Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I have been away from any internet access for some time, and I am still in transition as I write this. I will be travelling to Kabwe, Zambia tomorrow to work with a Canadian short-term team. We are running AIDS education programs for HIV positive women, and a vacation Bible camp for around 400 it will be an amazingly warm Christmas for me here, filled with hundreds of Zambian villagers! We would love your prayers for the camp and the seminars...

and i appologize for being out of touch. i am jotting down thoughts and reflections in my notebook, and i promise to upload a slew (is that really a word?) of photos when I return to South Africa in early January.

so I pray that you all have a blessed Christmas season, full of turkey and goodness, with time to hug your families a lot. take time to think about the beautiful reality behind Christmas ... hope, peace, love and Christ. God bless.

grace and peace,

Friday, December 02, 2005

World AIDS Day

“Somehow I have to trust that God is at work in me and that the way I am being moved to new inner and outer places is a part of a larger movement of which I am only a very small part.” Henry Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus

to begin, I want to let you know that my next blog is going to be a day in the life of...i am going to follow one of my friends here and talk to you about them, what they like, favorite colours...just so you can put names and faces together and you can meet the cool Africans that I get to work with. they all went out for Christmas dinner tonight at this all-you can eat buffet. You have not LIVED until you have seen an African woman get dressed up to go out. Dang. They have got style.

also, i am going to do a post next week with just pictures. i can't get them to upload from this computer, so that will have to wait.

Thursday was World AIDS day. World AIDS day is not a huge deal in this part of Africa. The only mention of it was over the loudspeaker in the grocery store; a reminder to contribute your spare change at the check out in honour of World AIDS day. Most people are reminded constantly of the reality of AIDS. It is part of I mentioned before, people usually know 20 to 30 people who have died of AIDS. Instead, World AIDS Day is a day for people around the world to become aware that this disease may bring to bear the darkest days for Africa, for India, and for other countries impacted.

50 million people. This is the population of England. It’s also the number of AIDS orphans in Africa by 2010. The kids I am working with are all living with grandparents, who are also getting older and older. Basically something massive needs to happen in world awareness of the situation, and in terms of proactive measures to help these kids grow up…

I spent this morning at the clinic with the pre-school children from our daycare who are HIV positive (this is a photo of a little guy from the local refuge camp) . There were just 16 children who received their medicine and shots and such. I sat in the waiting room with the kids trying to tell them to sit on the bench in Siswathi, trying to hold the ones who fell asleep, and trying not to think about the reality that each and every one of these small beautiful children have a terrible virus raging in their veins.

For the first time in my life, I glimpsed something deep into the heart of God, the heart of God the Father Who sent His Son so that we may live…I can honestly say that I wanted to give my life so that these children could live. I felt so hopeless as I realized that few of them will live to be older than my brother Colin, and none of them will be as old as my 16 year old brother Cody.

I have begun to face my own smallness here. We have been with some critically ill patients, and I have no medical training and no life-saving medication to offer them. Instead, I am asked to pray at each home. Or to give them clean water to drink. The children we work with; I cannot even speak the language let alone help them to work through the pain that they have known. Instead, I encourage those who can help, the local people from the community who run the day care centers and after school programs. I bring them tea and help them keep track of the incredibly high-energy kids and give tons of hugs and love. I do all of this trusting that God will multiply…that one of these children will go on to lead South Africa, or that they will go on to live a positive life or more importantly that they will see my love as the love of Christ, and that someday they will know true peace.

The director of the organization, George, says that each of the international volunteers are merely the scaffolding that supports the local communities. In order to address the AIDS pandemic here properly, the change must come from within. The leaders of these communities must recognize the issues that lead to the spread of the virus, and community members must be mobilized to respond and to be a part of positive change…

So from this point on I will learn more about what it means to really trust…to trust that I am part of something greater. I am having to trust that the pain that I feel is only a microscopic portion of the pain that these situations cause God…I have to trust that He hears my prayers, our prayers, and that He desires to bless His children, regardless of race or creed or terrible disease.

I don’t have all of the answers yet about how to address this…I am merely reeling at the face of this virus. At the brevity of the task at hand…at the need for grace internationally, and generosity never before seen…there is a need for every single home in Africa to open its doors to these orphans and to give them the instruction and love and patience and guidance they need.

I feel like all of the statistics and news stories I have read over the years have come to face me this past little while. I pray that whenever you read this, wherever you are, you take the chance to pray for the children here, for the leaders of Africa, for the United Nations. To understand that this pandemic is posing challenges that can bring entire nations to their knees…take the chance to read something that will make you feel uncomfortable, consider coming to Africa to learn, let the situation here become personal, let these children remind you of someone who you love dearly. And with that incredibly long, run on sentence, I will close.

God bless.