HIV/AIDS is the greatest humanitarian crisis in our generation. There is no cure for AIDS. The devastation and destruction this disease carries in its wake affects individuals, families, communities, and nations.
Sub-Saharan Africa has only 10% of the world's population, but 70% of the world's AIDS patients. There are 15 million AIDS orphans in Africa alone.
Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world
- It is estimated that 42% of the population is infected.
- One out of five (63,000) children in Swaziland is an orphan.
- A 15-year-old has only a 20% chance of reaching 35.
- 46% of the population is under 15.
- Most Swazis earn 45 cents a day.
- 15,000 households are headed by orphaned children.
- 10,000 adults and children died from AIDS in 2007.
Bethany First Church has been invited to partner with the Swazi church in a long-term relationship of hands-on ministry. Adopting a country financially is not new to BFC.
In 1985 the Nazarene Church wanted to enter Kenya with a new work, but the World Mission Department didn’t have the funds to pursue it. They came to Bethany First Church and asked us if we could help. Pastor Ponder Gilliland and the church agreed to provide them with a pledge of $100,000 over two years. Soon Mel McCullough came to be our pastor and he worked to raise the funds above and beyond our normal missions giving.
As a result, the church was not only able to open the work in Kenya, but also the entire East Africa field. Today there is a Nazarene University in Kenya and more than 97,000 African Nazarenes in the region.
So, while adopting a country financially is not new to us, there are some key paradigm shifts that are different.
- We intend to establish a long-term partnership
- We plan to develop enduring relationships
- We aim to challenge a new generation for missions
Some may say, “Why Swaziland? Surely there are other places that are easier and less expensive to reach.” That is a good question, but we are uniquely positioned to do something significant in the HIV/AIDS crisis in Swaziland.
- Swaziland is a small country (less than 1 million population)
- The Church of the Nazarene has a good reputation and influence due to the church’s establishment of the educational and health-care system in the nation
We are blessed with good government connections as well as a strong Nazarene health-care system with a hospital and 17 outlying clinics. There is a sense of God's timing and guidance that the Swazi church is ready for partnership; they are working as hard as they can and could use a boost.
- What is the plan?
Over the next 5-6 years we plan to:
- Work with clinics, churches and schools
- Work with the Nazarene hospital, providing maintenance and equipment as well as mentoring relationships with our doctors and nurses.
- Work with at-risk children: through Vacation Bible Schools, sport camps, teaching life skills
- Work with the AIDS Task Force: home health care, HIV/AIDS education
- Work toward the formation of a new university: theological training, teaching training, nursing training, etc.
What can you do?
- Pray – there is an enormous task in front of us. It would be impossible without prayer, faith, hope and vision.
- Give – We have the resources to make a huge difference. Our goal is bigger than Swaziland alone.
- Go – We are scheduling GO Teams to provide opportunities for the people of BFC to go to Swaziland.
When we first began this journey of looking at Swaziland and the HIV/AIDS crisis, most of us were ignorant and apathetic about what was happening in our world. Now we have some knowledge and compassion. We don’t have all the answers, but we know we can do something. We must do something.
In one of my meetings in Swaziland, a young Swazi said, “We are the chosen generation to bring Swaziland into a new day.” When I heard her say that I thought: “Perhaps BFC has also been chosen at this time to bring Swaziland into a new day.” --Pastor David Busic