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I picked up a copy of Tear Times (The Tearfund magazine) at the back of church one Sunday. I was really moved reading the stories of people whose lives had been changed by their help and by the way they did it - by helping local churches to help their own communities. I knew I had to become involved.
Tearfund are an evangelical Christian development and relief charity working with partners to bring help and hope to communities in need both in the UK and around the world. They help people regardless of race, colour or religion.
I help Tearfund by being a church representative. We help by sharing Tearfund resources with church leaders, making people aware of Tearfund's work through displays, encouraging people to read Teartimes. There is often a special focus on the work of Tearfund in church services at Christmas, Harvest and Tearfund Sunday. I'm only just starting out at this. I got a good response to the Jubilee postcard appeal. I had 200 pre-printed postcards campaigning about debt-relief in the third world, and most were taken (and hopefully sent!). I'm now trying to see if Tearfund can be supported at the Harvest service this year and hope to arrange a Tearcraft stall near Christmas for people to buy pressies and cards. I've also put a few articles in the church magazine and website to raise awareness about Tearfund. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated
I'm also part of Tearfund's Global Action Network. Through this we campaign for justice on issues such as fair trade, world debt, water and sanitation by writing to MP's and world leaders. Ever wanted a email from The White House or a letter from Tony Blair - here's your chance!
Child trafficking was one recent issue. We asked the government to sign up to legislation to make child trafficking for prostitution a criminal offence. I got a 3 page letter in reply which I thought was very encouraging from a simple pre-printed postcard. In response to this campaign the government has signed up to the United Nations protocol on trafficking. Unfortunately the wheels of law grind slowly but at least the process has been started.
The Jubilee debt campaign has been a big issue too. We wrote to President Jacques Chirac prior to the G8 summit in June asking him to use his chairmanship to help can the debts of Africa's heavily indebted countries. Because of the war in Iraq these issues were sidelined but we will be campaigning again prior to the next meeting in September.
Sometimes you have to persevere but these people have no one else to speak up against injustice if we don't do it. We have access to the media, email and letters while 300 million Africans live on less than 65p per day. There's a verse in Proverbs that seems relevant, 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of those who are destitute.' (Proverbs 31 vs. 8). I don't think people realise the power they have by just writing a simple postcard or letter.
It's made me aware of how richly blessed we are in this country and made me try to be more ethical in the way I spend my money e.g. by buying fair trade goods and not buying goods from companies with unethical business practises. It's also made me realise that I have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of those who can't.
You can help Tearfund by giving, praying, campaigning and by volunteering both here and abroad. They also have an excellent catalogue of fair trade gifts that make excellent Christmas and birthday pressies. You can find out more about Tearfund's work and how you can help on their website or by writing for a copy of Tear Times.
Tearfund have a catalogue of resources with booklets on world issues such as child prostitution, global warming and world debt from a Christian perspective plus videos, posters and resource packs for church services and fund-raising events.
There are many other brilliant Christian charities such as World Vision, and Aid to Russia and the Republics who work in a similar way to Tearfund, plus others such as Open Doors who help Christians throughout the world who are being persecuted for their faith you could also become involved in. It's wonderful to think in some small way I'm helping fulfil Jesus' commission to 'bring good news to the poor'.
Article by Simone Wilkins