COVID-19 opened doors to new initiatives that have strengthened the global Alliance family. In 2019, Jura Yanagihara, President of the Alliance World Fellowship (AWF) assembled an AWF Relief and Development committee with personnel from CAMA Services (C&MA United States) and Justice and Compassion (C&MA Canada). The two teams were planning training workshops for the AWF Global Quadrennial Convocation that was to be held in October 2020 in Ecuador, but by April 2020, it became clear to this committee that the pandemic was now a global issue.
Lockdown and stay-at-home mandates were having devastating impacts on individuals and churches in countries where many people relied on daily earnings to feed their families. The focus shifted from planning for the Quadrennial. President Jura recalls, “This committee began working together to mobilize a global response to COVID-19. It was clear that a link could be created between the national Alliance churches that are working with vulnerable communities and the national churches willing to provide human and material resources. The AWF Global Response to COVID-19 program was born.”
The first step toward this response to COVID-19 was to hear from the national Alliance church presidents and leaders. President Jura arranged for regional calls on Zoom for the committee to hear about the situations being experienced in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Nearly 100 representatives from 38 AWF member countries came together in these four meetings from May 11–13, 2020, to share their contexts and experiences.
The second round of regional calls with national church leaders was held between June 2–4, 2020, to discuss specific details of relief projects. The president of an African national church said, “We cannot help everyone, but we can help those who have nothing.” Over 230 proposals were submitted to the AWF committee who selected projects that would reach the most vulnerable communities in 19 countries. The Alliance of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and the United States provided the funding for the phase one relief projects that were carried out throughout the summer and fall.
With the first stage of relief completed and reported on, the committee met again in January 2021 to review and approve Phase Two Covid Recovery Development Projects for 16 countries, focused on restoring what the pandemic devastated. “Our vision is to see congregations and their communities be restored and thrive once again. We desire to see food security restored, people able to produce food, return to work, and children to continue their education,” says AWF President Jura. Alliance churches around the world are educating communities about COVID-19, making and distributing soup, masks, serving meals, visiting and helping the elderly and the vulnerable, promoting farming in rural areas, distributing food packages, assisting in livelihood generation, and so much more.
With these two phases of COVID relief and recovery, President Jura reports, “The AWF Global Response to COVID-19 program has impacted more than 170,000 people living in 25 countries served by Alliance churches. This was possible because of generous donations from the Alliance family of 10 countries, Canada among them, that totalled more than $400,000 USD. For the first time, 35 national Alliance churches could work together to present a quick and effective response to the needs of the most vulnerable among those served by Alliance churches around the world. God is using the pandemic to strengthen the ties of the global Alliance family so that we can work together for the proclamation of the Gospel, by words and deeds. The AWF Global Response to COVID-19 was an opportunity for the global Alliance family to express God´s mercy and compassion toward the most vulnerable communities we serve.” Even beyond the AWF funded projects, over 50 national Alliance churches report how providing relief has opened doors to tremendous outreach opportunities.
The AWF website reported, “The churches are experiencing a renewal and growth in people attending online during the pandemic. Almost all churches have conducted services and prayer meetings remotely. Families of church members, and even people unknown to the church, are attending the meetings. A Bible college in the Middle East saw the number of students rise from 60 to more than 200 after the pandemic started. Hospitals are requesting dozens of Bibles. Pastors and church members are visiting, praying for, or walking with people who feel alone. God is at work and His Church is ministering accordingly.”
The Alliance World Fellowship global family is strengthening its bond. Regional Zoom calls continue to bring leaders together for prayer, mutual learning, and encouragement. Leaders are exchanging knowledge and best practice in multiple areas including how to adapt to online worship. There is a growing appreciation for being part of a global Alliance family.
This is an article from our Fall 2021 edition of Alliance Connection. Read the full copy here.
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