coordinates responses to project proposals. This interagency response maximizes the strength of diverse organizations, builds on existing networks of primary relationships and mitigates competition for scarce funds.
‘Being the church together’