Category Archives: CROSS Project

Remembering World AIDS Day in Zambia

Today is World AIDS Day, and for the last six years Kristin and I have lived and worked in Zambia and spent four of those years primarily ministering with and through the CROSS Project HIV/AIDS ministry in the compounds of Lusaka. This has been a distinct privilege and also a heart breaking reality at times. On World AIDS Day, let us remember the unbreakable hope of the Gospel found in Jesus Christ and pray for countries like Zambia, where every one is either “infected or affected” by HIV/AIDS.

Below the numbers(below) is an article that I (Derek) wrote in 2014 about “When You’re in Ground Zero,” it’s shares the story of Vera, an HIV positive child who passed away in the summer of 2014.  _______________________________________________________

Zambia 2015 (information below taken from Avert)

1.2 million people living with HIV

12.9% adult HIV prevalence rate

60,000 new HIV infections

20,000 AIDS-related deaths

63% adults on antiretroviral treatment

“In 2013, over 54,000 adults and 12,000 children became newly infected with HIV in Zambia.1 These figures represent the plateau of HIV prevalence in the country since the mid-nineties; HIV prevalence is neither increasing or decreasing. At its height, HIV prevalence in Zambia was 14.5%, and as of 2013 is still high at 12.5%.”

“One in every eight people in the country are living with HIV, and life expectancy is just 58.1 years.3 However, this is a considerable increase from the 2012 life expectancy of 49.4 years, partly thanks to improved access to antiretroviral treatment.”

Children, orphans and HIV in Zambia

“Children have been severely affected by the HIV epidemic in Zambia, where 150,000 children are estimated to be living with HIV, alongside 600,000 children orphaned by AIDS.”

“However, these figures are declining and Zambia is expected to reach its target of reducing new child infections by 90% by the end of 2015.19”

“A huge part of this progress is due to the implementation of a rigorous prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme, which has seen the percentage of children born HIV-positive drop by 51% between 2011 and 2012.20 Over 96% of women received PMTCT support in 2013, meeting universal target levels.”

“Latest data also shows that 60% of men under the age of 50 have never been tested for HIV, and only 33% of young people have tested. Couples counseling and testing is also extremely low in the country, despite this being an effective route to testing more people for HIV elsewhere.”

“A study in 2012 found a combination of reasons explaining why people were not testing, including a fear of stigma, rejection by their sexual partner, a fear of antiretroviral treatment, and a belief that traditional medicine would keep them healthy if they became ill. These beliefs are ill-informed, but also reflect the continued stigma around HIV in Zambia.”

_______________________________________________________

When You’re in Ground Zero

img_1667

Ground zero is defined as, “a site of devastation, disaster, or violent attack.” It seems like it would be pretty obvious to someone to know if they are in “ground zero.” And most of the time, it is. But sometimes you can be in ground zero and not even know that you are there. For instance, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa is very deceiving, and one can hardly realize where ground zero is, until you find yourself there, in that “site of devastation, disaster or violent attack.” That happened to me (Derek) on May 28th.

The CROSS Project HIV/AIDS ministry that we coordinate has been helping out at a local feeding program that happens three times a week for over a hundred children who are all HIV positive. Mostly, we help with some counseling, basic medical care, and some administration work. However, it is run and operated out of a local church in George Compound by Pastor Wozifera and his wife, Easter, both of whom are on staff with ACTION Zambia.

Pastor Wozifera sent me a text on Monday morning, May 26th, and informed me that Vera, one of the children from the feeding program had passed away at a local hospital that morning – the funeral was on Wednesday. Myself, Pastor Wozifera, Easter, and Eta, one of our national workers with CROSS, all went to the funeral. Vera, who was only 14 years old when she died, had lost both parents to HIV and was living with her grandma, so the funeral was held at her grandma’s church. Because I was the only westerner attending the funeral, Pastor Wozifera, Eta, and myself were quickly ushered to the front of the church and were instructed to sit near the family (an awkward situation that many Westerners find themselves in).

