Courageous Leadership Award
Well, the presentation ceremony is over for the Courageous Leadership Award and we received the second prize. Actually, it was decided not to distinguish between the second and third place so two churches shared the second place. We were the only “front-line” church to be nominated for the award, while the other two churches were both “resource” churches situated in the USA and assisting churches in Africa (Kenia and Lesotho).
Each of the three finalists were asled to share in four minutes what they were doing. Following is a copy of what I had said:
To stand here today is certainly one of the greatest honours I’ve ever had in my life. I’m just sad that you will not be able to meet the real heroes of Shiselweni Reformed Church Home-Based Care – the 350 volunteer care-givers, who give their time, their energy, often even their own money and food, in order to help the sick and the dying within their own communities in Swaziland.
Working as a missionary in Swaziland since 1985, I have spent a lot of my time doing research on AIDS. And then, one day, God convinced me that I would need to do more than merely researching the AIDS problem if I wanted to make a difference in Swaziland. I had to get out of my office and into the homesteads of people living with HIV and AIDS and I would have to do something practical. Not long after this, in July 2005, while travelling on a bus, God created a vision in my mind for our church in Swaziland, the vision that we had to become the hands and the feet of Christ in each of the communities within which the church was situated.
When I started sharing this vision with our church members, a miracle happened. For the first time since moving to Swaziland, I wasn’t challenged with the question how this could be done without money. For the first time nobody asked what salary they would get. Somehow they realised that, in spite of their own personal circumstances and their own poverty, they could make a significant difference in other people’s lives. Approximately 67% of Swaziland’s population live on less than 45 US cents per day. Of the 350 people presently involved in our church’s home-based caring program, virtually every single one of them fall into this category. I realise that it is entirely impossible for you to imagine the circumstances in which they live. And yet a group of people stood up and volunteered to become part of a program to go into the homes of people, even worse off than themselves, to serve them, to do the most basic things, such as fetching water from the river, washing the patients, in many cases, where the people have lost control of their bodily functions, changing their diapers, sharing food with them and in general doing what we believe Jesus would have done had He been living as a Human person in Swaziland today.
Regularly I am asked what we need to do this work. The home-based caregivers, in spite of their own poverty, are doing this work without receiving any salary at all. And I’m not convinced yet that the payment of salaries is the answer. We definitely do not want people doing this work because they are being paid to do it. I believe that the success of this project can be attributed greatly to the fact that the caregivers are driven by the love of Christ to reach out to the sick and the dying. But there are certainly things that would make their task easier. Basic medical supplies, access to healthy food and items such as clothing and blankets can all help the caregivers to make an even greater difference in the lives of the more than 1000 people we are already helping. But possibly more than anything else, we need personal interest in the work. We need people to come to Swaziland, to see the effects of AIDS and to hear from God what He wants them to do.
If you are willing to sit down with the people of Swaziland, listening to their hearts and their stories, I believe that God can create partnerships that could eventually play a significant role in bringing hope to a country in which hundreds of thousands of people have already lost hope. God isn’t asking you or me to do miracles. Doing miracles is God’s work. Becoming the hands and feet of Christ in our various communities is our work. What we need is people who can help us to do this even more effectively in the future.