Thursday, October 24, 2013

Remembering the faithful pioneers 

(from Deac Lisa Polito) "Remembering in prayer our friends in the Deaconess community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Diaconal Ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada at the death of Sr. Ginger Patchen* who belong to both of those communities. Also for the Deaconess community at the death of Sr. Bernice Peterson**. Well done, good and faithful servants".

At times like this, I am always reminded of Hebrews 11 and the great roll of those who acted in faith. It ends with this:

39-40 (The Message) Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

that their faith and our faith.....would come together to make one completed whole.....their lives of faith not complete apart from ours..... 

Our lives of faith and service are integrally connected with our spiritual ancestors and those who who been faithful to the call of God on their lives. And, as we celebrate and honour those who have lived among us and with us - pioneers and witnesses to the faith in word and witness and service - so we continue in our work and witness and service, their lives an example set before us.

And our lives an example to those who will follow us......

(*Sister Ginger Patchen, although born in the United States  spent most of her ministry in Canada as a pre-school educator. She was  Head of the Epiphany Children’s Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1976. Sister Ginger was invested as a Deaconess April 1, 1973 and consecrated as an LCA deaconess July 17, 1977. She held degrees in social work, psychology and mental health and completed Graduate Studies in Religion. Source: An Undefinitive History of the Lutheran Canadian Diaconal Ministry: A Work in Progress by Judy Whaley)

(**Sister Bernice Peterson, 1918-2013, was a deaconess with the Grace Lutheran Church. She was born in Colorado Springs in 1918. The family homesteaded in Ellicott, CO during the late 1800's. Her family was among the founders of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church. They later moved to Colorado Springs where they helped found Bethany Lutheran Church, which later merged with Grace Lutheran Church.Source:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Diakonia Biennial Assembly

Emma Cantor, President, DIAKONIA Asia-Pacific (DAP) region (second from left) sends greetings as the 16th National Biennial Assembly of Diakonia Philippines in Puerto Princesa Palawan (Southern Philippines) begins tonight (October 23rd to 26th). There are 125 participants coming. The business meeting will be held on October 25th.
My own experience at the DAP Conference held in the Philippines is remembered with pleasure at the joy, laughter and warmth of the deaconesses. Please hold them in your prayers as they meet together.

DAP Regional Conference 2012

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Australia - ministry in the vastness of the inland

Australia is a huge country - and much of the central area is desert, with isolated communities. Rev (Deacon) Peter Wait commenced a ministry placement in Tennant Creek in May, but spends much of his time on the road travelling across the north of the Barkly region - 600,000km of the Northern Territory, almost three times the size of the state of Victoria in southern Australia. It extends 200km south of Tennant Creek and north to Daly Waters. The region is known for its large cattle stations and rich connection to the local Aboriginal people. The history of the Tennant Barkly Patrol dates back to 1915 when Frontier Services’ predecessor, the Australian Inland Mission, first sent a Patrol Padre to the region.
Peter will spend his time visiting people in hard-to-reach places, and offering a listening ear and a helping hand. He will offer emotional and practical support to people across the Patrol, providing a source of spiritual care and trust that otherwise might not be there. He will also be a part of the community in Tennant Creek and support the local Uniting Church congregation.
Coming from Adelaide, Peter said he felt called to his new role in the outback with Frontier Services. “It is privilege to serve in the tradition of Frontier Services and Uniting Church in remote Australia. I look forward to meeting people and having conversations about significant things.
Peter has moved to the NT after spending five years working with church congregations in Adelaide. He has been a prison chaplain and is a former biochemical researcher and teacher. He worked as a teacher for two years in Barunga near Katherine and has spent time in Arnhem Land.
Like his work as a prison chaplain, Peter said the role of a Patrol Minister was simply to be there for people.
“We call it an incarnational ministry. We send a message by our physical presence. When we are there for people in hard to get places we embody God’s love for them.”
Peter's placement is one example of diaconal ministry in the Uniting Church in Australia, and certainly an example of ministry beyond the four walls of the church and into the community. 

Not in My Bed (contribution from Rev (Deacon) Denise Savage, Uniting Church in Australia

Friday, October 18, 2013

From Australia......devastating bushfires - and it's only the start of spring

Devastating fires in New South Wales, Australia - hundreds of homes destroyed

The Sydney skyline blanketed by smoke from the fires
Hundreds of homes may have been lost as New South Wales, Australia, suffered one of its worst bushfire days in recent memory. Intense fires yesterday were fanned by ferocious wind conditions and high temperatures, darkening Sydney's skies with smoke and ash. Temperatures hit the mid-30s and wind gusts reached 90kph earlier today, with no respite expected in conditions. Thousands of New South Wales residents had to be  evacuated as emergency warnings were put in place for bushfires burning out of control near Lithgow and the Blue Mountains, Muswellbrook, Newcastle and Wyong. There are scenes of "utter devastation" as dozens of bushfires continue to burn out of control across the state. This morning (Friday) 100 fires are still burning, more than 30 of them out of control.

