A Vision for a Sustainable Future
Representatives from 14 of the 20 MWF districts participated in the two-day meeting (apologies were received from six in recess). The Convention theme "A New Vision for a Sustainable Future" challenged MWF members to make plans for the next generation of young women who will lead the organisation into the future. The Convention also provided an opportunity for members to collectively reflect on how they have journeyed through trying times since they last gathered via Zoom in October 2020 at their virtual Special Council meeting.
Changes brought about by Covid-19, a diminishing number of women members and the closure of many MWF Districts mean we need to think differently. Covid-19 has created uncertainty, however we can contribute to certainty by offering clarity of our mission, vision, and the numerous roles we undertake. As an organisation we have never deviated from the founding concept of the forerunners of the Methodist Women's Missionary Union (MWMU) objective 'Women's work for women,' that highlighted women’s determination to set achievable goals in home and in overseas mission work in the early 1900s.
In the 1990s, NZMWF objectives were (a) To unite members in prayer, study, fellowship, and service, encouraging them to make a Christian witness in home, church, and community; (b) To support the work of Methodist and Uniting churches; (c) To encourage an informed interest in worldwide mission and evangelism. These goals encompass a mission for women serving God locally and globally with love and hope. The goals have served our organisation well and resulted in many positive outcomes as we have nurtured and encouraged women, giving them the confidence to move on in faith through being part of the MWF.
We are indeed a multi-cultural fellowship with members of many ethnic groups who share the same vision. However, the decline in membership numbers is an awakening sign for the organisation to look deeper into its current system of operation to check whether that structure still works in the 21st century. In handing over the reins of responsibility to our young women, it is time to discuss how they envision their future aspirations to move forward and progress NZMWF for the next 40 years. It is a call for a MWF vision that reflects a sustainable future for the organisation, supported by experienced and committed members.
We acknowledge that while our MWF Pasifika groups grow in membership numbers, the MWF European members are declining. We continue to pray for a way forward. Women can be encouraged to look into the best operational model to enhance growth and promote participation, connectedness, and fellowship as we share the same vision.
Influential in Many Ways
Our organisation is highly influential in representing women's voices and women's missions. We are fiercely independent and only seek extra funding from our members through fundraising to assist us in our Special Projects with the PWANZ partnership mission initiative. However, it is time to review this position as it is increasingly challenging to undertake meaningful projects without adequate resourcing. For instance, women are currently fundraising for the annual Special Project, and two ongoing national NZMWF events; the National Convention and the National Council. If women can be assisted with finding from MCNZ on those two annual events, then members can focus on Special Project fundraising, or vice versa. The National Council and the National Convention can then be a platform for MWF women members to meet annually to discuss, plan, and report on matters that hold the organisation together and to develop a vision to attract younger women to be involved.
Additionally, I want to emphasise our relationships with other non-government organisations like PWANZ, PWW, NCW, and our work at international (WFMUCW), District, and local Fellowship levels. All women have fought long and hard to gain equal rights, and we now need to ensure these fundamental human rights are shared evenly between every woman in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The UN CSW motto of ‘leave no one behind’ has become more relevant today than ever before.
I thank all our members for their care and support of each other in this difficult time, their churches, and fellowships, and for how they have put into action our themes: Proclaiming Life and Hope – for women and children" (2019-2021); To Know Christ and to Make Him Known (ongoing), and A New Vision for a Sustainable Future (theme for Convention 2021). These themes become a reality shared through newsletters, Touchstone issues and e-Messengers. Members have been encouraged to share their faith stories proclaiming life and hope in Knowing Christ and Making Him Known.
One of milestones achieved In March 2020, just before the first lockdown, was the opportunity for the NZMWF to host the South Pacific Area Leader's Weaving Together programme in Auckland. Presidents from the seven nations;– Australia, Samoan, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and New Zealand- attended, along with Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau'u.
Special Projects 2020-2021 MWF collected a total of $40144.02 shared equally.
