Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Death – the inevitable result of AIDS

In an attempt to minimise stigma, I find that many people who work with others who are HIV+ or have full-blown AIDS, are reluctant to speak about death. “AIDS is not a death sentence!” we are told and in a certain sense I do agree with this. There are people who have become HIV+ twenty years ago and who are still living productive lives. There has been a great advance in the effectiveness of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and this medication, linked to a healthy lifestyle could mean that someone who is HIV+ could live a long and healthy life.
Alas, this is not true in countries like Swaziland. ART is available, (unless if the government runs out of medication, which happens every now and then, which means that for a few weeks people have to live without taking the lifesaving medication). Many people starting ART have to stop using the medication when the expense of travelling to a clinic outweighs the advantage of using the medication. And test after test have shown that ART needs to be linked to a healthy diet for it to have a long-term effect on the person with AIDS.
In rural areas in Swaziland this is totally out of the question and with the exception of the few who are earning good salaries, even those who live in one of the larger towns in Swaziland where products such as fresh fruit and vegetables are available, do not have the resources to buy these products. This means that the majority of people who are on ART, have no choice other than to eat maize porridge (the staple food of Swaziland) – which is not unhealthy under normal circumstances, but which does not contain enough vitamins and other micro-nutrients essential to stay healthy while the person carries the HI virus.
Regular readers of this blog will know that we started with a home-based caring project in the southern region of Swaziland in 2005, where volunteers are trained and equipped to take care of the people in their communities who are too sick to look after themselves anymore. For more information on this work, you can go to http://www.swazimission.co.za/English/aids.htm
We have developed a fairly simple report form which each of the 400 volunteer caregivers fill out every month. The 12 groups which we have trained, each have a coordinator who then fill out another form, based on the report forms of the group’s volunteers and then I compile a single report from these 12 forms. I’m not all that interested in reports, but the way in which the form was developed, it is possible to see with a single glance where problems exist, how effectively we are working and also what is happening within the community.
I was wondering today how many of our clients (we prefer to speak of “clients” rather than “patients”) are dying each month. The number of clients are not stable, but on average we have about 1400 people whom we are caring for at this stage (about 3.5 clients per caregiver). To get this number in perspective: A medium to large congregation in South Africa may have around 1400 members. In a normal congregation of this size, there may be one or two funerals per month. But things are totally different in our case. In July 80 of the clients died. In August 54. September 54. October 60. November 29 and December 48. That’s 325 people who died in six months. That’s almost as many people that can travel on an Airbus A300! And this is happening only in 12 small communities in one region of Swaziland. What about all the other communities in the region where we are situated? What about the three other regions in Swaziland?
This is the ugly reality which we need to face. And we can try and be politically correct and tell our clients that AIDS is not a death sentence. Or we can face up to the reality and inform people of the horrible truth and assist them in making vital changes to their lifestyles (being tested, going on ART if they qualify, taking vitamins daily, eating healthy food if available, ensuring that they do not become re-infected with another strand of the HI virus, etc).
Every once in a while we receive reports about breakthroughs which may be coming in the treatment of people who are HIV+. I don’t get excited about these reports anymore. The harsh reality is that I believe that we are losing the battle against AIDS. And the number of people dying is proof to this fact.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 Posted by | AIDS, Death, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Poverty, Stigma, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment

