Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

The value of first-hand experience

This weekend we had a remarkable experience. Since 2001 I’ve had the privilege to go to Russia once a year to teach students at a Bible school in Samara, about 1000 km south-east of Moscow. The Bible school was started by an ex-teacher from South Africa who had the belief that God was calling her to Samara specifically to start a Bible school. In a wonderful way God confirmed this calling on her life and in 2000 she moved to Samara. She will now be returning to South Africa and forthwith the school will be run entirely by Russian people. For the past month the directors as well as the rest of the staff (nine people in total) were in South Africa to do leadership training and this past weekend the team came to visit us at our home. Over the years I’ve built wonderful relations with these people and it was really like family meeting each other again.
When I was in Samara earlier this year, I had the opportunity to share with them what I believe God has called us to do in Swaziland concerning the AIDS problem. Russia is also experiencing a huge problem with AIDS. In their case HIV is mostly spread through the use of drugs, whereas in Swaziland the problem is mostly caused by immorality. But the situation in Russia also differs vastly from Swaziland because of the enormous population of that country. If 400,000 people in Swaziland are infected with HIV, then it represents almost half of the population. If so many are infected in Russia, then the number is almost negligible – not literally, but just as a manner of speaking. So I shared the problem with the people in Samara, showed them photos and they prayed for the country.
Yesterday I took the group with me, divided them into two, with each group having someone who could translate between Russia and English and someone else from our church who could translate between English and SiSwati. (How often have you wanted to curse the guys who started building the tower of Babel? 😉
We went to two houses. The one group went to a house with a girl of around 40 who is nearing the final stages of AIDS, known as full-blown AIDS. I suspect that she is suffering from TB and I would be surprised if she still survives another two weeks. The other group went to a man who has developed Kaposi’s sarcoma which, in our experience leads to terrible sores on the lower part of the legs for which the only treatment seems to be amputation but which is rarely done as the life-span of a person in that condition is too short to justify the cost of the operation.
The groups spent some time in the homes, listening to what the patients had to say and praying for them before leaving. Last night, as we were all together for supper, they thanked me over and over again for taking them into that situation. I’ve said it many times before that its not nice to be in that situation, but it is necessary if people really want to understand what is going on with the AIDS pandemic. Up to a certain point one can do research on the problem in a purely academic way. But once you are exposed to people with AIDS, once you have touched them with your hands and prayed for those people, you can never really be the same afterwards.
As one of the Russians said to me last night: Now we really know how to pray for this ministry.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007 - Posted by | Building relations, Death, HIV & AIDS, Hope, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland

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