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The Role of the Church in Addressing the AIDS Crisis

HIV/AIDS continues to have a negative impact on families and communities throughout Africa.  Very few families, if any, have been spared the devastating effects of the scourge. This is the reality that confronts Africa today and the Church finds herself at the centre of this crisis as she deals with issues affecting families and communities. HIV/AIDS affects families and communities negatively in a variety of ways.  In communities around Africa women often bear an unfair burden in caring for the family. Children on the other hand are being forced to head families after the loss of parents to AIDS. Grandparents, and in particular grandmothers, are returning to being primary caregivers of small children.

HIV/AIDS is fuelling poverty more and more, creating an ongoing spiral of disease and poverty that is undermining family stability. Children are forced out of school and women and girls, in some instances, are pressured into becoming commercial sex workers.  These are some among the many issues that the Church can and must address.

A proper faith-based response to HIV/AIDS should involve a practical multi-pronged approach that aims to stop the spread of the disease, and encourage the setting up of community based support of children orphaned by AIDS.

This crisis caused by the pandemic provides an unparalleled opportunity for witness to the gospel through HIV/AIDS services and other promotional activities and advocacy.  The Church through its ministry programs such as youth services, men's and women's ministries, bible study groups and other ministry groups can play a major role by providing awareness, support, education and care to those affected by HIV/AIDS.

The church should become a place of openness where persons whose lives are affected can freely share their pain and reach out for compassion, understanding and acceptance. The Church should provide care and support to individuals and families whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS. The Church should be a centre of education where people are informed about AIDS and receive support and encouragement to help men, women and young people to change their behaviour.

The Way Forward:

  • In the light of these opportunities and challenges, the Church can respond in the following ways:
  • Focus more attention on family-related issues such as sexual education and marriage enrichment.
  • Encourage pastors and Church leaders to provide more teachings about HIV/AIDS   and family matters in the pulpit, classroom and any other platform of the Church.
  • Develop more materials and provide opportunities to open discussion on issues to do with HIV and AIDS.
  • Address issues of economic empowerment to help break the downward spiral of poverty which open up doors for the spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • Provide adequate care and support for vulnerable children and people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Stand alongside widows and those affected by HIV/AIDS and speak against all forms of stigma and discrimination against those infected with the HI virus.
  • Offer a helping hand to those needing care and support.

The Church has great potential to make a difference in mitigating the negative effects of HIV/AIDS and as such, the Church must and should commit to marshal resources and sharpen tools to challenge people to make the Church the centrepiece in our Christian response to HIV/AIDS.

by Cosmos Alfas Mutowa Executive Director – NCM Africa

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“Choose Life” session enlightened my future

Muhudin A/Dura a young seventeen year-old tenth grade student at Sokoru Secondary School in Ethiopia was known to have bad habits and an addiction to substances like alcohol and khat, a highly addictive drug.  Muhudin spent all his time in the streets. However, all this changed after Muhudin started attending “Choose Life” sessions organised by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) through its partner Fayyaa Integrated Development Association (FIDA). This project has been made possible through funding received from USAID.

The aim of this project is to eliminate new HIV infections by positively impacting the lives of young single and married individuals by changing the behaviour of unmarried youth through committing to abstinence from sex before marriage and for those who are married to remain faithful to their spouse.

After attending a number of behavioural change sessions, Muhudin stopped chewing khat and refrained himself from drinking alcohol as he realised that these were instrumental in his engaging in sexual acts, thus putting him at risk of being infected with the HIV virus.  He started living an exemplary life and became a well-disciplined young person in his village town, Sokoru.

Currently, Muhudin also started to declare the importance of attending Choose Life sessions and became a Leader of one of the youth groups. Muhudin himself testified by saying, “These Choose Life sessions have changed my life for good and I can boldly say that I will not return back to my bad life style that I had been practicing before.  I am working very hard to convince my friends and others to adopt a good behavior by organizing and preparing entertainment events such as drama and theater”.