When a missionary’s support falls away

Probably one of the most traumatic experiences a missionary can face, is to be informed that his or her support is going to be terminated. It is my guess that this will be happening again as the impact of the global financial crisis starts having greater effect on the income of missionary organisations and churches. Over the past week or so, I’ve received three messages from missionaries or mission support organisations, all mentioning that dark days may be lying ahead. Things like a global financial crisis or a depression are more or less out of the control of the church. I was reading a post today of someone who described how their church had kept on sharing their funds in spite of severely hard times that they went through. People who make faith decisions like this need to be honoured. It is also understandable that individuals who had supported missionaries in the past, may now be faced with the harsh reality that they need to decide whether they will continue with their support or not.
I do not know of a single missions organisation that do not need financial support. Long distances that need to be travelled, the harsh circumstances under which most missionaries are working amongst people who more often than not are themselves barely surviving, the lack of proper schooling, sicknesses and many other issues have the result that finances are needed to support those who are working as missionaries. When it comes to the point of support, I can think of a few things which need to be kept in mind if the work has to continue over an extended period of time.
First of all I think that it is not wise for one individual or one organisation to fund a missions project on their own. Supporters lose interest. Financial circumstances change. A variety of things may occur which makes it impossible for the individual or the organisation to continue with their support. What happens if the supporter dies unexpectedly? What happens if the supporter’s source of income falls away? If a potential supporter is convinced that a missions project is from God, then they need to discuss it with other partners and get them to invest financially in the project in order to establish some form of sustainable support.
Secondly, new projects need to be considered prayerfully and not emotionally. Now, this works both ways. I’ve seen many a project being started due to the convincing arguments given by a missionary. But if such a project is from God and the supporters are truly living in a relationship with God, then God himself can convince the supporters to fund the project. Gather people together to hear whether the new project is really from God. But the argument also has another side to it. I’ve seen many a missions project stopped because the supporters or supporting organisation used equally emotional arguments why the project could not be started. Sometimes a new project has to be started as a leap of faith. As long as we are convinced that it is what God wants us to do, we need not fear to take the next step.
Thirdly, supporters need to realise that they are working with people’s security when they make decisions about support. I once attended a meeting in advisory capacity where the future support of missionaries working in Asia was discussed. The congregation was not going through a particularly tough time, but they did need to do some renovations to their own property. They then suggested that the missionary’s support be cut by 50%. I had trouble to control myself, asking the meeting where they wanted the missionary and his family to cut on their own budget. Their rent was fixed. Water and electricity was fixed. School fees for the children were fixed. The only place where they could cut, was on their monthly groceries. By cutting their subsidy, this family was effectively being told to eat less if they wanted to remain in Asia. The sad news is that the cut was approved. The good news is that individuals then started supporting the family with even more than the reduction in the subsidy.
Financial support for missions is an extremely sensitive issue. I am aware that some missionaries misuse funds. But on the whole, most of them are stretching the funds to cover much more than would ever be possible on the home front. Whether you want to start supporting a missionary or whether you are starting to feel the pinch and considering to withdraw your support, don’t do it without seriously praying about this and discussing options with Christian friends you trust.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Posted by | Church, Dependency, Giving, Mission, Mission Resources, Missionary Organisations, Partnership, Poverty, Prayer, Support teams, Sustainability, Tithing | 9 Comments

Facing up to the AIDS situation in Swaziland

I started working again this week, after a few weeks of rest. At a conference hosted by HEARD, which I attended last year at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, I was privileged to meet Prof Robin Root, associate professor at the Baruch College in New York, in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She has been working on the topic of the role of faith-based organisations in the fight against AIDS in Swaziland for some years. After we met in Durban, I invited her to come and visit our home-based care project in Swaziland, which she did, and at the moment she is back in Swaziland to continue her research. Not only has she been interviewing the coordinators of the different home-based care groups (twelve at the moment), but she has also been visiting some of the clients who are being supported by our caregivers.
So this was a long introduction to speak about a situation we came across on Thursday. Before we entered the home, the specific caregiver working at the homestead warned us that the client is in a bad shape. Oh boy! Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. This man was lying on a very thin mattress on the floor with the most grotesque sores on his feet imaginable. (I’ve seen something similar before and a doctor told me that it was most probably Kaposi’s sarcoma, a type of skin cancer caused by the herpes virus.) What does one say to a person in this situation. He cannot walk, because the huge tumours are covering the soles of both his feet. He has been taken to a rural clinic for blood tests to try and determine the cause of the tumours, but the clinic either lost the blood sample or they lost the report (I’m not sure which). He lives in a house without running water and without electricity. As we sat with him, he was using a rag to try and chase the flies away from his feet! Furthermore, he is living in severe pain, but the local clinic was only able to give him the weakest form of pain killers available in Swaziland.
As we left, I said to Robin that we should try and imagine a similar situation in the USA. Had anything like this happened there, the patient would have been hospitalised. He would have received medication. Most probably the tumours would have been surgically removed. Once he returned home, he would have had access to medication which would at least have kept the symptoms under control. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and whatever else was prescribed by the doctors would have been available to assist this person to lead as normal a life as possible.
But in Swaziland this will not happen. At the moment he has no other future, except to wait for his inevitable death.

