In this fourth article in our series of features looking at the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission, the Executive Director of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), Will Postma, unpacks the third Mark of Mission: To respond to human need by loving service.
All around the world human need abounds. With 10 years to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the earth and all of its inhabitants seem particularly precarious. In the world’s poorest countries many people can no longer grow enough food to feed their families due to climate change or conflict. Mums and babies die during childbirth at a much higher rate than in other parts of the world because they are without access to quality health care. Women and girls are not given the same rights to education or freedom from violence. And indigenous communities here in Canada and other parts of the world do not live with the same rights of their fellow citizens.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, an agency of the Anglican Church of Canada, seeks to address those deep human needs by working with local partners in countries where the needs are greatest. We listen to organizations who are working directly with families and develop or support programs that are designed for them. For example:
- In Tanzania, the construction of 25 bore wells has brought clean water to many rural communities, improving community health and making it possible for girls to have time to go to school instead of walking kilometres each day to collect water.
- In Bangladesh, communities are growing mangroves in nurseries and transplanting them to low-lying shorelines to protect their homes from devastating floods.
- In Haiti, young people are learning how to recognise and prevent gender-based violence.
- In South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, 1,700 families are getting lifesaving food baskets each month.
People are also comforted and strengthened in knowing that half a world away, their human needs are being met with loving service. Says one partner working with refugees along the Thai-Burmese border: “The people of PWRDF offer love, kindness and friendship, which has been consistent over so many years. It helps the refugees feel valuable,” which in turns helps the program to succeed.
This third mark of mission – to respond to human need with loving service – is lived out not only through our generous donors, but through our vast network of volunteers. In my three and a half years as Executive Director of PWRDF, I have met scores of volunteers responding to need half a world away through loving service in their church community and beyond.
Jane is a dedicated member of her church and volunteer in Vancouver, British Columbia, She is always looking for ways to support her parish and the work of PWRDF. She welcomes newcomers warmly, organises diocesan celebrations, lugs PWRDF display boards from event to event and writes articles about PWRDF’s partners for the local diocesan newspaper. “It’s just what I do,” she told me at a PWRDF 60th anniversary event last year. “I love to see people connected. I’m happy to do whatever I can.”
I think of Cindy in Acton, Ontario organising euchre tournaments, Sue in Halifax hosting annual talent shows, Cathy in Burnaby, British Columbia, who carries on the tradition set by her grandmother to serve as a parish representative. Peter in Vancouver and Chris in Charlottetown are both quick to offer time and their gifts to organise learning days, captain a cycling team or offer suggestions to make PWRDF better for our partners.
The call to respond to human need with loving kindness is in our DNA. PWRDF began in 1958 when a bump in a coalmine in Nova Scotia caused a collapse and killed 75 miners. Canadians watched the news in horror as men were rescued and recovered from the mine, one of the first such disasters to be televised. Anglicans rallied to support the families, raising the equivalent of $1.2 million in today’s Canadian dollars (approximately £704,200 GBP). A year later, a fund was established at General Synod to formally handle humanitarian relief. Ten years later, the work expanded to include sustainable development.
Why tell people about PWRDF’s work? Telling their stories connects people in the pews to the work being undertaken on behalf of Anglicans in Canada. And it provides them an opportunity to live out our baptismal covenant to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
Maybe the word “volunteer” does not speak enough to the number of hours, the extent of “loving service” often given in the fray of managing busy family life and pressing work issues. Maybe better to say ambassadors, champions or promoters of justice, walking side by side, shoulder to shoulder with development professionals.
Responding to human need by loving service brings our gifts together. For PWRDF and our partners, it shows so well how we can go further, together.
Read the rest of our series on the Five Marks of Mission