When Pastor Matt Anker, the LCA/NZ’s Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, called on Lutheran pastors in Australia and New Zealand to support their brother pastors in the Philippines, he says the response was ‘breathtaking’.
Pastor Matt had heard from President Antonio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) about the effect of COVID-19 church shutdowns, inadequate health facilities, isolation and the lack of a government safety net on LCP pastors. Rev Reyes also shared that for months his pastors had not received stipends as their congregations were not meeting in person, and many members had lost their incomes.
‘He asked if we would consider buying a month’s supply of rice for each of their pastors to help them get by – the cost of which was A$7000’, Pastor Matt says. ‘Although this is not the usual work of LCA International Mission, it was an appeal I couldn’t ignore. Calling to mind the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6:10, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”, I wrote to our pastors and asked them to consider supporting their brother pastors in the Philippines by donating $60 to help one family.
‘Literally within minutes of hitting the send button on the emails, our pastors started to donate and they didn’t stop! Within a couple of days, we were beyond the goal of $7000 and still the donations continued. Some pastors shared this need with their congregations and one congregation sent on a $9000 bequest they had just received so that the ministry of word and sacrament in the Philippines could continue unhindered.
‘Thanks to the generosity of our pastors and those they shared this need with, we have sent more than $35,000 to the Philippines, enabling their pastors to continue their ministry without having to seek alternative work to feed their families.’
LCP’s Pastor Daniel Pondevida sums up the response of our friends in the Philippines when he says: ‘No words of heartfelt thanks can express my joy for your goodness and kindness towards us.’
Pastor Matt says that, while the scale of generosity he has witnessed in this example is ‘breathtaking’, he has been more surprised by the words of thanks he has received from LCA/NZ pastors who ‘were grateful for the opportunity to support their extended family in this way’.
‘Their words reminded me that their generosity is not of their own doing, but instead is born of gratitude for the abundant generosity of our Heavenly Father who did not spare his own Son, but willingly gave him up for us all that we might have forgiveness of sins and life in his name’, Pastor Matt says.
‘Their gifts reflect the love they have received from the Lord, a love which is so generous it overflowed their own lives and reached all the way to the Philippines.
‘Thanks be to God for his generosity in Christ that enables us to be bearers of his generous love to others.’