News from Manna Gum
Having been 'commissioned' in March, we are now well and truly into the swing of things. We have appreciated the interest shown by many who have asked us how things are going. It seems like a simple question, but we have often been unsure how to answer - in a lot of ways it feels too early to tell as the big questions around longer-term viability will take time to clarify.
Perhaps the simple answer is that right now we are enjoying it immensely. We have been able to pursue the mix of work that is largely the reason behind the creation of Manna Gum, which includes: speaking and teaching about a range of issues to do with faith and economy, and especially what the Bible has to say; writing theologically for a broader Christian audience; raising awareness (through speaking and writing) about injustice in the poorer countries of the world and how this relates to how we in the West live; continuing to be actively involved in advocacy and campaigning around some of these issues (currently this is mainly in the form of the Save the Mekong Campaign); and working in partnership with friends and colleagues in other Christian agencies, churches and secular development organisations. This has been very satisfying for us, although it has also made clear that we will have to be careful about over-extending the breadth of our work.
From a family perspective, it has been a great blessing. Although our working hours have not changed greatly (about 3 days for Jonathan and 1 day for Kim), having our office at the Footscray Church of Christ, two minutes walk from our house, allows a lovely connection between work and home life while still providing space to get things done! How the ministry of Manna Gum integrates with our family life is of critical importance to us, because in large part it is what the ministry is about - the medium is the message!
Not surprisingly, the biggest question is whether Manna Gum will be financially viable. After an encouraging start, there have been few new supporters sign up in recent months. Luckily we have just secured funding for one of our research projects on aid (see p.9) that will tide us over for the next few months, but we will need to significantly increase our supporter base by the end of the year. Please see the financial appeal on the last page.
Kim & Jonathan Cornford
News in detail:
- The first activity of the Save the Mekong Campaign - the postcards and petitions - is drawing to a close, with the petitions to be delivered in person to the Thai Prime Minister on June 18. See www.savethemekong.org for more info. At the Australian end of the campaign, we are working on plans for a major Mekong photo exhibition in October, specifically aimed at encouraging the Australian Government to be more proactively engaged with Mekong Governments through the aid program.
- Manna Gum Bible Studies have been enthusiastically attended, and are now stretching our little lounge room to capacity: in March/April we ran Living with the Word: a six week series on reading the Bible with the Footscray Church of Christ; and over May/June have been running The Law of Life: A five week exploration of the treasures of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
- In May the Manna Gum Management Committee met for our annual retreat where we engaged in some very useful reflection, which included some fruitful planning for developing the Household Covenant ... stay tuned.
- Jonathan has been doing a few bits of writing on faith and economy for other publications, including the TEAR journals Target and Harambee, the Evangelical Alliance and Journey, the magazine for the Uniting Church in Queensland.
- In the first two weeks of June Manna Gum co-hosted evening talks on Cambodia: Development, Conflict & Transformation with the Uniting Church Justice & International Mission Unit and TEAR Australia. The speakers were Chris and Sam Baker-Evens from InnerCHANGE and Jonathan Cornford, discussing land conflict and hydropower development.
- We are just about to embark on two months of travel:
- the Cornford family is heading north, first to Brisbane where we will talk at a couple of Uniting Churches, the Waiter's Union in West End, and also to TEAR groups, and then to Townsville for six weeks. This has the combined purpose of visiting family and getting away to focus on some writing (we are lucky to have use of both a house and a separate office space for this time).
- in the middle of that, Jonathan will travel to Cambodia for a couple of weeks to undertake some livelihoods documentation work for the Save the Mekong Campaign. He will be accompanied by Glenn Daniels, who has volunteered his time and skills as a professional photographer to collect high quality images, which are always invaluable in any advocacy campaign.
- We have just secured funding from Oxfam Australia for a research project on the Australian aid program - the project, entitled How much and how good?, is an examination of the delivery of aid through international financial institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.