Saturday, January 17, 2009 Posted by | Africa, AIDS, Culture Shock, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Swaziland | 4 Comments

Living on $1 a day

Well, if any of my regular readers thought I’ve been very quiet over the past few weeks, then the answer is “Yes.” And if you think that I’m very lazy, then the answer is “Yes!” I’m actually on leave at the moment, and although we’re at home, I’m trying to do as little as possible and appreciating every moment of it.
But as 2008 is coming to its end, I decided to publish one more post, for two reasons: One is that the topic is important to me and secondly: This is my 300th post since I started blogging and I wanted to post this before the year runs out.
Eric Bryant, author of Peppermint-filled piñatas which I wrote about here, recently published a post which immediately caught my eye: Eating for a $1 per day in the USA. It’s about two teachers, Christopher and Kerri, who decided that they want to determine whether it is possible to survive on $1 per day (the amount which is described by the World Bank as living in “extreme poverty.” You can read more about their adventures on their blog: http://onedollardietproject.wordpress.com/
I was touched by what they had done and immediately wondered if I would be able to convince a number of my friends to do the same. Perhaps we could make some kind of statement by doing this. And then I thought about this some more. The reality is that I’m working in Swaziland within a community where it is calculated that 60% live on less than 45 cents per day! Furthermore: from this money they not only have to buy food (which is difficult enough) but they also have to pay for transport, medication, clothes, school fees and much more – something which the people who took part in this project did not need to do. Christopher and Kerri also had access to discount stores where they could buy in bulk – once again a luxury for most people living in rural areas in Swaziland who have to make do with small stores within the rural communities and which are extremely expensive.
But then, the most important thing: After a month the two teachers could return to their “normal” way of living (although I’m sure that they would have made some changes after this revealing experience). In Swaziland, living in extreme poverty, trying to make ends meet with hardly any money, is the “normal” way of living, day in and day out, month in and month out, year in and year out.
Perhaps we all need an experience like this, if only to make us aware of the plight of the people in the poorest countries in the world. But we need to remember, (as we all recently had our Christmas dinners and in a few days time will sit down to a feast to celebrate the coming of 2009), that there are millions of people in the world who have no idea what it means to have three meals a day.
My wife teachers mathematics and computer science at a highschool and was engaged in a debate with one of the learners some time ago. She tried to convince the learner that it is wrong to make decisions based purely on the financial implications of the decision. Specifically the discussion was about an occupation and my wife said to the girl that it is better to have an occupation in which you are happy, even though the salary may not be the best, rather than working for a big salary but being unhappy in your work. And this girl made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she disagreed with my wife. When my wife asked her why she felt so strongly about this, she replied: “I can’t imagine how it would be not to wake up each morning wondering whether you will have food to eat that day!”
What Christopher and Kerri did, is commendable. I salute them for doing this. But this is not reality. This is something of a “Survivor” game, after which it is possible to return to a normal way of living. I’ve seen reality, and it is truly heart breaking.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Culture, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Swaziland | 2 Comments

