It was a packed service for our Mission and Service Sunday. By that I mean we had many stories to share of the way we at Highlands are involved with people around the world.
We heard that the Methodist church in Haiti asked the United Church of Canada for help in replacing the printing press they lost in the 2010 Earthquake. The United Church Mission and Service fund (M&S) responded to the request and helped get a new printing press installed within a few months. This allowed the Methodist church to replace materials in their church run schools and their Sunday School curriculums. This allowed the children to resume their normal activities – to settle in to the security of school and church.
The next story of Highlands involvement in the world led us to Dumaguete City in the Philippines where tricycles – motorcycles taxis with a side passenger car – are the main form of public transportation. Most of the ‘taxi’ drivers rent their tricycles for a daily rate of $7.50. The trouble with this is that they bring in between $2.50 and 7.50 per day. This is a travesty. Then they have to make loans and they are economically enslaved by ‘five-six operators, that is for every 5 peso loan they have to pay 1 peso every 6 days.
Our M&S partner is the Institute of Religion and Culture in the Philippines. They run a program to help tricycle operators earn a fair living for their families. They purchase tricycles that drivers rent to own. And it works. Taxi driver lives and that of their families improves through this arrangement.
The M&S fund is not only for global mission. M&S is active within Canada in ways that redistribute resources from areas that have to those that don’t.
So we heard the story of Judy Bernard-Googoo, a First Nations Mi’Kmaq healer sharing her knowledge of traditional medicine with plants and herbs to a combined Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal group, during a course at the Tatamagouche Lay Education Centre in Nova Scotia. This sharing of traditions builds bridges and helps mend historic brokenness.
M&S support is given to Norval United Church in Norval, Ontario. They purchased the house next door, renovated and established an intentional community program for youth aged 19-30 years. Through this community living program, young people are given a chance to explore their leadership, serve in the wider community, explore spiritual practices and raise environment awareness through eco-pilgrimages along the Bruce Trail.
So many creative, life affirming and transforming projects are being supported through the M&S fund, and through our participation we are linked to all these ministries. If it were not for this common pooling of resources, we would never hear of and be able to celebrate these local initiatives.
Through our collectiveness we raised $26 M across our church in 2013.
There are 6 areas that our giving to M&S support:
1. Peace and Justice Work globally through partner relationships in regions in Africa, Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.
2. Faith formation ministries with children, youth, young adults, aboriginal people, French communities, diversity and intercultural ministries
3. Theological Education: grants to theological schools (like Vancouver School of Theology), lay centres (like Naramata), student bursaries etc.
4. Community and Justice Work across Canada: Hospital and University chaplains, Aboriginal programs for healing, right relationships and justice
5. Local Ministries: providing grants, capital funding etc. i.e. First Church Mission in the Downtown Eastside
6. Conference Staff: to support the 13 Conference across Canada, i.e. B.C. Conference
Last year Highlands gave $55,000. To the Mission and Service Fund of the United Church.
Last year we were part of actions taken in Canada, in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America where lives were transformed and hope was shared.
Adds a little warmth to your heart, doesn’t it?