December 13, 2018
By Will Postma
I look forward to Christmas.
Twenty years ago we were living in Bangladesh. At Christmas time, we went rickshaw carolling, decorating each of the bicycles with whatever red and green materials we could find in the local shops. With friends, including British Counsel at the time (funnily enough named Harry Potter), we organized a traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols for the community – outdoors in upwards of 40°C heat. As Christmas approached, a local family brought in livestock to welcome visitors to their makeshift inn and manger. A trumpet rang out, an angel proclaimed the good news of great joy. The year our son was born we were asked to play the roles of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus.
For our last Christmas in Bangladesh, now with two young children, we visited with the family of one of our staff and their church community on the very northern border with India. It was quite an entourage as we picked up others along the way who were also going “to the village” for the Christmas celebrations. For the last five kilometres or so, we got out of our cars and busses and traveled again on rickshaws. My staff’s brother loaded up a toilet on another rickshaw, so as not to inconvenience us, he said. Our Christmas church service was all night, then all day, a remarkable time of fellowship and memories.
This year was my second full year with PWRDF. It is a special year for PWRDF as we celebrate 60 years since establishing a funding mechanism at the time of Springhill mine collapse. In 2018, it has been encouraging to meet an incredible number of PWRDF supporters, as well as former board members, national committee members and staff. There are many memories and, for me, a reminder of so much investment by so many people over so many years.
I met Joan, for example, a parish representative for 30 years in the Diocese of Niagara. Her smile lit up the church basement where we gathered after the service to watch our 60th anniversary video featuring volunteers Dorothy and Leah Marshall, their community and sheep farm in Alberta, and snippets of Leah’s visit to Tanzania in 2017 as part of a PWRDF delegation.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and remember the proclamation to Mary that the good news of the birth of Jesus would be of great joy for all people. But in many parts of the world, such as Yemen, South Sudan, even Bethlehem, the suffering of women and men is the making of others. I can’t help but think of Bangladesh again. PWRDF has supported development programs for many years in the country where our family celebrated six Christmases, but in 2018, PWRDF supported a relief effort for the more than 900,000 Rohingya living in refugee camps. They are subsisting on a very small space in this already densely-populated country. The several thousand who were selected to be repatriated to Myanmar in the past months do not want to go back ‘home’ for fear of further repression or persecution.
Our anniversary continues until mid 2019, when we recognize the approval by General Synod in 1959 to create what would become PWRDF. When the General Synod agreed to create PWRDF, it was with this mandate: “to share our resources with others in distress.” It’s a prescient reminder, a strong encouragement and embracing kindness to share the Advent message of hope, peace, love and joy, each bringing us closer to the birth of the Christ child. We will continue supporting Diocesan events, sharing resources, working and speaking out for justice, equipping our partners, listening to and engaging our many volunteers.