My World AIDS Day Church Service

Today is (or was, depending on where you live on the time zone) World AIDS Day. Churches are encouraged to devote the Sunday before or after 1 December for this cause. I was preaching yesterday in a church in South Africa and made full use of the opportunity to devote the entire service to the AIDS issue.
I took my Scripture reading from James 1:19-27 with my main focus on the first part of verse 27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”
I then proceeded to show an AIDS Photo montage which can be downloaded, free of charge from http://www.willowcreek.com/grouplife/aids_day.asp
As introduction to my sermon I used a parable which was once told by the Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard. There are a number of versions of the parable, but the one I used goes like this:
Imagine that geese could talk, Kierkegaard once said, and that they arranged things so that they too could have their Church services and their worship:
Every Sunday they would assemble together and a gander would preach. The essential content of the sermon was the exalted destiny of the geese, the exalted goal for which the creator had destined geese (and every time his name was named all the geese curtsied and the ganders bowed their heads). With the help of their wings they could fly away to far countries, blessed countries, where they really were at home; for here they were just like exiles. And so every Sunday. Then the gathering broke up, and every goose waddles home.
Then the next Sunday off they went to the service again, then home again. That was all. They throve and grew fat, they became plump and tender… that was all. For while the sermon sounded so exalted on Sundays, on Mondays they would tell one another of the fate of the goose who wanted to take his destiny seriously, with the help of the wings the creator had given it. And they spoke of the horrors it had to endure. But they prudently kept this knowledge among themselves. For, of course, to speak of it on Sundays was most unsuitable, for as they said, in that case it would be obvious that our service would be a mockery both of God and of ourselves.
There were also among the geese some that looked ill and thin. Of them the others said, “You see, that’s what comes from being serious about wanting to fly. It is because they are always thinking of flying that they get thin and do not thrive, and do not have God’s grace as we do. That is why we get plump and fat and tender, for it is by God’s grace that one gets plump and fat and tender.
(This also motivated the theme for my sermon: Do you want to waddle or do you want to fly?)
I then asked someone with whom I had arranged beforehand to give a short testimony of what she had seen and experienced in homes where people are living with AIDS.
In the second part of my sermon I spoke about the widows and the orphans, in Biblical times and then also in modern times. I ended this part of the sermon with something that I realised as I had been reading Jeremiah recently in my personal devotions, that God was angry with the prophets and the priests, some of whom were actively involved in exploiting the widows and orphans, but He was also angry with the “good” prophets and priests, because although they themselves did not exploit the widows and orphans, they refrained from speaking out against it!
I then showed a short clip from the excellent South African movie “Yesterday”. If you haven’t seen it, beg, steal, buy or borrow a copy! It is available on Amazon.com as well as Kalahari.net. I showed the part where Yesterday goes to a clinic to be tested for HIV. Then I asked a Swazi woman to tell the congregation how it feels to live with HIV.
In the next part of my sermon I spoke about the fact that the church in general still seems to live in denial of the enormity of the problem of AIDS and that the situation calls us to act. I also included the words of Helder Camara, a priest in Brazil who once said: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” We need to address the reasons why AIDS is such a huge problem. Is it just by chance that the countries most affected by AIDS are the poorest countries, the countries in which the greatest discrimination takes place against women, the countries with the lowest education level?
My last video clip was The hidden face of AIDS, which can also be downloaded, free of charge, from Willowcreek’s website. There is a shorter and a longer version. I used the shorter version.
I then ended by asking those who had come to church whether they were going to waddle back home or whether they were going to fly home, because they had decided not only to listen to the Word of God, but to DO what He wants them to do.

Monday, December 1, 2008 Posted by | Africa, AIDS, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Movie Review, Poverty, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Theology, Worship | Leave a comment

Celebrating the gift to serve

In my life, I’ve been involved in a number of discussions on the gifts of the Spirit. Mainline churches are usually accused that they do not give enough attention to the gifts while other churches are accused that they only emphasise a few spectacular gifts, such as the gift of healing, of speaking in tongues and driving out of demons. Usually, somewhere in the discussion I’ll ask why we don’t make much more about the gift of serving. When Paul writes in Romans 12 about the gifts of the Spirit, he says in verse 7: If it is serving, let him serve… (Not surprisingly, that remark usually ends the argument!)

