Like most of the western evangelical church, we came to the table late. It took incarnation to get us there. The AIDS epidemic had finally passed beyond statistics and public policies and taken on a human face?thanks to stories and pictures from our own missionaries in Africa. We weren't exactly sure what Jesus would do, but we were sure of what he wouldn't do?continue to pass by on the other side.
In early 2004, through our missionaries Scott and Barb Harbert (with Africa Inland Mission), we formed a partnership between our suburban Chicago church and churches in Nakuru, Kenya. The Harberts formed the Nakuru AIDS Initiative (NAI), a board of Kenyan pastors, missionaries, educators, and health care workers. We have supported the nai and other efforts in Kenya through congregational fund-raising, prayer, and short-term missions trips. We support Hope for Life, a ministry to about 150 AIDS orphans, providing nutrition, tutoring, vocational training, and spiritual encouragement. We've helped to fund programs at Parkview Church, which reaches out to a neighboring slum through an onsite health clinic, providing testing, counseling, and spiritual help. We've helped to train counselors and establish HIV/AIDS testing/counseling centers. We've helped put the final touches on a new missions hospital. We've assisted programs in abstinence-based education for young people, training area teachers in a curriculum that emphasizes the ABCs: A=Abstinence before marriage, B=Being faithful within marriage, C=Christ as the source of courage and character to make the right choices to remain free from risk of infection.
All our work has been guided by these principles:
- Approach the problem holistically, focusing primarily on the Nakuru region.
- Partner with already self-initiated African efforts through our missionaries.
- Promote community development alongside a group of pastors and NGO workers.
- Provide start-up money for projects?but without fostering dependence, and without sending too many missions teams, thus preserving their dignity and encouraging them to do it their way.
Our church still finds its heart expanding. The lump in our throat is still there. May it never pass away.
To learn more, go to WheatonBible.org/Heart_for_AIDS.
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