2020 Watchword for Unity Women’s Desk:
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:16
Click HERE for WORD File - or PDF with NO PICTURES
What are Moravian Sister-Educators teaching during the Pandemic?
At the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, scripture says, “and He began to teach them.” (Matt. 5:2) And then came the beloved Beatitudes! Jesus didn’t browbeat, guilt, or shame people into a new relationship with God. He taught them. Moravians were some of the first to see the value and necessity of educating women, a tradition that remains today. We know that it is one of the best ways for women to escape poverty. It is a means by which women and girls are empowered to stand up for themselves and justice. It fosters economic self-reliance and stability. And it is an investment in the community as a whole.Today, 58 million primary students are not in school. Half of these are girls, and 75% live in sub-Saharan Africa. World-wide, this means 1 in 5 eligible girls are not in school.Education changes lives. It makes all other jobs possible. How can we be a part of empowering our sisters?
Education for girls and women is a top priority of the Unity Women's Desk. Currently over 90 girls and women are receiving UWD scholarships. Some are attending primary or secondary school; some are earning certificates or diplomas in everything from theology to accounting. Many are also working toward university degrees in law, theology, education, community development, nursing, environmental sustainability and criminal justice. Remember all these women in your prayers, as well as those who are not able to attend school and earn the education they desperately need.
Remember especially girls who are the victims of child-marriages. This takes place in numerous provinces of our Moravian Unity and requires our special prayers and strategy for responding. For these girls, scholarships to attend secondary school are the best option to avoid this violation of girls' human rights. .
South Africa: Teaching love at home and in community.
Sister Sambone of South Africa shares her thoughts on the emotional stress of being an educator, mother, and minister's wife during COVID-19 Lockdowns.
Greetings in the wonderful name of my Lord Jesus Christ. I am currently employed under the department of education, married to a Moravian minister, and mother of 3.
At my school, kids depend on government subsidies in almost everything involving school. When the President announced that schools be closed by March 18, 2020; it was like a nightmare because there are families headed by children who are scholars. They receive food supplied at schools to take care of their siblings. The biggest challenge for me in quarantine was wondering: “how are they going to survive now? Where will they get food?” Now staying at home and having something to put on your own table, you end up not even enjoying it, for you know there is a child crying to another helpless child.
Now as a mother at home, it’s total shut-down. My children are 13,15 and 18; life was full of siblings teasing each other, quarrels, whereby you need to mediate. Even the usage of the television needs to be time-tabled, if one program is longer than the other, then it is also a problem. If they play outside, how safe is it? So indoors was enforced.
Now as the minister’s wife, there are challenges. The minister has different prayer times, council sessions, services and making sure the congregations meets the quota. Many people are not technological, and these times needs high technology communication which is difficult for many congregations. No visits to elders were allowed. When a member passed away, the minister had to be part of the funeral and return to his own family. The whole situation comes with full on stressors which affects the whole family. A man can’t handle stress, it is where you as a mother you have to cool all down.
Sr Buyiswa Sambane is the National Secretary of the Moravian Women’s Association in South Africa, an Educator and the liaison person for EMS, Germany.
Leading Preschools in Cuba
Top: Pre-pandemic (Feb 2020) (L) Sister Yadira Quintana began 3 Moravian preschools in Guantanamo, Cuba to serve neighborhood children and their families. She writes: "Hello! God bless you and keep you. From Guantanamo Cuba, I send our fraternal embrace in Christ to you. Our Moravian Church has several nurseries where we care for and educate preschool-age children so that their parents can work." Pictured Top Right: staff and professional consultants at a celebration of this important ministry during a visit sponsored by the Armando Rusindo Foundation that has partnered with the Moravian Church in Cuba in this ministry.
Lower Left: "These children are from rural areas where they pray a lot that there is no more COVID in the world and they can join their school." There is also a preschool in Guantanamo affectionately called: THE MORAVITOS. (R) Back in the classroom after lockdown. Pastor Barbara Escalona also runs a Moravian nursery in Camaguey to serve neighbors of the first Moravian congregation in that area.