I’m still waiting that one of the well known evangelists stand up one day and inform the audience that he/she has received a gift for serving and that anyone who needs to be served, should come forward!

This past Saturday I experienced something like this. After our church had received the Courageous Leadership Award for our home-based caring project in Swaziland, I had been looking for an opportunity where I could get the entire group of caregivers together to show then the trophy we had received and to honour them for the unselfish work they are doing. At last our opportunity came when we were able to organise a celebration function on Saturday. Of the 380 caregivers presently in the project, 350 arrived by bus, by car and by taxi. We had rented a school hall and by the time everybody had turned up, the hall was packed. A few people were asked to speak and in between the existing eleven groups which are part of the home-based caring project came forward – some to sing and some to do a short drama to demonstrate how they are working in the community.

My wife summed it up very well when she made the remark afterwards that she looked at the group and was absolutely amazed to see how happy they are. At one point I spoke to the headmaster of the school (who is an elder at our church and a close friend of mine) and told him that there is no way that I would do this work, if I had to do it for money. And I thought to myself that maybe these caregivers truly have received the gift of serving. I can give no other logical explanation why they would keep on doing this work, without receiving a salary, often taking the little food they have in their homes (most of the caregivers live in extreme poverty and a number of them are HIV-positive themselves) to share it with their clients, and still be happy to do it.

Swaziland’s Minister of Education also attended the function. He had actually come on behalf of the Minister of Health, (a friend of mine) who was unable to come and then asked his colleague to come on his behalf. The Minister of Health had no idea what the work was all about and while the groups were singing, he kept on asking me questions to get more information, as he was supposed to give a speech and had no idea what to talk about! (I wasn’t really worried – Swazis have a gift to speak!) But as the morning progressed he kept on telling me that he could not believe what he was seeing. He just could not believe that people would volunteer to take care of the sick and the dying, without being paid for the work.

When we were through and we had had lunch, I could barely contain my emotions. I look at the church of today and see how they struggle with deep theological questions. And then I look at these people, content with what they have, with no concern at all about the deep theological questions church leaders are discussing, merely doing what they believe God has called them to do. And, as far as I can see, they are much happier than most Christian leaders I know.

Monday, November 24, 2008 Posted by | AIDS, Celebration, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Poverty, Swaziland, Theology | 3 Comments

Manipulating people into giving money for mission

I’ve said it before: I struggle to come to terms with missionaries manipulating funds from people in order to support their mission. Yesterday I received an email from someone that I don’t know within a mission that I know nothing about. The only time I hear from him is when they are in dire need of money. Freely translated, the email says the following: “Please pray with us that Father will provide and will bless our bank account at XXXX bank, account number XXXXXXXXXXX with R1720.85 (Rand – the South African currency) for essential reparations which need to be made to the mission vehicle. The reparations cannot be postponed and must be done as soon as possible. Also praise the Lord that HE will provide for the reparations.”
My emotions see-sawed between fury, indignation, frustration and disappointment after reading this.  Most mission newsletters do speak about their needs. I have no problem with this. On many occasions people have said to me that they do want to hear about specific needs so that they can find means of providing what is really necessary. From time to time someone would ask me for a bank account number. But I’m getting sick and tired when I feel that missionaries are trying to manipulate others in giving money to them by taking them on a guilt-trip. Looking at that email my first question is: Make up your mind. Do you want us to pray that God will provide the money or do you want us to give the money? I would probably not even have had a problem if they had sent out regular newsletters to a number of prayer supporters with whom they have some kind of relationship and then to contact them with this special need. But asking that we pray that God will put the money into their account! I feel that I’m being misused.
I know a great number of people reading this blog are missionaries themselves. I would like to hear from those who are not missionaries but who feel obliged to support missionaries: How do you want to be approached when there is a specific need in some ministry? Do you want to be asked directly? Would you rather that God indicated where He wants you to get involved? Do you ever pray about where God wants you to give your money?
Help us, who are full-time missionaries, to understand how people feel who support missionaries.

