How churches took care of their members during festive period
• ‘Love Is Best Shown In Actions Not Just A Verbal Outburst’
Festive period such as Christmas is usually a time, when churches demonstrate more of Christ’s love for one another. Though December 25 is gone, sharing with one another still continues, especially as Nigerians prepare to celebrate the New Year. Therefore, it is necessary to find out from clerics how they took care of the needy — widows, orphans, jobless, among others, in their midst, especially in this period of recession. CHRIS IREKAMBA and ISAAC TAIWO report.
‘We Gave The Jobless Money/Foodstuffs’
(Pastor (Dr.) Jacob E. Umoru, President, Lagos Atlantic Conference, Seventh-Day Adventist Church)
BASICALLY, we believe it is better to teach people how to fish than to give them fish. What we do, therefore, is to empower our members on how to cope with the recession, physically, emotionally and spiritually.However, we provide for those who cannot feed themselves to keep body and soul together. We take care of the jobless by giving them money and foodstuffs.
‘Our Monthly Subvention Takes Care Of The Less Privileged’
(Rev. Ikechukwu Ugbaja, National Secretary, The Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria)
IN our church, we do not limit the ministry of giving to this period alone because we know that this set of people fellowship with us. There is an arm of the church we call ‘Love Ministry,’ created specially to cater for the needy.
There is monthly subvention to meet the need of the less privileged and it is part of our system. We know they exist and specifically plan to take care of them. We always respond to their needs.This is our tradition in Foursquare Gospel Church. We also go beyond the church to see if there is anywhere our assistance is needed, like IDPs and we respond to their needs because we believe that this is part of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.‘Church Should Be The Most Effective Platform For Demonstrating True Love’
(Rev. Dr. Eseme Unen, President/Senior Pastor, Grace Impacts Church, Bariga/Vice Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Ifako Chapter, Lagos)
WE have put in place a two-pronged scholarship package for all members of Grace Impacts Church in our mission school. Again, for indigent pupils, we offer 100 per cent scholarship.As a church, we are working on modalities for youth empowerment within and outside of the church. This programme shall afford beneficiaries an opportunity to be trained in a skill of their choice and will be supported with a take-off grant upon graduation.
We have installed a mini-water plant to provide free drinking water for the community within, which we operate. Christianity has love and righteousness as its bedrock. Jesus said in John 13:34,35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Again the Scripture in James 1:27 declared: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Love is best shown in actions not just a verbal outburst and the church is one of the most effective platforms for such expressions of true love. Our heavenly Father demonstrated this for us to learn from. According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God’s expectation, therefore, is that we should emulate Him. Jesus is our model. He has displayed this through practical examples as a compassionate Leader, Teacher and Saviour. In the Scripture, we are not left in doubt as to what to do. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will He pay him again” Proverbs 19:17.
Believers are enjoined to show love to one another as a cardinal practice of our Christian faith. Be that as it may, the church cannot shy away from this responsibility. It should spearhead such services to the vulnerable in our society. This is what some people refer to as ‘Social Gospel’. The essence of our confession is often appraised from its functionality in the community not necessarily by the loudness of our microphones.
In John 25, Jesus gave a parable about judgment and reward. He said the major criteria for separating the ‘sheep’ for commendation from ‘goats’ for eternal punishment are: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me ….Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (John 25:35-40).
The Lord demands that every believer should support the needy, indigent, widow and the less privileged in our communities. That’s why He planted us there. He will also assess our performances at the end of our earthly journey based on how effective we have been in touching lives of the helpless among us. This Yuletide offers an opportunity to launch out, but it should not stop during the festive season. Kindness to mankind should be a continuous, life-long practice for the believers and the body of Christ, as a whole. Let us all get involved.‘During Our Thanksgiving Services, We Distribute The Offerings To The Needy’
(Dr. Patrick I. Oyinkari, Pastor/Overseer, Seventh Day Church of God/Chairman, Association of Sabbath Keepers)
WE have had to devise means of supporting one another. It is not just because of the recession that we do what we do for the more vulnerable and needy among us. It has become our way of life, so to say.Care is taken to identify the folks who need help in our midst from time to time and appropriate measures of aid rendered.
Every adult member is taught to be self-reliant, to do meaningful work, business or labour rather than depend on handouts. To this end, we conduct special training sessions and seminars, free of charge for our members. Whenever there is a genuine need in people’s lives, we try to identify such members and such peculiar cases are taken care of. We have trained or assisted persons in several trades and businesses, supported academic and professional pursuits, and helped them to find jobs. We have also provided accommodation for members, funded maternity and medical bills. All of these are handled on person-to-person basis.
