A global community of believers

By Cath Taylor

Posted in Culture

It was the image we were all talking about in the UnitingWorld office – a man, a woman; light skin, dark skin; linen, grass skirt. The differences might have been strikingly obvious, the contrast stark, but so were the similarities: the light in the eyes, the warmth in the smiles, the openness of the faces.

There’s a genuine solidarity about those handshakes, about the shoulder-to-shoulder embrace. And we loved it.

As God’s people in a world divided, this is who we’re called to be: bold, striking, united by something bigger than ourselves. For all our differences and contradictions, we go far further together than we ever will apart.

Welcome to Lent Event 2018. We’re standing alongside partners throughout the Pacific – raising up women and girls, taking action to save lives in natural disaster, and beating poverty through education. But it begins here, with relationships and with faith in action.

Tucked away on one of Papua New Guinea’s most remote islands, South Australia’s Alexandra Bingham (pictured) spent five days documenting a partnership between the people of Lelehudi, the United Church of Papua New Guinea and the people of the Uniting Church in Australia, facilitated by UnitingWorld. The purpose of this partnership is to bring clean water and sanitation to men, women and children in a country where more than fifteen people still die every week because of dirty water.

What Alexandra found was much more than just a project. She discovered a community grounded in love and bound together by hope.

“When I think of these communities, where people work incredibly hard to put their kids through school or to collect water each day, I see struggle, but I don’t feel pity,” Alexandra says. “I often feel admiration. Their faith links them together, and as a result they’re often more resilient than we are in the west. They have a lot to teach us.”

Justin (pictured) is a father of three and leader of the church in the community. His experience is typical of so many in the Pacific – he works through the heat of the day in community gardens alongside both men and women, and gathers with them at night to eat, talk and pray. There is time in Lelehudi – time for people, time for strangers, time for wonder.

Justin, says Alexandra, speaks constantly of God’s blessing to his people – of God’s hand in the rain, in the gift of the water project, of these brothers and sisters from Australia.

“Faith is part of everything. People pray constantly, God’s presence and providence is everywhere,” Alexandra observes.

“Lelehudi was one of the most close-knit communities I’ve ever visited. Yet simply because we’re part of the global community of believers, and trusted as partners through our connection with UnitingWorld, we were welcomed as family.”

Pacific-wide, 98% of people identify as Christian. The church is a powerful agent of change. In Papua New Guinea, where the Australian Government directly funds churches to carry out peace work, education and health projects, it’s also the most trusted institution in the country – as is the case in many other countries in the region.

Yet Pacific life, despite the postcard image, is complex.

If you participate in Lent Event, you’ll hear about the challenges of a changing climate that destroys lives and homes; women and girls who are too often silenced, and children who are excluded from school and a future simply because their parents can’t afford their education.

Bishop NT Wright declared that “Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonise earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.”

As we enter the season of Lent and look forward to Jesus’ resurrection, we join in the work of “colonising earth with the life of heaven” alongside partners worldwide.

Join UnitingWorld and Lent Event by visiting www.lentevent.com. Give up something from daily life and donate what you save to support projects in the Pacific, and sign up to receive daily reflections and encouragement for the Lenten journey.


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