Tearfund

Tearfund

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It’s 1960. The Cold War is in full swing, John F Kennedy is elected to the White House and, for the 5th time, Elvis is number one.

It’s also a year when 40 million people worldwide are made refugees by war or disasters.

Coverage of the suffering sparks a spontaneous outpouring of compassion among UK Christians, who send money to the Evangelical Alliance and a fund is created to distribute the cash to evangelical agencies caring for the needs of refugees around the world.

Throughout the 1960s, the money keeps coming in and in 1967, so does a new face at the Evangelical Alliance, as former curate George Hoffman is hired to develop the fund’s work.

On 29 May 1968, George and members of the Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund Committee, meet for the first time, determined to marry Christian compassion with practical action.

Together they quickly establish a vision for the new organisation which is to be called Tearfund.
Powerful images, striking design and provocative messaging characterise publicity materials and propel Tearfund onto the Christian stage, urging a new, radical understanding of what it means to bring good news to the poor, caring for their physical as well as spiritual needs.

Young and old respond: ‘Would you kindly send the enclosed five shillings to the hungry. I am crippled with arthritis and cannot go out but thank God, at least I am not starving.’

Tearfund’s fresh outlook proves attractive to one of the UK’s most high profile Christians, pop maestro Cliff Richard, who in 1969 performs two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall raising money for Tearfund and goes on to become a long term supporter.

God’s provision for Tearfund’s development doesn’t let up as income grows each year and in 1973 it becomes a registered charity. By now 80 per cent of its aid is allocated to long term development projects, demonstrating Jesus’ love for the poor in tangible, sustainable and life-changing ways.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Tearfund is called to show this compassion repeatedly during some of the world’s darkest moments of disaster, such as the Cambodia refugee crisis.

In 1988 – Tearfund’s 20th anniversary – the first post dedicated to responding to disasters is created and over time pioneering new thinking emerges about how to help reduce people’s risk of being affected by disasters.

The establishment of a Disaster Response Unit follows in 1994. It’s a key milestone in Tearfund’s development, revealing an increasing desire to go the extra mile to provide help where it’s most needed.

Within six months the unit’s in action, responding to one of history’s worst episodes of inhumanity – the Rwandan genocide, where 800,000 people are brutally killed. Tearfund staff are sent to help thousands of refugees in Tanzania and Zaire who’ve fled the carnage.

The need for disaster expertise is underlined to deadly effect in the early years of the new millennium. In 2001 a massive earthquake strikes Gujarat in India killing 20,000 people and destroying 400,000 homes.

But the biggest test comes after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, where together with partners, Tearfund helps 700,000 survivors in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Somalia.

When a massive earthquake rocks Haiti in 2010, Tearfund once again demonstrates its determination to go to areas others haven’t reached and to stay for the long haul. Unprecedented public support fuels long-term reconstruction work, bringing hope to shattered remote communities.

Today Tearfund is among the UK’s top ten emergency relief agencies, commanding a respected reputation built on good practice and years of experience helping people in some of the world’s most challenging places.

God’s direction over Tearfund’s development can be seen not only in the provision of income and leaders with the right qualities at the right times, but also the new ways in which it’s responded to injustice over the years.

Speaking out and campaigning earns Tearfund a reputation for being a voice for the voiceless, here mobilising supporters about developing countries’ debt in 2000. This is followed by Make Poverty History in 2005 and the If campaign in 2013.

From the early years to the present day, sharing God’s love and whole life vision for humanity underpins Tearfund’s outlook, fuelled by the generous giving of supporters.

Long-term development remains at the heart of our work, building partnerships with local churches to increase their ability to bring change to poor communities.

As in 1968, so today, Tearfund is driven by God’s relentless love to reach those suffering in poverty and it’s by answering his call that we bring both material help and spiritual hope to the places of greatest need.

It’s proving a successful formula. In the last five years, 15 million people’s lives have been transformed, 67,000 churches have been envisioned, six million people supported following disasters and 100 policies at local, national and international level have been changed.

What hasn’t changed is Tearfund’s DNA. We’re still driven by the unending compassion of Jesus, still determined to bring life in all its fullness to people in the most extreme poverty.

Ours is a story of how the spirit of God has moved Christians to come together to tackle suffering and injustice, joining word and deed and creating a powerful movement reaching out where the need is greatest.
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05/03/2015
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