Adventist Record, with Adventist Review staff, South Pacific
Birthday cake, balloons, and laughter punctuated 50th-anniversary celebrations for Asian Aid, a Seventh-day Adventist supporting ministry that sponsors the education of children and young adults in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
But as guests rejoiced over Asian Aid’s sponsorship of more than 6,000 children, they also expressed concern that much work remained to be done.
“Our biggest worry is Nepal, where they are bringing in all the anti-Christian laws,” Helen Eager, an Asian Aid donor for 49 years, told 100 people gathered at the Avondale Memorial Church in Cooranbong, New South Wales, last weekend.
The president of the Adventist Church in Nepal warned in August that the authorities have started to restrict evangelism under a national Constitution approved in September 2015.
Eager, who was recognized by Asian Aid board chairman John Hammond as “a living treasure,” said she was determined to keep on supporting the organization’s work.
“Somehow the people need to know there is a God who loves them,” she said. “That’s my biggest burden.”
Asian Aid — which is based in Wauchope, New South Wales, and has a branch office in the United States — was founded by church member Maisie Fook after she saw an advertisement in a magazine inviting people to sponsor a child in a developing country.
“She loved the idea and wondered if it could be done through the Adventist Church,” according to an account published on Asian Aid’s website.
In addition to sponsorship programs, the organization now provides assistance to blind and deaf schools, communities without clean water supplies, Nepalese women affected by uterine prolapse, destitute widows, and the impoverished.
Fook’s husband, Dennis, was presented with a citation at the 50th-anniversary celebrations. Maisie Fook died in 2002.
“Asian Aid started in our hallway at home,” Dennis Fook said.
“After Maisie came back from visiting South Korea after the war, the vision was just to help disadvantaged children, and now it’s grown to so much more than that,” he said. “All along God has led, guided, supported, and that’s why we are here today. The blessings are not only for the people who receive, but also for the people who give.”
The celebrations included live music, a panel discussion on education with Asian Aid staff, life membership awards, and a 50th-birthday video from sponsor children.
Several interactive stations were set up around the room where guests could visit a prayer booth, see artwork from Asian Aid children, make a curry spice mix, and read about the lessons that Asian Aid has learned over the years.
Keynote speaker Deepak Chauhan spoke about the inequality women and girls face in his homeland of Nepal and thanked Asian Aid sponsors for connecting communities.
“When working in Nepal, I never knew where the humble ideas and the money came from,” he said. “But thank you from the people who are thinking and hoping for a better life. They have that because of you.”
Looking to the future, Asian Aid chief executive Richard Greenwell said it was important to remember why Asian Aid exists.
“One thing stands out, and it’s the children,” he said. “Jesus really valued children and put them at the center of His ministry here on Earth. We want to nurture children, not just in the education sense but support them toward fulfilling their God-given potential.”
Dennis Fook credited God for the organization’s longevity.
“The main point is that it’s all God’s work,” he said. “When Jesus comes, I believe there will be many people ready to go home because of the work of Asian Aid.”