Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) partnered with local churches in Brisbane, Australia, over the weekend of May 2-4 to assemble 112 food parcels for locals in need, with a focus on assisting international students and others who have lost jobs and can’t afford basic necessities.
Irena Pule, ADRA director for South Queensland Conference, put out a call to churches across Brisbane for volunteers to help assemble the parcels. More than 40 people responded—mostly youth and young adults, but representatives of all ages—from eight different churches. They called themselves the ADRA South Queensland Care Crew.
“It was a way for local churches to connect and to be involved with ADRA in a special way during COVID-19,” said Pule. “I just thank God for the opportunity to serve and that churches responded to the call.”
The ADRA South Queensland Care Crew worked hard on Saturday night and Sunday to pack grocery items into parcels. The initiative was made possible thanks to support from ADRA Australia, ADRA Eight Mile Plains, and Vital Connection (an ADRA project) in partnership with Foodbank. In addition, a pallet of products was donated by Sanitarium. Church members also turned up on assembly day with carts of groceries to include in the parcels.
“We’ve given away 72 already—to international students, migrant families, and families who have been laid off from work or are waiting on Centrelink [a government program] payments to come through—so there’s a few more to allocate,” said Pule.
Ray Moaga from Harvest Community, Springwood Samoan, and Browns Plains Samoan Adventist churches volunteered to help pack the parcels, and said it was a positive community atmosphere.
“You don’t have to have money to give; you can give your time,” he said. “A whole bunch of people who don’t attend church were messaging us, asking how they could help. It was almost like an accidental outreach and recruitment of people I wouldn’t expect to put their hands up.”
The weekend outreach was held to support Brisbane Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church who has already been distributing food parcels to international students struggling to make ends meet during COVID-19.
“I got a call from the Spanish church’s pastor, Yimi Duarte, asking for help.” Pule explained. “His church was supporting international students, some of whom were sleeping in their cars.”
“We distribute food parcels from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday,” added Duarte. “The first week it was 16, then 30, then 65, now 90. They just don’t have enough food. So many students don’t have work at the moment and they are really thankful.”
The goal of the weekend wasn’t only to boost the number of food parcels available for struggling international students, but also to help locals, some of whom may be out of work for the first time ever, feel comfortable asking for support.
“There’s a lot of stigma around asking for help,” shared Pule. “It’s a foreign thing for people who have worked their whole adult life. It’s difficult. Giving needs to be relevant and actually meet needs. When we respond to that need, Christ says we are directly ministering to him. We’re feeding him with these parcels.”
Thanks to the Brisbane Spanish Church’s food parcel ministry, Duarte says that some students are seeking Bible studies.
“I went to give food to one group of students on the Gold Coast and they asked me to pray for them,” Duarte shared. “Recently, after I gave Bible studies to one of the students, she said, ‘I was wondering why I came here from Colombia--what my purpose was. Now I see it is finding my Salvation.’”