“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:17-18 (NIV)
In 2014, Madam Zhou was told the devastating news that she had breast cancer. While she had to commence chemotherapy immediately, physical pain was the least of her worries. As a single mother of two teenage sons, she had to face the emotional and financial stress of managing her illness and supporting her family all alone.
Over the next two years, her savings were quickly depleted by this unforeseen crisis. With the cancer treatments taking a toll on her physical strength, she was also unable to sustain her regular earnings from her job. “Going for blood tests, medical reviews and scans cost hundreds of dollars each time,” said Mdm Zhou, recounting her experiences in an interview at her two-room flat.
She could ill afford her sons’ polytechnic education, although the elder one was on a scholarship: “We knew that we didn’t have the means to continue paying for school fees and other expenses if we didn’t receive help. When a volunteer from the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) called me in November 2016 about their Family Development Programme, it came at the right time.”
The MWS Family Development Programme (FDP), launched in April 2016, helps families living in poverty break out of the vicious cycle through holistic integrated intervention. Its focus is debt repayment and savings matching at a ratio of 1:2, up to $200 per month.
Other supplementary components that assist the beneficiary in asset-building are: school support of $30 for Primary- and $40 for Secondary-level students; milk nutrition support for children and pregnant or lactating women; and cash assistance. To date, there are 163 families like Mdm Zhou’s on the programme.
Besides running FDP through family service centres, MWS is also partnering with Methodist churches. Those on board have had members come forward to be trained as volunteers. During home visits, these volunteers befriend families, collect bills and documents, as well as provide them with financial advice, especially for beneficiaries who want to get out of debt.
For these volunteers, the passion to demonstrate God’s love is their driving force. Mr Lim Ka Lai from Hakka Methodist Church (Hakka MC) is one example. In the last three months, he has been actively helping Mdm Zhou navigate out of her current financial hardship. “Volunteering is worth every minute of my time. It is very fulfilling to see her relief when she gets her bills paid,” he said.
Outreach to disadvantaged families in the Whampoa district is the focus of Hakka MC’s Social Concerns & Outreach Ministry. Its Chairperson, Mr Jimmy Chua, said that collaboration is a cornerstone of their ministry. He believes that tapping on MWS’ resources, coupled with the grassroots effort of volunteers, makes it easier to exemplify God’s love. “It is not possible for the church to run programmes similar to the FDP on our own, and we are proud to be one of the first few churches in support of this,” he said.
Acting on its own initiative, Hakka MC has introduced a befriender model of assigning two to three volunteers to care for each family. This allows volunteers to support one another, and the family to have a larger support network in times of need. With experience, members can eventually form their own independent care teams.
Hakka MC’s Social Concerns & Outreach team had thought it would be difficult to recruit volunteers, but after sending out a call in church, they received the exact number of volunteer sign-ups needed to kick-start the programme. “God supplied for our needs all the way. Although this model we adopted is more manpower-intensive, we believe we can serve more people,” said Jimmy.
Ka Lai added that he’s deeply moved by the resilience shown by Mdm Zhou, who is now on the road to recovery from cancer. “Despite her multiple challenges, such as her financial situation and her illness, she managed to remain strong. Through her, I’ve seen that life is not limited by hardship.”
To support the FDP financially, or for more information on how you or your church can be involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the Methodist Welfare Services Communications Team
Photos courtesy of the Methodist Welfare Services