Becoming the hands and feet of Christ (3)
I live in a fairly small town with probably about 6000 people in the town (not counting the outskirts). I also live in a very small and quiet street. I would say that the three people in our town most interested to really make a difference about HIV/AIDS are all living less than 100 metres from each other: I would like to consider myself as one of the three, then my neighbour living directly across the street from me and a Zulu medical doctor, living two houses from me. My friend living across the road from me also did some writing about AIDS, one of his documents which can be downloaded here. I an attempt to find a way forward, I decided to organise a conference on AIDS. I invited both of my neighbours to join me at the conference, the doctor obviously addressing some of the medical issues while I addressed some of the theological issues. My across-the-road neighbour was asked to do the opening for us, which he did excellently by paraphrasing the story of the tax-collector and the Pharisee in the temple, but changing the word “tax-collector” to “AIDS sufferer”! This really touched the audience.
I also invited someone who had been involved with home-based caring for many years to speak at the conference. After lunch we broke for group discussions and the answer was clear that we should become involved in home-based caring. My impression at this time was that God was really spoiling us and it seemed as if things were happening so smoothly. I guess we really needed the encouragement!
One of the things that happened on this day was that, after we had decided to start with home-based caring, I reminded the people that we cannot move into the community without following the right procedure. Now, the Swazis know this better than I do: When you want to start with a project like this, you have to go to the chief of the area and inform him of your intentions. This will then be discussed at a meeting where the members of the community are together. Usually permission will not be denied, but it is just proper protocol and tradition that all of these things have to be done through the chief. All the people agreed that we need to follow this route. Now, I can assure you that I am not someone for meetings like this. This can take a whole day! If a meeting is scheduled to start at 10 am, then the first people will start coming at 10. And then for the next two hours or so people will still be coming. Eventually things start, but it does not mean that your issue will be first on the agenda. Then they will break for lunch. After lunch the meeting will go on until they discuss this issue that you are interested in. I’ve attended a meeting like that only once – nowadays I delegate others to attend such meetings! But I realised that for this occasion I would have to go myself. And then, the next moment, an old man who had also attended the conference raised his hand to speak. He told us that the chief was no longer alive. He was present, representing the deceased chief and we have his full blessing and permission to continue with the work. What a relief! I just burst out with laughter. And so it came that we decided to have a second conference, a few weeks later, to discuss detailed plans on the way forward.
This conference is documented here.
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