In an effort to counteract the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the Cook Islands, members of Avarua Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rarotonga have been opening their church hall doors to distribute free food, clothing, and household items to hundreds of families in their community that are struggling to make ends meet. For some families, Adventist volunteers distributed items 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,” a church member explained.
Operating under the title God’s Care Community Service (GCCS), Avarua church has so far run three GCCS programs: one in November 2020, one in March 2021 — both of which drew 250 to 300 people — and the most recent one on 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, residents 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, members of the Aravua church said they plan to run another two programs later this year, local church leaders reported. The Cook Islands Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has pledged financial support for these initiatives.
Aravua church leaders said that the purpose of GCCS is to build and nurture positive relationships with their community and church family. They added that they are also seeking to foster a desire in church members to share their faith in Jesus by giving to others, based on Jesus’ words recorded 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).
Cook Islands is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean that comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 91 square miles (236 square kilometers). According to Adventist Church statistics, there are 15 Adventist congregations in the islands with 981 baptized church members, among a population of 17,500.