This reflection from Rev Denise Savage (Deacon, Uniting Church in Australia)
As I go to close my eyes tonight, I am conscious of many who will not have their bed to sleep in, children without parents and a safe place to call home. Firefighters on the east coast, families whose life is held in ashes. I am conscious of families fleeing to find a safer place, and families in other countries who have experienced natural disaster without adequate resources for quick recovery. May God hold each one who tonight won't have their bed to sleep in. . . .

A prayer in time of Bushfire (slighted edited, Anglican Church of Australia's A Prayer Book for Australia)
All things look to you, O Lord,
to give them their food in due season:
look in mercy on your people,
and hear our prayer for those whose lives and possessions are threatened by fire.
Give protection and wisdom to fire fighters and other emergency service personnel.
Encourage our generosity to those who suffer loss.
In your mercy restore your creation and heal our land.
So guide and bless your people,
that we may enjoy the fruits of the earth
and give you thanks with grateful hearts,
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Anti-trafficking and anti-slavery

Today, October 18th, is recognized as Anti-Trafficking Day in the European Union and Anti-Slavery Day in the United Kingdom. You may know that human trafficking has been a particular focus for the DIAKONIA Executive over the last four years (scroll down to end for resolution and prayer), and highlights an ongoing issue around the world.

In a report released this week from the Walk Free Foundation, an estimated 30 million people are enslaved around the world. The Australian based group presented its findings on Thursday 17th October in its first Global Slavery Index (click on link to download) ranking of 162 countries by their prevalence of modern slavery. In compiling the index, researchers considered crimes such as human trafficking, forced labor and the exploitation of children. From forced labour on cannabis farms in the UK to the child workers in the cocoa industry of Côte d’Ivoire, an estimated 29.8 million people are enslaved today.

African nations comprise half of the group's top 10 rankings on index by prevalence, which also includes Haiti, Pakistan, India and Nepal in the top 5.

In a separate index, the foundation ranks India, China and Pakistan as the countries with the highest numbers of enslaved people within their populations. India is estimated by the index to have the highest absolute number of modern slaves. The nation of 1.2 billion is thought to include a whopping 14 million people who live in slave-like conditions, which include forced labor, forced marriage, exploitation of children and debt bondage.

The foundation found that Asia is home to about 72 percent of the world’s slaves.  China and Pakistan came in second and third behind India. China is thought to have about 2.9 million slaves. Pakistan, whose population is 1/7 that of China’s, has a stunning 2.1 million slaves.

Countries with high levels of slavery share poor development, corruption, poverty and conflict. Also, researchers noted, around the world, women are disproportionately affected by slavery, partly because of the prevalence of forced marriage and child marriage.

And the experience of girls and women slaves almost always has another, horrifying element - for almost every woman in slavery, there will be a sexual assault. It can be field, factory, working as a domestic servant or whatever. That's why the enslavement of women is particularly harsh. 

Foundation researcher Kevin Bales:

The foundation says the role of government in addressing modern slavery, a human rights violation, is "paramount." The group says only governments have the authority to enact and enforce laws against slavery.

Resolution on Human Trafficking
(from Executive Committee of DIAKONIA World Federation, 2011)

Human Trafficking is a worldwide problem and infects almost all countries and all economic systems. It is a form of modern slavery and the biggest money making system in the world. The DIAKONIA World Executive at its annual meeting in Moshi,Tanzania in July 2011 was confronted with the wideness of this reality. As an organization of people involved in diaconal ministry in 34 countries of the world we feel very much connected with the victims of this crime. We want to raise our voice to the elimination of the conditions that lead to and perpetuate human trafficking. We ask our member organizations and the churches we which we belong to raise awareness of human trafficking in everybody’s surroundings and do as much as they can to overcome this inhuman practice.

