The LCA’s partner churches in South-East Asia have been providing for those in need in the region during the pandemic, thanks to the help of our LCA/NZ family.
As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded this year, LCA International Mission has kept in regular contact with church leaders from across our region, to understand their needs and determine the scale of the disaster they are facing. They also have been communicating with funding partners from across the world to coordinate any action the LCA might take to serve our regional neighbours and to ensure no-one in need is overlooked.
Pastor Matt Anker, the LCA’s Assistant to the Bishop for International Mission, said that in the first two months of the pandemic, strict lockdowns resulted in immediate loss of income and the inability of day labourers to feed their families. LCA International Mission accessed its reserves and unsolicited donations and distributed $70,000 to partner churches and others in need, to provide an immediate grassroots response to the emergency. This effort was done in cooperation with funding partners from the United States and Europe, and more than AUD $1,000,000 was provided to church bodies across Asia during these months.
‘These funds were managed by churches on the ground, caring for their neighbours in the name of Jesus because of your help’, Pastor Matt said.
In addition to this distribution, which was aimed at equipping churches to respond to the needs of their members and communities in the name of Christ, aid and development organisations such as Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) have also responded with assistance. In conjunction with ACT Alliance, ALWS has contributed millions of dollars into the same communities and will continue to do so on behalf of their partners while the need remains. One of our closest partners, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, donated 500,000 Euros to this effort alone, Pastor Matt said.
He expects that emergency help will be needed for years to come. ‘We recognise that this is likely to be a protracted crisis’, he said. ‘One church leader in Malaysia advised me that when government assistance runs out in October, the community will be hit harder than ever, and pleaded for us to remember them when the time came.
‘LCA International Mission is in almost daily communication with partner churches and is constantly assessing needs so that we can respond as necessary. We rejoice to hear stories where subsistence farmers in northern Thailand have been completely unaffected by the economic crisis, just as we give thanks that we are able to provide food to widows in Myanmar who were down to their last bowl of rice because their trading store was closed.
‘We are committed to following the direction of our partners on the ground and we try at all times to respond with generosity and love. We are also trying to ensure that we are still able to respond to future needs when the international community has lost interest in this crisis.
‘We know that the situation is constantly changing and the needs will also change.’ One example of the rapidly changing situation in neighbouring nations is that of Papua New Guinea, which was largely unaffected by COVID-19 at the end of July, but by part-way through August had more than 300 diagnosed cases of the virus.