Thursday, November 20, 2008 Posted by | Giving, Mission, Poverty | 16 Comments

Spreading the gospel in a flat world

I’m in Cape Town at the moment attending a mission conference hosted by WENSA (World Evangelisation Network of South Africa). The great thing of attending a conference like this is to find people from a great variety of organisations and churches, all focussed on the same mandate given to us by God to spread the greatest news throughout the world. The fellowship is also great – meeting up with people who have just been names before, having time to share stories and it was also great for me to have people come up to me who had heard of our work amongst people with AIDS in Swaziland, interested to hear what we are doing or looking for ways in which we can network.
The theme of the conference is: “Stepping up our efforts in a world that is flat” and included some really excellent presentations, one being a plenary session held by Diane Vermooten on communicating effectively in the Global Village. As I was listening to her, and knowing in my heart that she’s speaking the truth, I was also wondering about a few things.
She spent time in speaking about the advance in technology over the past few decades. The point she was trying to make (with which I totally agree) is that the world is advancing into areas that could never have been imagined a few years ago but that the church is often still in a mind frame dictated by the world of thirty or forty years ago. I’m all for change and I firmly believe that we will have to adapt to the changing world if we want to reach people with Christ.
But she then said something which I thought deeply about last night. She gave the example of a group of twelve / thirteen year-olds attending Sunday School. The Sunday School “teacher” was trying (unsuccessfully) to keep the kid’s attention by using a flannel board, this, while the kids had access to the best multi-media available through which they did their learning and they were bored in Sunday School. Then she said that if the church wants to reach the youth of today, they will need to spend money to obtain the best electronic equipment so that they can compete with the media the kids are exposed to in the world. And it was at this point that I started questioning what she was saying. Is it the task of the church to compete against the world? I’m all for making use of new technology in the church, but I’m not convinced that we are going to win people for Christ merely by making use of better technology.
Furthermore, vast areas of Southern Africa are living in extreme poverty in houses without electricity, without running water, often with only a few meals per week. I was shocked when one of our caregivers told me some time ago that they went to visit a homestead where, early in the afternoon, the whole family was sleeping – not because they were tired, but because they were so hungry that to sleep was the only way in which they could forget about their own hunger. Can it be justified that certain churches spend millions on improving their multi-media equipment while members of other churches are dying of hunger?
And it is within this context that I’m questioning what she says, because for millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa multi-media is not an issue. If you don’t even have electricity in your home (or in your church for that matter), you don’t have running water and you don’t have food, then the best multi-media equipment just seem to become irrelevant.
We should do whatever we can to spread the gospel, but I have an idea that there are certain boundaries which need to be determined of how far we should go. But I don’t have an answer yet where the boundaries are.

Thursday, October 23, 2008 Posted by | Mission, Poverty, Swaziland, Theology | 2 Comments

