Welfare

ETAC befrienders bless chronically poor families

Apr 2011    


THE COMBINED CONGREGATION SIZE
of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) is just over 1,000 members. However, the small numbers were not a deterrent when it came to reaching out to the chronically poor in the Community Outreach Project of e Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS).

A total of 86 befrienders from ETAC churches came forward to bless 45 families with monthly cheques and visitations.

On March 6, Pasir Panjang Tamil Methodist Church was abuzz with activity as usual. ree generations of families gather every Sunday to worship God, fellowship and to study God’s Word. is was a special Sunday though because after the service, there was a befriender gathering. It was a time for sharing their experiences while relating to the families, and also for encouraging one other.

The Rev Philip Abraham, Pastor-in-Charge of the church, whose members have befriended 24 families, said: “I think this project was truly a timely project by the MCS and the MWS [Methodist Welfare Services]. I was very excited when I first heard about it and was convinced that this ministry was at the very heart of our Lord Jesus. I challenged my congregation as this was a golden opportunity to serve the community and to invest in the open harvest field.”

He was thankful that many of the befrienders started serving in such a project for the first time and persevered because they wanted to do something for the Lord.

“The visits to the families were very heartwarming experiences for the befrienders. We were strangers but we were welcomed into their homes, and praise God, some have even asked to be prayed for,” said the Rev Abraham, who visited two families himself.

Ms Angeline Jayanthi, Chairman of the Social Concerns Committee of Pasir Panjang Tamil MC and a Family Service Centre counsellor, took on the task of administration for the church, contacting the befrienders, distributing the cheques every month, and acting as the link person between the church and the MWS.

“Visiting and befriending the families can be a bit tiring, and 12 months is an admirable time for a volunteer to commit. is is also the first time that so many of our members are involved in a ministry. But it is very fulfilling and we see it as a natural part of our outreach to the community.

“As lay people of the church, the members feel very much for these chronically poor families. Sometimes they come back to us feeling disempowered that they are not able to help them beyond giving the cheque. In order to encourage them we look at alternative help available, such as food rations as a one-time immediate help for the family and also to highlight the struggles of the families back to the social workers.”

Ms Sarah Jackson, a befriender from the church, would not hesitate to sign up for a similar befriending opportunity in future. She said: “Although it can be challenging at times, especially for my husband, who has to visit after his overnight work shift, it still feels good to be able to provide a listening ear. Sometimes, all the poor and needy need is a friend.”

The Rev R. Prabhu, Pastor-in-Charge of Seletar Tamil MC and Toa Payoh Tamil MC, said he saw the project as “a privilege to help the community”, and he has visited some families. “One of them is an old couple who is looking after their primary school-going grandchildren. Their own parents have abandoned them,” he said. “With another family, the husband has cancer and cannot work.”

The Rev Prabhu shared that during the first few visits, the families were guarded, and did not talk much. However, soon they realised that the cheques did not come with any condition.

“We asked about their well-being and how the children were doing. Gradually they opened up to us, and even asked us to pray for them,” he said.

The Rev Abraham and the Rev Prabhu hope that more could be done for the families, like supporting them with help to find jobs and medical expenses. In particular, they are concerned about the children and how to motivate them to do well in school, so that the cycle of poverty can be broken in the next generation.

“We are now only trying to remove the web that traps them. It’s the spider that we have to kill!” concluded the Rev Prabhu.

Pearl Lee is the Group Director, Communications and Fund Raising, of the Methodist Welfare Services.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

AS PART OF THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) last year, a Community Outreach Project was launched to help the very poor in the community.

In keeping with the year-long celebration’s theme, “Together in God’s Mission”, Methodist Church members banded together to serve the less privileged in society.

The project, which was spearheaded by the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), saw the participation of 2,000 Methodists from churches across our three Annual Conferences disbursing financial aid to the chronically poor for the whole year and befriending them in the love of Christ.

A total of almost $1.8 million – surpassing the target of $1.25 million – was raised and distributed to the bottom 10 per cent of those in the socio-economic ladder who subsist on an average per capita income of $350 a month. It is estimated that there are as many as 80,000 such people.

Each family was given $125 a month for a period of 12 months. Close to 1,000 families were blessed by our befrienders who also assisted in finding other ways of providing social support and helping the families overcome the poverty cycle.

The Community Outreach Project is an offshoot of the rich heritage of the MCS’s 125 years of serving the community.

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