Despite the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact the Australian economy, UnitingWorld’s Cath Taylor explores how the Christian faith shapes attitudes towards globally-focused generosity.
With millions out of work in Australia and the economy flailing, we put a simple question to a couple of Queenslanders: “In the midst of so much need here in Australia, why do you continue to support people internationally?”
The answers reveal a deeply held understanding of what it means to be in relationship with Christ, a sense of global family and shared goals for a redeemed world.
“I support people in need globally because of the words of Jesus in Mark 12:30-31—we should love God with all that is in us and love our neighbour as ourselves,” says Annette Curnow, Chair of the Justice and Missions Committee at LifeWorks Uniting, Toowoomba.
“When Jesus was asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ he told the parable of the Good Samaritan—but in that story the person engaged in the helping act was quite alien to Jesus’ listeners. We all find it easy to help folk we like or with whom we are familiar but can struggle with those who are difficult or who are ‘the other‘ to us.”
In the midst of a pandemic, “the other” often seem either invisible or overwhelmingly numerous. The UN estimates half a billion people are at risk of being pushed back into poverty as a result of COVID-19, many of them here in our own neighbourhood. Alongside the prospect of spiralling death rates, they’re watching decades of work against poverty sink into oblivion.
How do we grapple with such massive need? For those with whom we spoke, the answer lies in the roots of deeply held faith—the Lordship of Christ, the sanctity of brotherhood. These are the truths that bring the impossible within reach.
“Christ is the Lord of all creation, not just Australia,” a couple from Rockhampton told us emphatically as they prepared to give to UnitingWorld’s campaign supporting our neighbours in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. “We want to continue to see our global family be embraced. In one of his prayers, John Wesley wrote ‘Lord, may I not live to be useless.’ As we’ve grown older it has been harder to be involved physically, but we continue to give for the Lord’s sake.”
“For the Lord’s sake” and “global family” echo in the approach of LifeWorks Uniting Church in Toowoomba, too.
“Our partner churches overseas are like our extended family—we see ourselves not just as living in Australia but as citizens of the world,” Annette explains. “We haven’t stopped helping people locally but feel we must maintain our commitment to the wider church, giving to build the partnership between our churches.”
Maintaining that commitment sometimes comes at a cost, personally and as communities of faith. For Annette and Lifeworks, though, remaining engaged isn’t an optional extra. It’s about our identity as fellow members of the Kingdom, serving Christ as King.
“In Matthew 25: 34-40, Jesus says that when we feed others, we are feeding Christ,” Annette says. “I don’t believe God sees national borders. He sees his beloved children, wherever they are. We need to keep abreast of world events and situations so that we can be effective participants in his kingdom.”
Even in a world of instant global access, embracing others as family and reimagining people from faraway places as real and close takes effort.
“My interest in people overseas began back when I was a boy in the 1940s, when I heard stories and watched slide shows from representatives of the Methodist Overseas Mission,” recalls a keen supporter from Rockhampton. “Our minister’s wife was a missionary with the China Inland Mission, and told stories that felt genuine. I’ve had a heart for missions ever since.”
That heart is shared by communities of faith around the globe as we each struggle to express what it means to build and live in a redeemed world. And if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our shared goals reach far beyond our own shores.
“We live in an incredibly small, interconnected world and our frame of reference has to be beyond our immediate setting,” concludes Rev David Baker, Queensland Synod Moderator. “The whole premise of the Judeo-Christian faith is that we’re blessed to be a blessing to others—to be a gift, to make a contribution. At times like this the siren call to just hunker down and look after ourselves is seductive, but it fundamentally contradicts everything we understand about ourselves as made in the image of God, to co-create and grow. The opportunity to be blessed by engaging in relationships with the church in Amritsar or Timor or Papua New Guinea —these are incredible privileges with rich rewards for us all.”
Right now is the critical time to step up to stand beside partners stopping hunger and halting the spread of COVID-19. The Uniting Church is a valued partner of the Australian Government, receiving funding under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) each year to implement poverty alleviation programs. UnitingWorld have committed to contribute at least $1 for every $5 accessed from the Australian Government.
This means that right now your donation will have up to six times the impact and extend partnership programs in India, Papua New Guinea, Bali, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and West Timor.
Please give now and read more at UnitingWorld.