Using Volunteers instead of full-time Workers

I was the guest speaker today at the annual general meeting of a drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation centre in South Africa. As the public was invited to attend the meeting and a group of government appointed home-based caregivers were specifically invited to attend, I was asked to speak about the principle of serving the community as volunteer – in other words, not doing this service for a salary.
In our ministry in Swaziland we make use only of volunteers. The Swaziland government as well as the South African government, have appointed a number of home-based caregivers, known as Health Motivators or Nomphilo (SiSwati for “Those who give life”). But the impression I get is that the systems in both countries are not very effective. Although they are supposed to be motivators, they themselves often seem to be unmotivated. And while I will never try and give the impression that every one of the 380 caregivers linked to our ministry are always motivated, I do think that on average they are achieving considerably more that the government people, in spite of them not receiving any compensation for this work.
The question is why this is happening. And then I often think back to the words of Jim Collins in his “From Good to Great” where he says at one place that you can never motivate someone with money. And although this may not be the full and final answer to the question, I believe that there is a lot of truth in this. On the one hand the government motivators are receiving some form of compensation, but to be honest, it’s not even close enough to really make a difference in their lives. On the contrary, I think what is happening is that the motivators are more frustrated, because they feel that they are being paid to do the work, but the salary is so small that it’s not worthwhile doing the work for the salary.
Amazingly, we have found that a number of the health motivators in Swaziland have left the government (where they received a small salary) and joined our group, where they are getting no salary, and yet they are now working more effectively than in the past.
I believe it all has to do with motivation. Am I doing what I am doing for the money I’ll receive or because I have a heart for the people and a passion to do something about the pain these people are experiencing?
Bill Hybels, in his book, Axiom, mentions one of his personal favourites: I’m not doing it for money! This axiom was born in a situation where he was travelling while he was sick and at some point, on an airport, he asked himself: “Why the heck am I doing this?” And the answer which came to his mind was: “I’m not doing it for money.” In other words: I’m doing it for God!
And possibly, this is the attitude which I want to encourage our volunteers to have. Why are you doing this work? (And believe me, hardly a day goes by that I don’t ask this question in my mind about the AIDS home-based caregivers.) And the only answer which I could get from them when I once specifically asked them this question, was because they wanted to be able to help the sick and the dying people of their communities so that they can realise that God loves them.
I’ve often wondered what I would do if I suddenly received half a million dollars, given with the intention to compensate the volunteers for their work. I’ll share it with them, of course, but I would make sure that they realise that this is not a salary – merely a way of showing our appreciation for the huge task they are doing as volunteers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008 Posted by | AIDS, Bill Hybels, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Jim Collins, Mission, Poverty, Support teams, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment

Gary A Haugen: Just Courage

I recently heard Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission, speak during the Leadership summit at Willow Creek. I stepped out of the auditorium, bought his book, stepped back in and asked him to sign my copy. And now I’ve finished reading his book, Just Courage. I think If I had not already been full-time involved in mission and an AIDS ministry in Swaziland, I would have been inspired to join them. I see people around me – Christians – who will die one day without having made the slightest difference to God’s Kingdom on earth. OK, this is unfair. I shouldn’t think like this, because God may be using people in ways that I cannot see or understand. But I do believe that there are many Christians today (and I say this because some have told me so) who are losing out on the adventure to serve God.
Gary was the director of the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda, and being confronted as a young lawyer with the atrocities that had happened in this country, he realised that there were millions of people in the world who were suffering in some way because of gross injustice and he decided to devote his life to become a voice for these people. During the Leadership Summit, video clips were shown of some of the work this group is doing. It was painful to watch but at the same time also gave me hope, knowing that there are people out there making a difference.
There are times when I have to ask myself whether we are doing enough. Obviously the answer is “No.” When will we ever be able to say that we’ve done enough? When all the injustice in the world has been rectified? When AIDS has been stopped? When poverty has been eradicated? Fact is, we’re living in a sinful world and until the Second Coming of Christ, we will be fighting against injustice, sickness, poverty and many other forms of wrong.
My ministry changed – in fact, my life changed – the day when I decided that I want to get directly involved in the AIDS problem of Swaziland. We’re not solving the problem. Neither I nor our church will one day be hailed as the people who had brought the solution to Swaziland. But some people at least have experienced hope through what we have done and I pray that we will be enabled to do much more. And even if this was not true, the least I can say is that my Christian life has truly become an adventure – something which I will not want to exchange for anything else in the world.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 Posted by | AIDS, Church, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Hope, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Support teams, Swaziland, Theology | 3 Comments