Friday, January 10, 2014

Groundbreaking charity needs financial boost

Just before the last millennium celebrations, someone in Wales had a cool idea. 

In 1999, Dan Boucher, Evangelical Alliance Wales' then Assembly Liaison Officer, invited a number of churches and organisations to form an umbrella body for the Christian voluntary sector in the nation. 

Gweini was born - a collaboration between Cornerstone Church, Swansea, Evangelical Alliance Wales and Tearfund.

Since then, Gweini has established local groups across Wales, harnessing and mobilising Christian action in their localities. Through conferences and workshops, thousands of volunteers have been presented with opportunities of service and encouraged to reach out to others with the practical love of Jesus.

Reports and surveys have been published, revealing the extent to which local churches are working together to make a difference in Wales. Last year saw the publication of Power of Ten, how Christian collaborations are changing the face of Wales.

Gweini is at the heart of promoting and encouraging a wide range of programmes, from food banks, CAP and Street Pastors to local night shelters. Tens of thousands of residents in Wales are being cared for, kept safe and lifted out of poverty through the enterprising intervention of local Christians.

Amongst other highlights, last year Gweini hosted the Equipping the Church in an Addictive Society conference, showcasing how Christian charities are helping people deal with the effects of addictive behaviour.

A number of the speakers and participants spoke openly about their addictive histories and how personal faith and the help of other Christians had brought them through. 

It also gathered the expertise and support of specialists throughout Wales with a view to publishing a Manifesto for Wales. This will represent Christian perspectives to the various political parties in the build up to the next government elections.

But Gweini is facing financial difficulty and it's launched an appeal to raise money to continue its work. As a charity that is reliant upon the support of Evangelical Alliance of Wales.

The Reverend Elfed Godding, national director for Evangelical Alliance Wales is realistic about the current state of play.

"To be frank, Gweini's future is in danger. We are in great financial need at a time when the need for this work is greatest. Without the generous support of those who care deeply about a Christian voice speaking out in Wales' voluntary sector, Gweini's future looks bleak.

"This is a need that is close to my heart. Gweini is at the very core of the Welsh Alliance's vision and all that we are working for to give Christians a voice. Your generosity will enable us to speak directly into your communities by developing more local Gweinis, expressing across the Welsh constituencies all that Gweini is doing nationally."

In his impassioned appeal, Godding illustrates Gweini's role as it hosts a groundbreaking conference in January. One in three: the church's response to violence against women will be held on 28 January at Glenwood Church, Cardiff. 

The conference will help articulate a response to violence against women, which includes physical, mental and sexual abuse, whether this takes place in churches, homes, friendships or communities.

According to Christian charity, Restored, violence against women is as much an issue within the church as outside. It seems that the gates of the faithful offer no greater protection than anyone else's. 

In fact the faith community may create a conducive context for violence against women through promoting ideas of male headship and female submission.

This is only one reason why Gweini is so important to Wales and the UK. It takes on big, controversial subjects but in a tone of voice that is helpful, supportive and practical.

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