In an effort to counteract the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Cook Islands, members of Avarua Seventh-day Adventist Church (Rarotonga) have been opening their church hall doors to distribute free food, clothing, and household items to hundreds of families in their community who are struggling to make ends meet. For some families, items were distributed to their homes.
“The closing of our borders has meant that some of the people in our community that work in the hospitality and tourism industries have not been able to work, or their hours of work have been reduced… thus causing challenges for some families,” explains church member Strickland Upu.
Operating under the title “God’s Care Community Service” (GCCS), the Avarua Church has so far run three GCCS programs: one in November last year, one in March this year—both of which were attended by 250 to 300 people—and the most recent one on Sunday, May 30, which assisted 104 families.
Thanks to generous donations from Sanitarium Australia, financial support from Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown’s support office, and donations of food and household items from local church members, attendees were able to take home boxes of non-perishable food items, clothing, shoes, linen, kitchen utensils, tableware, basins and buckets, electrical appliances, and cleaning materials.
Looking forward, the Aravua Church plans to run another two programs this year: one on August 29 and another on November 28. The Cook Islands Mission has pledged financial support for these programs.
The Aravua Church says the purpose of GCCS is to build and nurture positive relationships with their community and church family and foster a desire in church members to share their faith in Jesus by giving to others, based on the verse in Matthew 25:35–36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (NIV)