- Trish Murray from CWS presented an update on the The Palestinian Women and Children. special project.
- Jo Eve, Rebecca Judd and Kerry Mitchell, from St John’s Ambulance presented an update on the local St John’s Special Project.
Special Projects for 2021 – 2022
- CWS has chosen Fiji with a theme of Family Wellbeing for women and girls in response to the impact of Covid-19.
- The Anglican Trust for Women and Children (ATWC) is the local project. Judy Matai’a, CEO for ATWC reported on the organisation and the services they provide for women and children.
The Grant & Scholarship Committee
Three Grant and Scholarship Funds - Smethurst, Kurahuna, and Friendship – continue to provide financial support for women and girls in their studies, including students from Trinity College. Smethurst funds support the Solomon Islands to help the Helena Goldie Hospital. Funding is also sent to the World Federation to support other units and the Helen Kim Scholars.
A highlight was an update from the Methodist Alliance National Coordinator Carol Barron who reported back on a 51-year old MWF legacy that continues to make a difference to children’s lives. An initial sum of $28,000 raised in 1970 for a unique "Money Tree" objective has grown to more than $200,000. The Family Support Funds, managed by the Methodist Alliance, continue to help deprived, disadvantaged and gifted children to achieve their potential, where parents do not have the financial resources to ensure that outcome.
The Convention programme included:
Guest speaker presentations from Rev Jill Van de Geer, Past President and Past General Secretary, MCNZ
Past President MCNZ and Director Mission Resourcing Rev Setaita K Veikune led discussion on the Book of Esther.
Conducted by the Chaplain, Rev Lute Pole Tu’uhoko and some members of the National Executive.
A new programmes initiated by the younger members of the NZMWF attracted 70 attendees to listen to guest speakers Rev Tara Tautari, General Secretary MCNZ; and Mataiva Robertson, World Secretary WFMUCW.
Reports from the 14 Districts
The Convention concluded with the Commissioning of the incoming President, Tuituivao Stephanie Salevao, and her National Executive team from the Mafutaga Tamaitai Sinoti Samoa District (MTSSEMNS) from Auckland. I shared the Reflection as Outgoing President. The programme included the Tributes for the MWF Executive Women who had gone to be with the Heavenly Father.
Farewell and Thanks
As we come to the end of our term as the National Executive, we thank everyone for the many messages and prayers of support and encouragement that we have received. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Executive Committee 2019 – 2021 for their commitment, dedication, support, encouragement, and prayers over the past three years.
Our Auckland-based team and supporters are Siniva Vaitohi, President, Rev Setaita K Veikune; Silila Kilikiti, Vice President, Rev Lute Pole Tu'uhoko, Chaplain; Tiulipe Pope, World Federation Correspondent, Tu'ipulotu Finau; Vaiolupe Talakai, Secretary Iunisi Vaitoh,s Distributing Secretary; Amelia Hoglund, Treasurer, Barbara Maile; Vaimoana Manukia, National Council of Women, Kalolina Hafu; Seniola Vea Williams, Liaison and Cultural Link, Ika Vea; Rev Siutaisa Tukutau, Diaconate Link, Rev Nehilofi Aholelei; Dr. Seini Taufa Helu, Missions and Media, Valeti Finau; Anga Taka, UCANZ Liaison Link and Uila Pulu. It has been a privilege for us all to represent our Tonga District members in this leadership role.
When we embarked on this MWF journey in 2019 as pairs of supporters, buddy, and co-workers none of us imagined that a global pandemic would engulf the international community and that the whole world would be put on halt as we embraced new norms like social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, masks, Zoom meetings, Livestream and podcasts, and having to bury our loved ones with only a handful of family members allowed to attend in person. Adapting to new ways of doing things has challenged us all as a team to explore new methods of connecting with one another and with others.
As a Team of 2019 -2021, we were called to be here in this time and only God knows it all and in God alone we put our faith and trust! Faka'apa'apa atu, 'Ofa moe Lotu