Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Can You Measure Hope?

As you know, this fall we were both in Africa for an extended period of time. We were actually together in Malawi for 10 days! That doesn't happen a lot -- so it was a special blessing!

As we reflect on our time in Africa, there are a couple of experiences we would like to share with you. We hope they will be a blessing to you.

Home-Based Care in Malawi

On our first day in Malawi, our team went into Mgona – the poorest area of the capital city of Lilongwe. Mgona is home to over 50,000 people – almost half of whom are orphans and vulnerable children. The HIV infection rate in this community is estimated to be about 35%. It is here that Home-Based Care volunteers from Somebody Cares work tirelessly to bring hope to the sick, the dying, the elderly and to orphans and vulnerable children. As we visited homes we encountered those who could truly be counted among the poorest of the poor.

In every home we read the Scriptures with the patients, prayed with them, and the Somebody Cares volunteers made sure they had enough medication and food until they could visit again. In many ways we felt helpless – but when
we saw the hope that these visits bring to the patients, we realized it wasn’t so much about what we can do – it was simply the fact that we were there. Somehow, our visit brought hope.

During the time in Mgona I was once again struck by the incredible service that Home Based Care volunteers provide. With little of their own to begin with, these men and women sometimes travel long distances every day to visit those who are house-bound by AIDS and other diseases. One of the HBC volunteers we spent the day with was obviously very tired. She talked to us about her life and then said this – “Whenever I get tired from all the walking, I just remember that Jesus walked everywhere to minister to people. If Jesus walked – so can I. The fact that He walked, encourages me to continue to walk and minister to my patients.”

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a small country in West Africa that is about 50% Muslim, and 17% Christian. Visionledd partners with Vigilance Ministries in this nation of about 14 million people.

One day our team attended the HIV/AIDS Support Group that Pastor Kouliga Nikiema and his team lead every week in the capital city of Ouagadougou. What an amazing group! The 100 or so men and women in attendance came from a variety of backgrounds – Evangelical, Catholic, Muslim and Animist (followers of traditional religions). During the meeting Pastor Kouliga asked those in attendance to share what God has been doing in their life through this group. Person after person stood up and shared about how the group had blessed them. Some told of coming to know Jesus. Others talked about the emotional and physical support they received. Still others said they didn't know if they would be alive had it not been for this group. At one time, the diagnosis of AIDS left them without any hope. Now, by the grace of God – they see a hope and future for them, and their children. What a blessing to be there. Our team walked away encouraged and amazed at how God works to change lives.

Both the Home-Based Care volunteers in Malawi and the HIV/AIDS Support Group in Burkina Faso are providing hope to the hopeless. Recently, when a western visitor asked one of our partners whether or not they could measure the results of the gifts they had received from donors, our partner said this: "I can show you the wells we have drilled. I can show you the buildings we have built, and the orphans we have fed. But how can you measure hope?"

How can you measure hope? You see it in the eyes of children who once were hopeless. You see it in the response of men and women – who were once on their deathbed – but now see a future for them and their families. You see it, as those who once were being ministered to – now reach out and help others in their community. But hope can’t be measured with statistics and numbers. Hope is something that springs forth in the heart.

Christmas is a time of hope for all the world. When we were hopeless, Christ came to give us hope!

During this Christmas season we want to thank you so much for your part in bringing hope to the people of Africa. Your prayer, friendship and support is helping us and our African partners bring hope to those who need hope the most -- the orphan and vulnerable child, the widow and those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!