8 September, 2020
“God has placed in my heart the desire to help international students, since I have also been a student in other countries, and I know it is not easy,” says Pastor Yimi Duarte of Brisbane Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church. “Due to the pandemic many students were left without work and because they do not have residence or citizenship here in Australia, they do not have any help from the government.
“In partnership with our local church members, we [connected via] social networks like Facebook and began to discover that there were several students requesting help to eat.”
Pr Yimi initially connected with ADRA Logan Community Centre to seek out help for these students who were struggling. “[ADRA Logan] never denied me anything, on the contrary, they offered us more help than we needed.” Food hampers were delivered to students on the Gold Coast, and Brisbane Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church is currently supporting 19 students.
“Everyone was very excited to receive the aid,” says Pr Yimi. “They have sent me messages of thanks and several have called me crying to say thank you, stating that they had nothing to eat and did not know what to do. The day I went to drop some food for a lady she said to me: ‘Are you a real person or an angel? I did not have anything to eat, and I was very sad asking God to help me and immediately I received your call.’ When she came out and saw me outside with the market bags, she start to cry and she asked me: ‘Who told you that I needed food? God, she was saying, He definitely loves me’.” Her story is one of many that have shared similar experiences.
In the wake of COVID-19 the Brisbane Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church started requesting support from church members to continue this ministry, and several members responded to the call. The service operates on Sabbaths to connect with students who are struggling. On the first Sabbath they were able to support 16 students, and the following Sabbath this increased to 40. Pr Yimi shared that he didn’t know how they were going to feed them all, but God provided.
At the last count this local church is supporting 90 international students in Brisbane. The students come on site and line up on marked spots to ensure safe social distancing and then they are given their food hamper. They are also offered emotional support, which has touched some deeply. “Several have mentioned the desire to come to church as soon as services begin again and are happy to know that there is a Latino church for them in the area…once again…my ministry is not only to preach from a pulpit, but to follow the ministry of Jesus: feed people, healing and preaching. There is no greater satisfaction than being a blessing to others.
“Personally, I have never worked so closely with ADRA, but this time has made me love that ministry with all my heart. I see that our church is very complete. ADRA, for me, are the hands of Jesus to feed those in need. To provide a pastoral ministry that meets both the physical and spiritual needs of the community is a great blessing. I am proud to be a Seventh-day Adventist. Praise God that what seemed to be a problem, God has transformed into a blessing…may God bless and multiply the resources.”
Written by Pr Yimi Duarte, edited by Dr Irena Pule for Focus Magazine