Aged members are supported both directly and indirectly. We also raise funds and provide upkeep stuffs, such as food, which are given directly to them. We do this for widows as well. But we discourage young persons to be classed among widows in line with 1 Timothy 5:9-11.
From time to time we take materials (such as clothing) and food to institutions, such as the motherless babies’ homes (orphanages). We support life recovery and rehabilitation efforts for persons suffering from addiction, depression, etc.
When we hold our thanksgiving services, we distribute the offerings (which come principally as foodstuffs) to the needy instead of trading them in a bazaar. Most of our literatures, such as our Daily Devotionals (TWIT), Bible Reading and Meditation Guide) and our Sabbath School Manuals are distributed free as they are not produced to raise funds. In all of these ways, we touch the lives of people among and around us to the glory of God.
‘The Elderly Ones Among Us Received Rice, New Clothes And Vegetable Oil’
(Pastor Johnson Odesola, Assistant General Overseer, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (Admin./Personnel)/Pastor in charge of Region 1)
WE have an established tradition of giving to elders in the church who are above 60 years old, items such as rice, new clothes and vegetable oil. This is done in every state of the federation with passion.
I am responding to this question from Igbajo, Osun State, where I am overseeing the distribution of items, which include 350 bags of rice, cartons of indomie, bags of beans, meant for the communities here.Somebody is in Edo State to do the same thing and ditto other states.
Aside from this, the church has programmes for the children, where we hold Christmas party for them. We take them out for funfair and we give them gifts. This is also done at the regional headquarters where we give out clothes and shoes.
In addition to the above, we open shops at a time like this in about seven locations in Lagos, and stock them with items such as clothes, shoes and computers. People go there to buy at a meagre cost of N1,000 Computer is sold for N1,000 and whatever item anybody wants irrespective of the quality is equally sold for the same price.
‘We Support Members On Monthly Basis With Rice, Oil, Clothes’
(Rt. Rev. Olubunmi Akinlade, Bishop of Ife, Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion)
WE have a biblical injunction that teaches us to take care of widows, orphans and we do this, not only during festival period, but at all times.There are categories of widows and the aged ones that cannot take care of themselves, we budget for such people in that category.
We also encourage our members to support such people monthly with rice, oil, clothes, among others.We organise Christmas party for them at the end of the year to give them a sense of belonging.
We support them anytime they have legal issues by engaging lawyers who are members of our church to help them out.In addition to the above, we organise vocational training for women like hairdressing, among others.
‘Church Is Trying, But Government Too Should Be Alive To Its Duty’
(Most Rev Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos)
WE have the duty as a church to help people that are in need and to understand the fact that Jesus is very much with us in our present situation. We need to give this consolation to our members that they are never alone. There is no doubt that there are difficulties, but the presence of the Lord is our sustenance. We need to communicate this to our members and also extend our helping hands.
Members who are better endowed are encouraged to extend their helping hands to those in need of accommodation, jobs and there is the need to motivate them to be more generous at a time like this.
As a church, we take care of as many that come for help and this we do in most of our parishes. Seventy percent of those who come to my office, come for assistance and they are assisted. There are lots of challenges, which include those of accommodation, payment of school fees and establishing businesses.
We also engage in vocational training to help the less privileged establish their own businesses. In the church, we have several associations that cater for the needy and we have such in our diocese here, as well as, in Ketu, Magoro, among others.
Above all these, there is the need to sensitise the government to wake up to its social responsibility too. The church is trying, but the government too should be alive to its duty of catering for the masses who are passing through the scourge of recession.‘We Give Help To Everybody Irrespective Of Religion, Race Or Position’
(Bishop Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop of Lagos Mainland, Methodist Church)
THIS is the season of sharing. God came to the earth through His Son, Jesus Christ, as embodiment of love to humanity and the love is unconditional, as well as, universal.
This kind of love has to be demonstrated among us today. It must go beyond tribe, region and colour. We have realised in the church that the love of Jesus Christ must be shared not only in word, but in action. This is what we have to do by sharing what we have.
Of recent, in Ikate Elegusi, Egun settlers that have been there for a long time had their homes and property destroyed and were displaced. As a church, we gathered clothes and money in quantum to give to them.
Similarly, we sent relief materials to our people that were affected by Boko Haram’s insurgency.We also gave the less privileged in the community items, such as clothes, food at this period of recession.We have met the need of the downtrodden and given hope to the hopeless. Our belief is that anyone that requires help should be assisted irrespective of religion, race or position.