From May 30 to June 10, the president of World Relief led a donor trip to four African countries to illustrate and assess the Evangelical humanitarian group’s ongoing effort in the battle against AIDS.
On June 16, 2004, the president Dr. Clive Calver shared his personal reflection on the deadly disease and expressed his hope for the future as he called on American Christians to help.
What did you do during the ten days you were overseas?
World Relief has received 9.6 million and an additional 2 million in grants for the AIDs work in Kenya, Rwanda and Mozambique through the president’s relief program
I went to see how we expend the grants, how much more we need to raise and how much difference this would make in the long run.
However, I have not yet received grants for Malawi. So I went to see what has been happening there to assess what is needed.
What has World Relief been doing in those nations?
World Relief teaches kids how to look after their sick mom or dad and show them how to raise their own families afterwards. We also work with churches to help African families take in the orphans.
What can Christians in America do?
Truthfully, The answer is they can’t do much about it.
We are in a situation like that of Paul and Barnabas, when there was a famine in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church was used to working with the poorest of the poor and with orphans because this was their ministry. They could do it all. However, they had only one basic problem: they didn’t have any resources. So Paul and Barnabas asked the churches abroad to pray for Jerusalem and to give.
Really, this is why the whole AIDS situation is so unpopular with us here. It almost sounds as if I’m saying, “Pay, Pray and Stay Away” -- which is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that the African church has got a fantastic opportunity to help the future. Fourteen million Africans are going to die, and while the church can do nothing to stop that, they can save the next generation. All they need now is the resources to do it with.
Let’s say you want to train two African church leaders to do AIDS work, or say you want to mobilize their churches to do AIDS work. This is going cost only about 50 dollars. Also, it only costs about 1,600 dollars a year to train a qualified African AIDS worker. Therefore, the cost is relatively cheap.
But what will we get out of it? There are tons of opportunities to work with the churches there and to learn from them. There is so much we can do, and there is so much we can give, and that’s what will really make the difference.
I’ve lived around the pandemic for so long and I know exactly what it means and exactly what it does. What interests me now is what we can actually do to stop it.
What is your greatest hope for the future?
My greatest hope is that we will stop this pandemic by engaging in each individual country by empowering and equipping the people of those countries. My hope is to reverse the trend country by country.
Uganda is the only country in Africa where the rate of AIDS is going down. The reason for this is because the Ugandan churches have been working with European churches for the past 16 years to change the epidemic. They’ve reversed the trend using the ABC method: Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms.
Any Christian group has to be careful when talking about condoms. If you were to ask me, “Do you give condoms?” my answer would be: Yes, I do give condoms. I give condoms to pastors, yes. But if you were to ask me if I give condoms to teenagers, my answer would be: No, I do not, because it would be encouraging promiscuity.
When a guy in Africa goes to work in the mines, the mine owner gives him a woman. The women at the mines are normally HIV positive, so by the time he goes home to his wife, he has HIV. Probably, he is married to a God-fearing wife. We give condoms to pastors -- and only to those pastors who ask for them -- so that they could give these to protect the God-fearing wives.
So often, the woman is the victim: 80 percent of the women get HIV by their lifelong partners, by being raped or by being born into it. Those are the lives that we desperately need to save.
In the past, only one in ten pastors talked about sex at the pulpit. Now, only one in ten do not. They are working together to fight AIDS, and they can make a difference because they are in every locality. The HIV thing can be changed but probably the only means to do this is the church. The local church has the answer and the power to deliver, and we’ve just got to help the church do those.
Last week, I met Jennifer in Kenya, and she told me how she was married for eight years, and didn’t have children. She eventually divorced her husband and earned her living as a prostitute. She then had three children, whose fathers she does not know, and through all this, she was going to church. In March of this year, she got really sick, and she began thinking about very deep questions. That’s when she gave her life to Jesus. She cries when she explains her story, and she uses every minute of her life to share how Jesus gave the hope for her future.
When people start to live in God’s world in God’s way, then they could rewrite history.
The Archbishop of Rwanda said to me once that the church would have to apologize to the Lord for its apathy throughout the Genocide. However, if we rise up for the cause, we could take glory and honor to Jesus. My hope is that we recognize and see the moment we are in: AIDS is the biggest plague to hit the planet in 700 years, but it is also the greatest door to the evangelistic effort in Africa.
What is your greatest fear?
My fear is that we, the people of America, will think that everything is okay because we are doing fine here. I fear that we will think if Africans as dreadful people who deserver what they get.
One pastor put it like this: Americans sometimes look at us Africans and say, “because of the spread of AIDS they must be more wicked people.” But if there were a terminal sickness that came from materialism, how many people in your church would still be alive?
So my fear is that we will put the Africans down and not realize that the future of Africa is in our hands.
To put it simply, I have 55,000 Chinese churches pleading for help to fight AIDS, and I don’t have a dollar to do anything with. We have to realize that the privileges we have through our wealth and our lives also come with some responsibility. We’ve got to accept our responsibility and do what we can to help.
Let me share a story with you.
Victoria is a white AIDS worker in Africa. Four years ago, she went to church on Sunday, and on her way back, a couple of guys jumped her, smashed her head and got ready to rape her. She is an AIDS worker, so she knew the men were all HIV positive. So she struggled and she prayed and miraculously, one of the guys left her. And she struggled and prayed again, and miraculously, the other guy left her as well. She was an inch away from being raped.
One day, I walked the fields of Gettysburg (PA) with her, and I asked, “What are you going to do now?”
She answered, “I’m going back because someone’s got to go back. Someone has got to go back and someone has got to have that privilege to work there.”
Actually, her exact words were: “I’m going to go back dad -- someone’s got to.”
She’s my oldest child. And it’s very simple to me because I’ve seen it so much. You have to believe, any guy who would send his daughter back in has a strong conviction that this is a cause worth living and dying for. That is what I believe.
World Relief, as the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, equips evangelical churches to minister to hurting people’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Compelled by love and compassion, World Relief unconditionally provides aid to any and all races, creeds and nationalities.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has killed more than 17 million in the past thirty years – 3 million of whom were children – and continues to spread at a rapid rate. Currently 25 million or more Sub-Saharan Africans are living with the deadly disease.