More than 16 months have passed since the first confirmed Canadian case of COVID-19 was reported by Health Canada on January 25, 2020, and words like lockdown, isolation, and quarantine have become commonplace. We complain about the things we miss: the restaurants, hair appointments, shopping, and, yes, church gatherings. But for many Canadians, the effects of COVID-19 were far more severe.
For Mathias, life became much harder. Mathias lives in Igloolik in the territory of Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic. Igloolik has a population of 1,682, a median age of 20, a boil-water advisory, and only two grocery stores. Non-perishable food supplies arrive by cargo ship once a year. All other supplies must be flown in, an expensive proposition that takes weeks. And that was before COVID-19.
Unable to afford repairs to his home, Mathias has been living without running water for five years. One winter, he was unable to pay for fuel to heat the house. Many homeowners in Igloolik have similar problems. The high cost of food, fuel, and electricity makes it challenging to keep up.
Partnering with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada and Adventist Community Services from the North American Division, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Canada began a response immediately after the start of the first lockdown. In Igloolik, nine ADRA volunteers provided bags of frozen berries, soap, and C$100 (about US$83) food vouchers to 50 families in need, including Mathias’s. He also received a refrigerator, as he didn’t have one.
Mathias has started attending church programs. “I didn’t know that this was happening in Igloolik. I really enjoy the singing. It brings me happiness. One day I would like to visit the church down south.”
Almost 2,700 kilometers (close to 1,700 miles) south, another team works to fill and deliver grocery orders. As part of their COVID-19 response project, the Montreal Luso-Brazilian Seventh-day Adventist Church in Montreal, Quebec, designed an online form to reach the vulnerable within their community. Little did they know that their efforts would reach halfway around the world. Rodrigo Schammass, the volunteer project manager for the team, wrote:
“We had a family from São Paulo, Brazil, contact us after we published an advertisement on Facebook. The woman thought our project was to assist families in Brazil and filled our web form. Once we realized that she lived in Brazil, we contacted the local pastor near her home to attend to her request (emotional support). We talked to him, and he was so glad to help.”
Because of a simple act of kindness, one lonely woman is now connected to a church and a community. She attends services and is engaged in Bible study.
Altogether, across Canada, 9,132 volunteers undertook thirty-three projects involving forty-three churches and organizations and touched almost 35,000 lives.
“As COVID-19 continues to negatively affect Canada, there is still much work to do,” ADRA Canada leaders said. “Thankfully, the Spirit of God is always working, moving on hearts to meet needs and answer prayers.”