Joy Jino works with the Solomon Islands Christian Association as a Project Officer for disaster resilience, but like most Pacific Islanders, she hasn’t always easily understood where God fits into a world changed forever by record levels of warming, cooling, deforestation and pollution.
“There have always been disasters across our Pacific – cyclones and floods that kill many people,” says Joy. “We are a strongly Christian nation, but we haven’t always understood where God is at work and what it means to care for creation.” Joy and her fellow Church leaders are determined to help their people look to God as a refuge when the mountains shake and the waters foam.
“...the Bible is the authority in the
Pacific, and the Church has influence.”
God, they teach, is present in practical ways through the care of disaster chaplains and in recovery efforts, but also in the planning and preparation that can help save lives.
“In the past, organisations came to talk about how to prepare for disaster and what climate change means, but our people didn’t really believe them or think that outsiders had much authority,” Joy says. “But now that the Church is leading the way, people really listen and understand much better how to survive and respond. That is because the Bible is the authority in the Pacific, and the Church has influence.”
Throughout the Solomon Islands, the United Church is actively involved in sharing the love of God through congregational ministry and health care. They have oversight of schools, provide vocational skills training for youth and are concerned about excessive logging and environmental destruction. In preparing people for ministry, they work closely in partnership with the Church here in Australia and around the world.
“We appreciate so much the way that you in Australia stand by us,” Joy says. “You make us feel that we are not alone in our mission.”
The United Church have oversight of more than a hundred schools from kindergarten to secondary. They care for health through 2 hospitals and train nurses, especially to work in remote places often accessible only by canoe.
They work tirelessly for women’s equality and against gender-based violence, equipping their leaders to understand the biblical call to equality.
They also prepare their communities for disaster and respond to changing climate, teaching and preaching from the Bible to encourage hope and action in the face of despair. UnitingWorld has the privilege of supporting the disaster preparation and gender equality programs as well as strengthening child protection and safeguarding of vulnerable people.
Pray for Moderator Rev Armstrong Pitakaji, Rev David Garunu (gender equality theology), Rev Dr Cliff Bird (disaster and climate resilience). Joy Jino, Rev Siera Bird and Rev Lima Tura, courageous women supporting the programs in disaster resilience, women’s equality, and child protection.
Norway ranks 1 on the United Nations Index of Human Development, Australia ranks 8. The Solomon Islands ranks 151: health care and education are severely under-resourced. Natural disasters are made worse by poverty, isolation, and a lack of preparedness. Pray that people will not despair but work together in hope and faith.
That people in Australia and other wealthy nations will support the Pacific with action on climate change, and much needed funding.
We can all do simple things to stand with our Pacific friends against the impact of a changing climate:
• Cut back on driving and using disposable plastics. Change to LED/fluro light bulbs.
• Swap to a green energy provider, consider installing solar power.
• Support government policies that promote renewable energy and a low-carbon economy.