All organisations go through periods of doubts and recently the 52-year-old Mission Liaison Group (MLG) wondered just what God was saying.
Uniting Church Adult Fellowship (UCAF) groups have always been strong supporters of MLG but UCAF membership has been ageing and fund-raising has declined. Old age, illness and death have taken their toll on MLG volunteers.
It began to look as though the end was in sight. The need remained, but the reduction of workers and financial support made it look as though MLG would no longer be able to do its good work.
Since it was started by Methodist Bruce Walker in 1966, MLG has encouraged lay people to assist in overseas missions.
This has evolved into sending donated, usually second-hand, goods to Pacific partner churches, which gave rise to the MLG being known as Second Life Pasifika.
Congregations, schools, retirement homes, op shops and medical practices are among the groups that donated used goods ranging from clothes and foodstuffs to bicycles, wheelchairs and an operating X-ray machine.
For a number of years these goods arrived at The Shed, which is located on the Keysborough Uniting Church site where MLG volunteers sorted and packed them into shipping containers.
Every year the aim is to send at least one container to each Pacific partner church: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati.
In addition MLG attempts to respond with the appropriate emergency relief in the case of a natural disaster.
That has meant sending up to nine containers in a twelve-month period.
Late last year MLG faced the fact that there were no funds to send a shipping container packed and sealed in mid-December.
Also, due to ill-health the group lost two of its faithful workers in 2017. Early in 2018, a volunteer who was with MLG for more than 20 years died unexpectedly.
Between those losses and the lack of funds the future looked grim. As MLG convener I would need to report to the AGM that we better begin estate planning.
Then two new workers joined. And we received two substantial donations that we didn’t expect.
We were able to send the container stranded on the dock in late February this year and it was off the wharf in Port Moresby by early April.
MLG knows its work in the past has been well appreciated by the receiving churches – and will be into the conceivable future. The need is still there.
If we’re to keep going, we need donations large and small. To send one shipping container costs between $5000 and $7500, depending on where it’s going.
That is about $45,000 a year. Without the funds the donated goods just keep stacking up as we wait for the money for shipping.
We also still welcome anyone who can give two-and-a-half hours to sort and pack on Tuesday and/or Thursdays mornings between 8 and 10.30am for whatever time they can commit.
So please come and join us. We’re a happy bunch feeling we’re doing something that’s worthwhile.