STEWARDSHIP - MINISTERING TO ALL PEOPLE
By Erika F. Puni
My understanding of stewardship was expanded to a large degree because of the influence of two special people in my life. The first was was my grandmother, Gagau Uelese, who had not always been blind, but she was the whole time that I knew her. Apart
from this physical challenge, Gagau lived a “normal” life. She contributed
fully to family and community activities.
Growing up, I learned many lessons about life from her. The second
person of special influence was my brother, Enesi Puni. When he lost his sight
it changed not only him, but our whole family. These experiences opened a new
area of stewardship ministry for me that I had not fully understood nor
"His ritual served as the wake up call and as an invitation for members of her family to join her in prayer time."
GAGAU UELESE - A MINISTER OF PRAYER
My most memorable
time with my grandmother was during the years when my parents were away on
their second term as Adventist missionaries. For the next four years I lived
with my mother’s sister, Fiapai Matau. Often on the weekends, my Aunty Fiapai
and I would travel by ferry to see my grandmother. I enjoyed these visits a lot because it
provided an opportunity for me to get to know
my grandmother better.
What stood out for
me during those visits, was the fact that
my blind grandmother was the first person in her household to wake up
early every morning. From inside her mosquito net in her open family “fale”
(Samoan word for house), she would start singing a Christian hymn which was
followed by a long prayer. This was her
daily routine and by doing so, she was leading out in the family morning
devotion. This ritual served as the wake
up call and as an invitation for members of her family to join her in prayer
time. She was a devoted Christian with a
commitment to prayer. This was her
ministry and legacy.
ENESI PUNI - A COMMUNITY LEADER
"The way he lived affirmed that special needs people can minister and are capable of giving back to their communities."
Enesi was a trained
pastor and served as an Adventist minister before losing his sight later in
life. The ministerial training and his love for study of the Bible was crucial
to Enesi’s life after he lost his sight. I remember very well the first time we
became aware that Enesi’s vision was gone.
It was devastating to all of us but especially to his wife and children. The family’s supportive response, however,
was very important to Enesi, for it reminded him that he could still be useful
despite the blindness that had brought a major change to his life.
As an extended
family, we assisted Enesi and his family relocate to Auckland, New Zealand,
where he was able to receive better support and services from government and
non-government organizations for his blindness. To ensure that he would
continue to have access to study material, we registered Enesi with different
entities that provided audio books and other resources for the blind. On his
own initiative, Enesi enrolled himself in different courses and educational
programs offered in Auckland. He received training in Braille and communicated
by email with us on a regular basis. In the last few years prior to his death,
Enesi was enjoying a good quality of life with his family, and actively
participated in the life of his local church and community. He was a certified
Samoan translator working on contract with different hospitals in Auckland, and
he was a registered marriage celebrant. The way he lived affirmed that special
needs people can minister and are capable of giving back to their communities.
STEWARDSHIP AND MINISTRY TO SPECIAL NEEDS GROUPS
My experience with
my grandmother and brother has helped me to think of blind persons as a special
people group with particular needs. These are individuals whom Jesus loves, and
came into this world “to seek and to save” (Lk. 19: 10). “The Spirit of the
Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:18, 19). These personal
experiences of living and growing up with family members who were “blind” has
created a new awareness in me about my personal responsibility as a steward to
these and other special needs people in the world. Ministering to, and with,
special needs persons must be part of Christian stewardship and the wider
mission of the Church.