Small church makes large impact worldwide

Sam Odrowski

A relatively small local church has made a big impact both locally and around the world.

While the Church of the Holy Spirit financially supports local initiatives like the Salvation Army Food Bank, they’re also helping make a difference in developing countries.

“We are all global citizens and as a global citizen, we have a responsibility beyond our borders,” said Tearfund president and CEO Wayne Johnson, who visited the Church of the Holy Spirit on June 15 to speak with parishioners about the impact their church is making through his organization.

“Where you have a portfolio of investments for your retirement, in the same way I believe we are to have a portfolio of investments in helping others: locally, regionally, nationally, and around the world,” he added.

“This church has made a decision to go and make a major difference around the world,” lauded Johnson.

While the Church of the Holy Spirit only has 50 members, it has donated $10,000 to Tearfund in the last two years–and $14,000 in total–to create longterm and sustainable solutions to poverty related problems.

“For the gifts that they have given . . . they’re $10,000 in the last two years has been matched by $40,000 by Canadian government, so that would be $50,000 out of this congregation,” Johnson noted.

“This church is part of a denomination of 160 Free Methodist churches across Canada and they’re one of the smaller churches–and although they are small they have a big vision,” he added.

“For the last 10 years they’ve give between 40 to 50 percent of their total revenue to social justice missions whether here in Fort Frances or outside.”

The funds have supported Rohyinga and Syrian refugees, as well as people living in India and South Sudan through times of drought, poverty, and crisis.

“We want to work with the church of the ‘Global South–that’s Asia and Africa–so that they can unlock God’s given potential to each person, so that you the church can create flourishing communities.”

Tearfund’s focus is on training the locals throughout struggling communities who can then pass on their knowledge to others to solve issues relating to clean water, hygiene, malnutrition, and trauma.

In South Sudan, a country formed just seven years ago, there has been a constant conflict that’s been exasperated by economic woes and drought, causing 3.7 million people to flea their homes.
A large majority of South Sudanese refugees are under 18 and the total number of refugees is over two million, making it the largest refugee crisis in Africa and third largest worldwide.

To help provide relief in South Sudan, the United Nations (U.N) asked Tearfund to put up four clinics along the road that acts as a borderline between the military rebels and government who are in conflict.

“Otherwise we were going to have thousands and thousands of dead children,” Johnson explained.
Tearfund screened 97,000 children over six months and determined that 11,000 were in dire need of treatment for their malnutrition.

He said the average three-year-old should weigh about 30 pounds and many of the children they were treating only weighed 16 or 17 pounds.

“The children didn’t have the strength to lift their head up,” Johnson recalled.

The children in treatment were given a vitamin and mineral enriched peanut-based paste called “Plumpy’Nut” that contains 550 calories and lasts two years on the shelf.

A normal three year old child needs 550 calories a day so they would start with one a day, then when the child went from 16 to 22 pounds they’d up it to two a day, and at 28 pounds they’d be fed three a day, over a 12-week period.

The 150 packages of Plumpy’Nut that are used to treat one child costs a total of $60 and Tearfund was able to treat all 11,000 of the kids.

“When we started the U.N said we were going to lose about 4,300 children, but not a single child died,” Johnson lauded.

This program was ran from April to November of 2017 and was started up again last week.
“South Sudan, drought has come back, conflict is still there,” Johnson reasoned.

But he said Plumpy’Nut is just one part of the work they do, as there are many other needs.
“So as the women would be lined up with their children to come for the Plumpy’Nut treatment for severe and acute malnutrition, we were training the women on how to stop cholera and how to clean water,” Johnson explained.

Just like the other 950 million people around the world, a majority of those in South Sudan routinely defecate outdoors in a designated area, which works great when no one’s living around that area, but when thousands of people are crammed into a refugee camp, protected by U.N soldiers–there’s little room to go.

“So the half hour before they’re lined up, they’re getting lessons about hand washing, safe handling of water and food, how to care for children, and we drop in a couple bible verses because what we’re doing is sharing the love of God in the midst of that,” Johnson remarked.

All the while Tearfund was also providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene to about 77,000 people.

Organizations such as World Vision installed wells throughout South Sudan to address the drought but because the wells are constantly pushing out water for entire communities, their handles and leather’s would wear down and break.

To address this, Tearfund refurbished a total of 97 wells while selecting five people from each village they worked in to become the well committee who are trained on how to do repairs and maintenance

The well committee would collect a penny or so for each time a member of their community would use it and then put that money toward purchasing the parts required for repairs, creating a sustainable water source.

“So the issue is not just having a well but it’s about having a group of people who are trained and sustainable and caring for it,” Johnson remarked.

“But the other problem with wells are . . . when there’s 200 people that are accessing water there it’s going all the time, there’s excess water that splashes . . . and it forms a great big mud hole around the bottom.”

“Animals get in there, animals’ poop, and the poopy water drains back down into the ground, right where the well is and now we get everybody sick again,” he added.

To prevent the communities from getting sick off of their well water Tearfund shelved out an extra $1,500 to add a large concrete pan around the wells, with a lip, and 20 foot concrete runway leading to a pond where the animals would go to get water instead.

Also in South Sudan, Tearfund has worked with 1,770 families that have child headed households and households where there’s no child to care for aging parents.

Tearfund worked to provide food to these families through the lean season, when there’s no crops for them to harvest.

The feeding program provided families with 100kg of grain, 30kg of beans, 2kg of salt, and five litres of oil to make bread.

A great aspect of the feeding program is matching funds by the government funded Canadian Foodgrains Bank, who add $4 for every $1 donated.

Tearfund has been able to deliver $5.9 million worth of programs with the help of Canadian Foodgrains Bank in the last 21 months, with donations coming from all denominations because there are only two other Christian agencies working in South Sudan.

Through Tearfund’s work in South Sudan they have helped close to 200,000 people and distributed over one million packages of Plumpy’Nut.

In India, they also experience long periods of monsoons and drought, so Tearfund has been working to educate people through the church on how to get the best yields when there’s very little water or too much.

“We teach something called rice intensification during the monsoon season and we teach conservation agriculture in the drought season,” Johnson noted.

They also taught people how to effectively get the best yields of goat milk and how to breed them to create a more resilient goat.

“By working with and through local church’s our goal is to facilitate long-term solutions,” Johnson enthused.

“We’re not in there to give over and over year after year but to address what are the root causes of the poverty.”

Following Johnson’s visit to the Church of the Holy Spirit, he visited the Covenant Church in Rainy River to educate their congregation on the good work Tearfund is doing with the funds they donate.