We ask you to join in our prayer:

Loving God, The broken creation yearns for wholeness. Many are sold for sex, in bondage and exploited in factories and fields. Many are starving and thirsty. Many are homeless and refugees. Many are fearful, distraught and hopeless. Many cry out for food, for shelter, for safety, for protection, for worthiness, for respect... for wholeness of body, mind and spirit. Forgive me for closing my eyes and ears to the cries and suffering around me. I commit to you my helplessness and ask you to open my eyes and ears that I can respond to the cries. Make me willing to be an instrument of your love and peace. Help me to take action so your love and peace become real in this world. Amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Philippines - floods in Manila, now earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks in Visayas......

Basilica of the Holy Child, Cebu City, after the earthquake
Tuesday was a national holiday in the Philippines, to mark the beginning of Eid ul Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, a Muslim festival commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. What would have been a day of rest and rejuvenation for many, spent at home or in shopping malls, quickly turned into a day of devastation and terror spent in the streets.

(The following report is from The Australian newspaper)
A POWERFUL earthquake on Tuesday this week killed at least 93 people in the Philippines as it generated landslides that buried homes, triggered terrified stampedes and destroyed historic churches.
Fifteen of the confirmed fatalities were in Cebu, the country's second most important city and a gateway to some of its most beautiful beaches, the national disaster agency reported. Cebu, with a population of 2.5 million people, is the political, economic, educational and cultural centre of the central Philippines.
The 7.1-magnitude quake killed another 77 people in the neighbouring island of Bohol, famed for its rolling “Chocolate Hills”, while one other person died on nearby Siquijor, which attracts tourists with its pristine white sands. Authorities said the death toll could still climb, with officials struggling to assess the extent of the damage in the worst-hit areas of Bohol where roads remained impassable and power was cut at nightfall. One of the worst affected areas was the coastal town of Loon, where at least 18 people were killed by landslides that buried houses along large stretches of highway.
Ten churches, some of which have crucial links to the earliest moments of Spanish colonial and Catholic conquest in the 1500s, were also badly damaged on Cebu and Bohol. The limestone bell tower of the Philippines' oldest church, Cebu's Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, was in ruins. Other limestone churches that were built in the 1700s and 1800s on Bohol had crumbled completely, prompting grieving for the loss of some of the Philippines' most important cultural treasures.
“It is like part of the body of our country has been destroyed,” Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, a history lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, told AFP.
Aside from its beaches, Bohol is famous for its more than 1,000 small limestone “Chocolate Hills” that turn brown during the dry season. One of the main tourist venues there, the Chocolate Hills Complex, was severely damaged, according to Delapan Ingleterra, head of a local tourist police unit. “There are huge cracks in the hotel and there was a collapse of the view deck on the second floor,” Ingleterra told AFP, adding that no-one was injured at the complex.
Tuesday's quake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, at least four aftershocks of which measured more than 5.0 in magnitude.
The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Prayer points include:
  • Disaster relief teams who are assessing the damage.
  • Rescue teams and those providing emergency services
  • Grieving families and friends, and communities in shock
  • Safety from the continuing aftershocks
  • The work of churches and diaconal ministry agents in responding to the situation
Gracious and compassionate God, we ask your comforting and strengthening help for the people of the Visayas. Comfort those whose loved ones have died, bring swift rescue for those who are missing, and strengthen those who are injured. In all of this crisis, empower your people with your Holy Spirit as they bring Gospel love and courage to their community. Keep us steadfast in prayer until this season of trial has passed for our brothers and sisters. All these things we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (adapted from a prayer by Archbishop Robert Pittsburg, Christchurch) 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cyclone Phailin in eastern India

Cyclone Phailin is the most powerful storm India has faced in more than a decade. Phailin is a Category 4 cyclone, one notch below the most powerful Category 5 super storm like the one that hit Odisha in 1999 for 30 hours, killing almost 10,000 people.
Satellite images showed the storm, in the Bay of Bengal, was  about half the size of India. Eye witness reports said the powerful winds on Saturday snapped trees like matchsticks, swept away rooftops besides flattening paddy crop across a large swathe of farmland, and uprooted trees. It caused large-scale power and communications outages and shut down road and rail links, and was expected to have caused extensive damage to crops.
Thankfully the cyclone began to wane on Sunday morning local time, nearly 12 hours after it made landfall. Strong winds and heavy rains continue to lash the coastline, threatening floodings and inundation of low-lying villages. Thankfully casualties  have been limited, with more than half a million people evacuated prior to Cyclone Phailin reaching land in what is said to have been the biggest peacetime human movement in the country in 23 years. 
Please pray for the diaconal ministries in India, particularly those in the eastern part of India in the affected areas. There are three associations: Methodist Deaconess Ministry India, Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church Bethania Deaconess House and CSI Order of Women in the Church of South India Women's House.