Adapted from NPI FIDA's report received in January 2009

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Durban Deep - Caring for the Orphans

Caring for the orphaned children from a local government school in Durban Deep became the passion and focus of the Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in Horizon, Roodepoort, South Africa.  When Pastor Naas Tredoux launched an outreach to the community. He began by asking the community schools if there was anything the church could do to make a difference in the lives of the children.  Initially, the plan was to work with a school more in the direct community, but when it was suggested the church explore helping a very needy school with many orphaned children, it was clear this was where God wanted to the church to focus.

This partnership with Durban Deep began in September 2010 when a team of workers came from the United States to help.  For five days this team, along with members of the church, the school was given almost a complete facelift. Chairs, walls and floors were scrubbed, some rooms painted, curtains made and hung, kitchen and other areas repaired to full functioning.

In October, a team of more than twenty adults from the church accompanied almost fifty orphans to the Johannesburg Zoo.  Most of the children had never been to the zoo.  Each adult was able to spend the day visiting the zoo, eating lunch, riding rides and having cool drink and sweets with the children.  This opportunity to build relationship was incredible for the adults and children.

In December, eight orphans from Durban Deep will have the opportunity to go on a Christian youth camp at not cost for a week. It is unfortunate more children can't attend and have an experience most likely not available to them.

by Dr Denise Anderson

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The Face of Transformational Development – Malawi

What does it take to begin to improve the lives of Malawi's rural poor? Some seeds and a cow. Some training, support, and love. The people of the Mzimba region in northern Malawi have seen remarkable improvement to the quality of life of more than 3,000 families through the Mzimba Food Security Project, a joint project of NCM Malawi and World Vision Malawi.

Started in 2007 through funds raised by Nazarene youth through the Nazarene 30 Hour Famine powered by World Vision, the project focuses on intervention and support in the following activities: fish farming, legume production, small-scale irrigation, collective farming as well as other programs.

During my recent visit to Malawi, I had the privilege of visiting some people who have benefited from this project.

Mrs. Nailes Kanyinji, a widowed woman living in Shumbe village (one of the several rural villages included in the project), was one of them.

Project coordinators selected Nailes as a beneficiary because of her dire state of poverty. When her husband died, she was left with no income to live on, let alone to pay for her children's education. Her home, a small one-room mud building with a thatch roof, was not suitable for her and her children. She had to depend entirely on the care of neighbours to sustain them.

NCM in partnership with World Vision reached out to Nailes along with others in need. They gave each family maize (a hard, dry corn that can be made into corn flour), groundnut (similar to peanut) and soya bean seeds for planting as well as fertilizer.

The program also gave the community a cow that they could use as draft power for ploughing and offered technical support and education on proper land utilization and effective farming methods.

The first year, Nailes harvested several bags of maize, soya beans and groundnuts. She had enough to feed her family, plus surplus to sell to raise enough money to build a two-room brick house, with iron sheets for the roofing, for her family. She was also able to send her kids to school.

The following year, Nailes had another bumper harvest. Out of the proceeds, she paid back what she had received the previous year from NCM and World Vision so that the gift of transformational development could continue on to bless another family.

Nailes continues to multiply the “talents” she has been given. Through her surplus, she managed to buy a diary cow. She milks it daily to provide milk to drink for her family and to share with her neighbors. She also took me to see her small grocery shop that she built and manages. In her small store, she sells many basic items such as soap, milk and other household goods, providing a needed service to Shumbe village.

Nailes told me just how thankful she is for the help she received. In response to the gift she has been given, she is giving to others. For example, she provides food for children who are orphaned in her village and even pays the school fees for some of these children. Nailes could not contain her joy when she told me how this project had transformed her life, the lives of her children, and the lives of the children who have been orphaned and are now under her care.

The story of Nailes is one amazing story among many success stories of people whose lives have been transformed through the practical witness of the love of God through the Mzimba Food Security Project.

by Cosmos Alfas Mutowa Executive Director –NCM Africa

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