Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Friday, June 13, 2008

6/11: Zamimpilo & Entabani Drop-In Centers

Today we spent the day with two men, Albert and Israel, who run an organization called ECAP (ESSA's Christian AIDS Program). It is a partner program to ESSA (Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa), which works to prepare and equip pastors for HIV/AIDS work in their local communities. Albert started the day sharing from Ephesians 6:10, which says "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power", highlighting God's power, His presence, and His provision. As I reflect on all we have seen and heard on this trip, I find this to be fitting to what the focus of my prayers have been. God has the power to change hearts and lives, and my prayer is that he does and will. God's presence in our lives is how he has chosen to work to change the hearts and lives of others. God does his good work through his people. God also provides for our needs - the strength we need to serve. I have prayed this for the pastors and community leaders we have met - that they would seek and feel God's power, presence and provision.

After learning more about ECAP's efforts, which include teaching a Church and AIDS class at the seminary, as well as funding local AIDS care efforts, we hopped in the car and drove to the outskirts of town. Here was a small community, called France. While the facilities in this community were clearly better than some of the informal settlements we have seen, these people are living in deep poverty. We drove down a narrow dirt lane and pulled up to a small, two-room building. About 25 pre-school age children were standing at the gate, jumping up and down excitedly at the prospect of visitors. A local woman, B.V. Msomi felt burdened to do something for the children in her community. She started looking after a few children at her home, providing them with supervision during the day, a meal, and activities. This little mission of hers grew to the point where she was able to move to this larger building. Msomi has been a strong advocate for these children, meeting with community leaders and writing proposals to receive funding to help feed the children and provide these daily services. All of the children have been identified as being at-risk due to being infected or affected by HIV - either they themselves are positive, they have lost a caregiver due to the disease, or a caregiver is currently suffering from HIV.

As Msomi shared her story, we learned that in some ways, the surrounding community has been very supportive of this creche's work (by the way, it is called the Zamimpilo Drop-In Center), and in other ways they have not. For instance, the school has tried to grow a small garden to help supplement the feeding program for the children. However, as the crops grow, the neighbors, who are also hungry, and often eating only once a day or less, will come and take the food. On the other hand, Msomi shared that anytime she tries to organize a special event for the children, she asks that the caregivers of the children to contribute with some food or money, and she says she always gets a strong response. The caregivers have clearly demonstrated an appreciation for and commitment to the work this small ministry is providing for their children.

In the afternoon we visited another church providing care for the community, which is called Entebani Drop-In Center. A young pastor here, Adiel, has a vision for providing for the surrounding community, which includes a large informal settlement. They have called this program that provides HIV/AIDS and grief counseling and home based care, TEARS (The Entebani AIDS Resource Sanctuary). When we arrived, several adults and children were lounging around outside of the building. Albert led us inside where we met several women preparing a meal for community members. They explained that every Wednesday the church provides a meal for the neighborhood. While the children wait, Ryan involves them in a unique game of “Simon Says” that takes into account the language barrier. The children giggle uncontrollably as they chase him around the yard. Students begin to arrive from school, dressed in their blue and white school uniforms, to also get some lunch. Here I could see again the importance of relationship within the community. As the children arrived they would greet both Albert and Adiel (who are father and son, and both pastors) with an excited, “Hello Pastor!” These pastors are clearly making a difference in their community – meeting both physical and spiritual needs of their neighborhood.


No comments: