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 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.