Africa has been struck with a plague of enormous devastation.
How will churches respond?
In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa the HIV pandemic has been fatal to huge sections of the population. HIV is affecting the lives of millions, causing premature death, leaving orphans behind, and even destroying churches. While sexual transmission gets most of the attention, health care can be a major way the disease is spread. Only about a third of those who need treatment are receiving it. Church leaders have expressed their dismay at the effects of the epidemic and have called for help from American churches in confronting it.
The Landmark Church and Dr. Bruce & Beth Smith have formed a partnership to respond to the HIV and AIDS crisis and do it in a way that glorifies God and shows the compassion of Jesus.
In late 2003 while attending an HIV course, Bruce was struck by the discrepancy between public health reports of the devastation HIV was wreaking in Africa, and the silence from medical mission organizations in Churches of Christ about the disease. Bruce made a visit to Africans Claiming Africa in Ghana in August, 2004. He went, spoke about HIV and conducted focus groups among participants, learning that African church leaders were often also silent, but that churches and their members were being devastated by the disease. As Dr. Smith has said in his presentations on HIV, “it is hard to plant or grow churches when you are planting your people 6 feet under the ground.” Hearing pleas for assistance from many who were there, Bruce & Beth felt compelled to help.
Bruce and Beth have been prepared through a variety of circumstances to work in this field, including formal training at Harding, Abilene Christian, Sunset School of Missions, and Loma Linda University School of Public Health, eight years in medical mission work in Central America, and Bruce’s work as an HIV physician for the past 17 years. Their seven trips to Africa in the last five years have informed them and equipped them to work with church leaders in methods for confronting this epidemic.
This new ministry will supply training about HIV to churches throughout Africa, with emphasis on the most-affected southern and eastern regions, and establishing a demonstration project in Malawi. This project is unique in that it will be a “bottoms-up”, village-based approach. Village health promoters will be equipped to promote health care and minister to people with HIV. All of this will be done in conjunction with church leaders in Malawi as they minister to the needs of their communities.
Landmark is excited to be a partner in this opportunity to save lives both in the present and for eternity. For more information on the Smith’s work, visit their project website at HIVEMSA.org
We are also excited to welcome the University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, AL and the Redlands Church of Christ in Redlands, CA as a partner in this work.