— giving all aspects of humanitarian assistance to communities across Guyana
FOR well over 50 years, the Seventh-day Adventist(SDA) church throughout the world has been meeting annually to execute its Ingathering services in the form of humanitarian assistance.
Guyana is no exception and starting this Sunday, members of the church here will begin to get busy visiting and meeting with persons within the various communities to assist in whatever ways possible. The programme usually lasts for six weeks. Community Services Director of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Guyana, Pastor Jumoul Sancho, who is also in charge of coordinating and mobilising the membership for the harvest ingathering, said that the programme is an outreach ministry with a difference.
“It is the only outreach ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist church that engages the majority of the membership throughout the length and breadth of Guyana for such an extended period of time. For each of the 10 administrative regions — mainly on Sundays — the members would usually go out to visit and pray for people in our community; we showcase the humanitarian work of the church; we leave Christian literature; we also find members of our own church that are not active, encourage bible study and much more,” he told the Guyana Chronicle.
He stated that it is the only time of the year when the church gives the public an opportunity to contribute to humanitarian work – mainly financially. In times past people gave food supplies, which still happens to an extent, because of the amount of food hampers that are given out by the church.
THE URGE TO SERVE
He explained that during the visits, members identify the situations, record them and then refer them to some of the professionals in the church, noting that all year round the church has various ministries and qualified persons who attend to the many needs. “For example, people who may be facing mental issues; those who are suicidal; persons who are stricken by poverty; individuals who have marital situations and many more,” he mentioned.
Pastor Sancho noted that all of these things are done continuously; however, during this time the members do not directly confront the issues in terms of treating them on the spot. One of the reasons, he said, is that the church has a wide cross-section of people going out into the communities and may not have the relevant professional skills at hand to deal with a given situation at the time.
Therefore, instead of attempting to deal with a situation and aggravating it, the better thing is always to refer the matter to suitable individuals or offices within the church, who could adequately deal with it, he explained. He added that in the case of what may appear to be urgent matters, contact can always be made with the relevant competent authority in order to ensure that help is given where needed.
RELEVANCE OF PROGRAMME
“We have approximately 165 organised churches, but in total there are about 220 congregations distributed across the 10 administrative regions of Guyana. With each congregation being assigned a territory with the knowledge of the people living in their community, it is therefore much more organised when they go out to visit; they are able to pray, counsel, identify and record needs, distribute literature, and allow for personal opportunity for people to be able to contribute to the work that we do all year,” he explained.
Pastor Sancho mentioned the programme that was done for last year and said that as a result of the contributions from the 2018 ingathering programme, the church was able to distribute over 7,000 food hampers; operate two lifeskill centres, thereby equipping community residents with vocational skills and at the same time giving school supplies to over 200 students; offer financial assistance to college and university students and also to persons in need of medical assistance; build and renovate nine homes for seniors and needy persons; and give disaster relief within communities, along with many more services to communities.
The church, he said, believes that health is the right arm of its message, so there is a lot of screening and blood drives through the mobile unit of the church and the doctors and nurses of the church are mobilised to assist. Thus, free health screening and medical supplies at health fairs are regularly offered, since this is a major emphasis of the SDA church, he stated.
He added that the church has “a strong emphasis on education,” within the communities that are visited, as well as for members of the church. He stressed that education is viewed by the SDA church as “another major aspect of the church” in assisting schools, universities; scholarship programmes; vocational training and in other forms.
Pastor Sancho stated that in order for members of the church to be able to go out into the communities to do the in-gathering campaign, an order is usually secured from the police for the six-week period. Therefore, members from the various communities can expect visits to their homes and communities only by who possess the relevant ‘official authorisation.’ A card that has a signature of the leader of the Caribbean Union level, as well as the pastor of the local congregation; wearing of a global youth day tee shirt or the SDA magazines, are all features that will help to identify members of the church, he said.
“I must state that our church is a community-oriented church and this can be proven very easily. We do a lot of things for the community without charging for the services – weddings, funerals, prayers of any sort, recommendations, certify documents and many more – because we understand that the church exists to benefit the community.” He went on to explain that while the philosophy of the church is always to give to the community, they are also very willing to offer their services free of charge to people within the communities.
Finally, he explained that the activities of the day will commence on Sunday; they pray and may have breakfast together, after which the members will begin their interactions with people within communities.