Advocating for North Carolina Children in Public Schools
Rev. Suzanne Parker Miller is the director of Pastors for NC Children (P4NCC), a nonprofit organization mobilizing faith leaders and congregations across North Carolina to support children through supporting public education. We are one of 9 states in the Pastors for Children network. P4NCC educates clergy and congregations about why educational equity and justice for all students in NC matters to people of faith. "Justice is what love looks like in public" according to Cornell West, and we believe that working toward justice for students is an important way to love our neighbors as Christ calls us to do.
Pastor Suzanne spoke at a Press Conference held by the NC Association of Educators (NC's largest teacher union) outside the NC Legislature on September 2, 2020 to call on the NC Legislature. Because of the lack of funding for adequate nurses, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and support staff in schools, schools are left without the people and support staff to open safely. For anyone in NC, we encourage you to check out EveryChildNC.org and join in our work to #LeadWithLeandro.
Nepal - Teaching primary students virtually -
and modeling Christian love in concrete ways.
Rev. Vani Pradhan, Director of the Moravian Institute writes:
"Our academic session finished in mid-March, followed by nationwide lockdown from 22 March. Little did we know that the Kindergarten and our grade school (Shristi Academy) would have to embrace an entirely new method of teaching and learning. By mid-April our academic year started, regardless of whether we were ready or not. Since then there’s been no looking back as virtual learning began for classes Nursery to Grade 5. We have completed 26 weeks of online classes and teachers have definitely come a long way leaving behind their comfort zone like, books, boards, markers, charts and most important their class room full of “Real” children. To be honest, it has not been easy, but the Grace of God has been more evident now than ever before. For which we are very grateful.
As educators we realize that even if the whole world shut down to be safe from the virus, teachers could not stop being teachers. The children’s education, their socio-emotional well being and the need to connect with their friends and teachers could not be halted. Education institutions have a very big responsibility towards the children, the future of our nations. The challenges are many as parents and teachers adjust to the “New Normal.” But we are thankful for God’s provision to be able to work and sustain our staff.
We are very grateful to the Unity Womens’ desk for the scholarships provided for three girls. Phoebe Maharjan in LKG, Grace in Grade 5 and Diya in Grade 8. They are all blessed to be able to be learning online and all of them are doing very well. We are also very thankful for the prayers and support from our Moravian brothers and sisters from around the world. Please continue to lift up the education ministry here in Nepal."
The Moravian Institute Facebook page also shares other ways administrators are caring for their community: "Beyond our work as an institution that seeks to provide the highest quality of education to its pupils, Moravian Institute has also contributed to the country’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 and its adverse consequences. Through a Compassion Fund set up by Friends and Well-wishers, in April, Moravian Institute donated to the ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund,' purchased essential food and necessities, and distributed hundreds of cloth face masks to NGOs, fabricated in its Handicraft Centre.
We hope that each one of us can act responsibly and contribute positively, in any shape or form, as we work towards overcoming this crisis together."
Star Mountain in Palestine adapts to ever-changing circumstances.
In an interview with Mission 21, Director Ranya Francis Karam shares an update on Star Mountain, close to Ramallah, Palestine, during COVID-19 times. "Since the 1980s, the center of the Moravian Church has been supporting disabled children and young people by providing them with educational and professional qualifications...During the lockdown period in March and April, our rehabilitation workers and teachers created groups on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to maintain communication with our students and their parents. Different training videos were developed to follow up the rehabilitation and educational process as well as raise their awareness on how to protect themselves from the Coronavirus. As the Palestinian Government eased quarantine measures in May and June, our rehabilitation workers conducted home visits to 40 students with intellectual disabilities and their parents to check on their needs and maintain the rehabilitation process. In June we reopened our facilities following all safety and health protocols. SMRC students were very happy to return to the center being the only place (especially during the current situation) where they learn and enjoy their time with their friends and teachers. Yes, when there is faith everything can be achieved even during dire times. At Star Mountain we want life to be a life of faith, love and hope. We work to make the Star Mountain “a city on a hill that can‐ not be hidden” (Matthew 5:14–16).
Keeping children safe in primary school classrooms in Germany.
