A COVID-19 assistance plan set up for Seventh-day Adventist institutions in the South Pacific region will support mission offices struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The plan was approved by the South Pacific Division (SPD) boards during quarterly meetings in early June 2020.
SPD CFO Rodney Brady said a number of missions have been adversely affected by a reduction in tithe and offerings due to the economic fallout of COVID-19, leaving some struggling to pay pastors’ wages.
“Other missions have not been materially impacted at this point, but we don’t know what the impact will be over the months ahead, so the plan has been designed to cope with a situation well beyond reductions currently being reported,” Brady said.
Unlike in Australia and New Zealand, no government financial support is available to employers in Papua New Guinea and Pacific countries that experience a downturn in income.
“It is better to have a funded plan that is more robust than having to keep adjusting,” Brady said. “As I look across the SPD, the impact on tithe overall is not as much as many thought it might have been when COVID-19 started to impact economies and churches closed in many countries. We need to give God the glory for sustaining His church.”
To cover the assistance plan’s cost, there will be a redirection of 2020-21 SPD strategy funding, a reduction in general appropriations, and the withdrawal of some existing funding approvals. Any unused strategy funding will be returned to the strategy budget, however.
“This is the benefit of our church structure, where we can shift resources to support areas of need when times are tough or to assist growth in prosperous times,” Brady said.
Maveni Kaufononga, president of the Trans-Pacific Union Mission, based in Suva, Fiji, welcomed the SPD’s support.
“We really appreciate this initiative from the SPD to assist us financially during this crisis,” he said. “It will help to sustain our workforce and direct us to stay focused on God’s mission. This act of generosity makes the theme of the recent SPD Sabbath, #weRtheCHURCH, a reality.”
As part of the COVID-19 assistance plan, the SPD boards approved an allocation of AU$654,000 (about US$450,000) to support Avondale University College, which is facing financial challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. With students moving off campus, Avondale has had a loss of income for its dormitories, cafeteria, and other facilities, but it still has the cost of maintaining those facilities.
The SPD Property Trust has also implemented strategies to financially support Sydney Adventist Hospital, which experienced a loss of income due to non-urgent elective surgery restrictions implemented by the Australian government in response to COVID-19. Those restrictions have now been eased.