CONCEPT

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

appreciated before.

"His ritual served as the wake up call and as an invitation for members of her family to join her in prayer time."

Gagau

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."

Erika F. Puni

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.

Erika F. Puni
Director, GC Stewardship Ministries

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