While many services were forced to close down due to lockdown, Reverend Andrea de Vaal Horciu and the team at Embracing Ministries found new ways to connect and engage with the vulnerable families they serve. In partnership with Anglicare, Oz Harvest and churches from the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, families isolated because of COVID-19 quarantine received safe and secure deliveries of technology to help them keep in touch with schools and health professionals, fresh food, medical supplies, toys and activity packs.
Embracing Ministries is a chaplaincy and pastoral care ministry within the Diocese which supports the inclusion, spiritual growth and discipleship of children and young people with disabilities and their families.
Reverend Andrea explained, ‘Many Embracing Ministries’ families were impacted by COVID-19 and were in quarantine – some sick with COVID-19. This has been a very hard time physically and emotionally for many families. The impact of this nasty virus on very vulnerable communities like ours is devastating. During the recent lockdown we helped at least 80 families with beautiful hampers of fresh food, entertainment, toys, gifts, special equipment and food. We are so grateful for the love, kindness and support that has been provided over this time – it has been phenomenal.
‘Throughout this pandemic, Embracing Ministries has had to adapt and learn how to provide pastoral care over Zoom or while wearing personal protective equipment. I have had to bless children in palliative care through a hospital window. As tough as this was, it was a wonderful gift to still be present and bring the love and peace of God to the most precious little ones in our community.’
Mel, one of these children’s mothers noted, ‘I have known of Andrea’s wonderful work since Charlie started school at Malkara and she has provided our family with kindness, advice and pastoral support. She visits him in hospital whenever restrictions allow, and he knows her affectionately as his ‘Andrew’. Unlike many others, our family is in a lucky situation with our informal and formal support networks – but still life is so much more enriched with someone who is always there to love us unconditionally and to check in.
‘When his health allows, Charlie participates in an amazing music program Andrea and Embracing Ministries runs; one of the only activities available in the community for kids with his type of needs.
‘Andrea provides intensive support to families with kids who have disabilities and may be experiencing crisis in their family. She provides palliative and end of life support to families who need it too – I feel very comfortable that when things escalate that way in Charlie’s life we will be reaching out to her.
‘Please continue to support Embracing Ministries and Andrea de Vaal Horciu in their work. Thank you to everyone who has changed lives for the better and supported this community with your generosity.’
Reverend Andrea especially wanted to thank everyone who had provided support, saying:
‘Our team gives a special thanks to Reverend Gaynor Elder for her support with a number of our families. Many parents in hospital with their children were unable to leave their rooms to even buy a coffee. They had to stay in the room alone isolated without a break or ability to breathe fresh air. During this stressful time, Gaynor was able to gift care packages and coffees to those isolated in hospital rooms.
‘This year could not have happened without a great deal of commitment and support from volunteers. We give a big thank you to St Mary in the Valley Anglican Church who offered cooked meals and helped with pastoral care for our families. Thank you to St George’s Anglican Church, Pearce, for the use of the physical space for setting up a specialist pantry. A big thank you to Archdeacon Paul Cohen for coming alongside me and helping with the load and offering St Simon’s in Kaleen as an ongoing place to operate the pantry while we continue to have families in isolation. Thanks also to Oz Harvest, who have donated food week after week, including picking up the tab several weeks running for our fresh food supplies.
‘We give thanks for all those who have supported, donated and helped care for our families. We thank all the churches and individual donors who have given equipment for children who could not otherwise have afforded these necessities. We thank Anglicare and the Stening Charitable Trust because without their donations we could not do the work we do.’
Andrea also had this message for our readers: ‘As our lockdown ends, the media have led us to believe that we would be at liberty to enjoy everything that we have missed but for many families this isn’t possible because COVID-19 can have a grave impact on their vulnerable family members. Many of these families are taking many precautions, staying in isolation, wearing masks and relying on people to be vaccinated to help them keep their family member safe. That’s why Embracing Ministries will continue to deliver its programs via Zoom.
‘I have been listening to parents of children with special needs, and there is so much uncertainty and fear around us – is it any wonder that cases of poor mental health have risen dramatically? We are aware that many of our friends, including those with learning disabilities, are experiencing anxiety, depression and more. We thank God that in Him we can find security, strength and peace. He is trustworthy in every way, regardless of what we are going through.
‘Many people today, as they did in Jesus’ day, seek money and fame. They define success as wealth and pay attention to the opinions of movie stars and those in power. Jesus’ way is more concerned with giving than receiving, humility rather than fame, and weakness rather than strength. He tells us that his provision and strength are enough for all of us. Jesus tells us we are all equal and introduces a way of life that stands in sharp contrast to the world around us. And frankly, I love it!
‘I am reminded of this amazing way of life daily in my work with people with disabilities at Embracing Ministries. There have been times this year when I was exhausted, and I did not think I could do any more. I reflected on each of the families and their children and felt an overwhelming sense of God’s love, a deep sense of God’s presence and love for every single one of them. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul paints a picture of the church as Jesus’ body. Jesus is the head, and all of us make up the different parts. He says all parts are important and have a purpose. Then he goes further and says, ‘those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.’ (1 Cor 12:22-23, NIV) What an honour it has been to provide this ministry in this difficult time.’
Please continue to pray and support this special mission of the Diocese.
by Reverend Andrea de Vaal Horciu