- by Jody Kubo working with International Students in Power to Change
In April, we heard about a Christian couple who just arrived in Sydney from Nepal. The husband planned to work in order to support his wife as she studied towards a Masters degree in Public Health. They arrived with happy expectations—they didn’t expect a pandemic lockdown.
I called John and Jane (fictitious names). Jane said she had yet to set foot on her campus because of the lockdown and her husband couldn't find work. They were living in a cramped share-house and were still in need of basic items while struggling with cultural adjustment. Our team sent them a Care Pack.
Like other Power to Change ministries in Australia, our Macquarie Uni team began giving away “Care Packs” of basic food stuffs, face masks, sanitiser, and toilet paper. But by May, we were hearing stories about students who lost part-time jobs and were having trouble paying rent, as well as worrying about their families back home. A new believer in our ministry said that her dad lost his job in Sri Lanka because of the virus. Students are very stressed.
As good as Care Packs were, I wondered how we could help those who had larger needs. We weren’t a relief organisation that was set up to distribute money, but there had to be a simple way to help those with more substantial needs.
Then the idea came. “What if we used ministry funds to offer larger-amount grocery gift cards?” A free gift card could take care of grocery bills, freeing students to pay for rent with their regular grocery money. I sent an email to a couple of Power to Change leaders and got immediate approval. After a few of weeks to work out a system, Bread of Life Gift Cards was launched!
I called Jane to see how she and John were doing since we last talked. She said she found a restaurant job but customers and working hours were few. Her husband got a job with a delivery service but in order to work, he had to rent a bicycle plus buy bicycle insurance. Money was very tight. "Would a Bread of Life Gift Card help you?" I asked. Before I could finish explaining the concept, she said, “Yes! With a gift card, we could use what we usually spend on groceries to pay our rent.” Her words confirmed that this was an idea from God.
A week later, Jane sent this photo and note:
My dear friends in Christ I don’t know any of you personally but your love care and compassion for us in this new land and in new season of life has filled my heart with joy. When me and my husband arrived here in Australia in the midst of corona situation. Fourteen days of self-isolation and not being able to go out and explore really affected our physical and mental health. Less job opportunity also created financial burden in our life. But we are thankful that your kind and generous support has helped us a lot. We can now afford to buy our groceries which is very essential in this situation of crisis. I pray blessings upon your family for opening your hand to help people like us. Praise God for giving hearts.
As of this writing, more than $6,500 worth of Gift Cards have gone out to students from: China 1, Hong Kong 1, India 6, Malaysia 1, Nepal 9, Pakistan 1, Singapore 2, Taiwan 1, and Australia 1.
Nepali students at Macquarie Uni have a tight community. As we have given away BOL cards, Nepalis spread the word to help their student friends who are in similar financial need. Bread of Life has gone out friend-to-friend. International students are quick to express appreciation. Two of our workers got a home cooked meal as a way of receiving their thankfulness. While they learned to eat Nepali food with their hands, they got to share about a man named Jesus. The Good News is going out, friend-to-friend.
A non-Christian Nepali student wrote:
I am really thankful to your team and team members for your help and support during this critical situation. The gift card which I received from Power to Change was really helpful to me. With the help of gift card I was able to purchase grocery things which I needed. It has supported me financially in this critical situation. It has reduced financial pressure too. I really appreciate your work, support and care to needy international students like us. Thank you, Power to Change team!
An international student in Perth wrote...
"I have received the gift card from you and I would like to thank your generosity and concern for me during this time! It is hard but I believe God will always provide."
Bread of Life Gift Cards are available to international students in our Power to Change ministries throughout Australia and to local Australian students who are living away from home and doing it rough. God has opened doors that we could not. He is leading us into new communities that are starting to join our faith community.
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” Colossians 4:3