“I am Susanne Gärtner and I am a teacher in a Primary school in Bielefeld (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). The school start in August was very hard for all for the teachers and children. We got many of strict tasks for hygiene…Now our teaching and learning is different before corona. We are not allowed to mix the classes. We have to wear mask all the time.
During the breaks the children have to wear them on the playground. Except when the children are sitting on their chair they can take it off. I have a first degree now and they are learning the alphabet. But with mask it is very hard to hear the different between “b” and “p”…so when I am in front of the class I take the mask off so that the children can understand me better. But when I go through the class I have to take the mask on. But unfortunately some people in their free time don`t care about the roles and recently we had a big birthday celebration somewhere in our town. And the consequence of it was that six schools have pupils with corona…that is a big deal to find all the contact persons…
I am happy to teach in school again and see the children every day. My hope is that all people stay patient and follow the rules: distance – hygiene – mask!”
Tanzania: Supporting education across continents and generations.
In 1967 Sister Elisabeth Preiswerk (Top Right) of Switzerland headed off for Tanzania. One of her students was a young Rachel Lwali (Lower right - holding grandbaby). Sister Rachel writes: "Sister Elisabeth was a missionary and dealt with women's activities. She also taught Christian Education at Schools. I was blessed to enjoy her teachings while I was in Tabora Girls Secondary School. Then in 1995, Sister Elisabeth sponsored Women Provincial Coordinators at the Unity Synod in Dar es Salaam, and we participated in singing and drama, and delivered our message before the Unity Synod as Moravian women. Elisabth Preiswerk was behind this memorable event! God bless Sister Elisabeth and keep her! She really lifted us as women."
In 2019, Sister Rachel Lwali became the Unity Women's Desk as the Africa Region Advisory Board Member, where she has continued helping girls and women in the Moravian Church. She helps them apply for scholarships and loans and works to empower them through educational opportunities. Three of the student scholars she has helped support (lower left) attend the Elisabeth Preiswerk Girls Sec. School in Ifakara, named for Rachel's former teacher. The school's director (pictured in orange, top left) Tukupasya Kasisika has worked closely with Rev. Erica Ludela (same picture in blue) who was the main force behind starting this school in 2019. The school has worked closely with Herrnhuter Missionshilfe and the Moravian Church in Tanzania Eastern Province to overcome financial challenges in the early years of this school. Please pray for all the students, teachers and friends of this important ministry. Remember also the Kisanji Girls' School in Tabora, Western Tanzania.
YOU ARE INVITED! Share your voice! We want to learn about women and girls in YOUR province and we are grateful to those who shared their thoughts with us this month.
Please share pictures and your thoughts, especially on the following subjects: November Unity Women's Voices: Gender Based Justice. How do congregations or groups work for Gender Based Justice? How do you work to support Women's Human's Rights? How have you worked to stop violence against women? Please share with us! Please sent to UWD office by Nov 15. December: How is your congregation or community celebrating Advent, Christmas and New Year's in 2020? Please send to UWD office by Dec. 20.
The Unity Women's Desk works to connect women and resources throughout the Unity and empower them to work for justice as God's hands and feet on earth! We are planning the next Unity Women's Consultation: Sept 2022 in North Carolina. Please continue to pray for Coordinator Julie Tomberlin and the members of our Advisory Board, Rt. Rev. Blair Couch, Rev. Erdmute Frank, Sister Muriel Held and Sister Rachel Lwali, as well as our Sub-Desk and Provincial Coordinators, our Secretary Sister Liz Venable and Treasurer Sister Jean Richardson.
We want to share voices of as many different women from as many provinces as possible. If you don't see your province here, it's because I haven't been able to visit you and get pictures! I invite Sisters in all provinces to send in updates, needs, concerns, praise, and yes --- PICTURES PLEASE (with names, date, location and a description of the picture). Please send anything I can share here or on Facebook or our website! PLEASE SEND IN ANY CORRECTIONS to this and previous issues -names, dates, events...people not named. I will correct them for our archive and our website.
Deadlines for new scholarships, projects and loans:
Nov. 1, 2020, Feb 1, 2021, May 1, 2021, Aug 21, 2021, Nov. 2021