As I sat across from Vera’s family in the front of the church and started to think about the situation with Vera and what led to her death and what was being said in the funeral, I realized that I was in the middle of ground zero of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Southern Africa. And the reason that I knew I was there was because of the silence about HIV/AIDS that pervaded the situation with Vera and the funeral itself.

Vera’s family never told her that she was HIV positive. Vera found out about her HIV status inadvertently two years ago through a staff member at a local clinic. This led to Vera feeling a lot of bitterness and anger towards her family for not sharing her status with her and wondering why this was happening to her. Why did she have to get HIV from her Mom at birth? She had done nothing wrong. Right before her death, Vera confessed that she had stopped taking her ARVs (immune system boosting drugs that help suppress HIV) for the last year. She did this out of bitterness, anger, fear, and the depression that she was feeling over her HIV status; because of the silence and mistrust that had grown between her and her family; and as a way to rebel against her family and, in some way, get back at them. Pastor Wozifera said he also felt that Vera had never really accepted or, probably in may ways, understood her HIV status and all that it involves.

The characteristic silence during her life spilled over into the funeral. There was no mention of HIV or why Vera had died. The Pastor officiating at the funeral did not take the opportunity to talk about how important it is to share one’s HIV status with their family, to talk to the affected children about HIV, etc. HIV/AIDS was completely left out of the the entire funeral service, even though the entire reason why the funeral was happening was due to HIV and the unnecessary and tragic consequences in a young girl’s life because of silence about HIV.

Going to Vera’s funeral and burial was extremely sad, because her death was so unnecessary and she was so young. But it was also a powerful reminder to me of why we are here in Zambia and that the ministry that we are doing with HIV/AIDS and churches (the CROSS Project) is so important. There is still a lot of work to do, a lot of prayers to pray, and the hope of the gospel to share!

img_1666A picture taken at Vera’s funeral

Bethlehem Baptist Team and Hospice Seminar

Well, after all the planning, preparation, and then, by God’s grace, the execution of those plans, the Bethlehem Team trip is all wrapped up, and they safely left on Tuesday night and arrived home very early on Thursday morning in Minneapolis. Because of the August 11th elections for President, Parliament, and a referendum, plus other offices, we were a bit worried with BBC coming and how everything was going to come together. We were also concerned just with safety, since the lead up to this election has seen a lot more violence in Lusaka and around Zambia between the two parties than in times past.

We did run into some (actually, kind of a lot of) political cadres in George Compound on August 1st, as we did three home visits with the team and Pastor Wozifera Ngoma and his wife Easter. There was a political rally going on close to the houses we were visiting. But God gave us safety, and we were able to visit three homes and pray with and encourage those folks, plus the nurses on the team also did some trouble shooting. But it was helpful for the team to see compound life and where people are coming from and the conditions they face and the challenges compound life brings for caregivers as they seek to care for loved ones, friends, and others with very little.

Hospice Training 

Then, over August 2-5, the BBC Team conducted a basic Hospice Seminar, similar to 2014, for former CROSS Project (CP) participants. Over 110 former CP participants from churches we taught in 2015-2016 went through six different stations on hospice care –

  • Hand Washing and Sanitation
  • Wound Care
  • Nutrition and Dehydration
  • Bed Bath
  • Turning, Transferring, and Positioning Patients
  • End of Life Care

As with the 2014 seminar, we heard encouraging stories about how the stations were very helpful to the caregivers. We even had one nurse’s aid remark this time how the things they were being taught were so helpful and practical and were things that she never learned in nurse’s aid training.

Below are some pictures from the Hospice Seminar and BBC in action (sorry, Liz – we can’t find the pics of your station!). We are so thankful, as AZ and the CROSS Project, to have BBC come and help us!! Please pray that God would help people remember what they have learned from this seminar and that God would be glorified as these former students seek to help people physically, share the gospel, and share this important information with others in the compounds of Lusaka!

 

Prayer for Bethlehem Team and Zambia’s Presidential Elections

We would really appreciate your prayers for a busy upcoming two weeks!

zam-team-2016

Hospice Seminar and AZ Team Retreat: A short-term team from Bethlehem Baptist Church (our home and primary sending church) arrives today. All this upcoming week, they will be putting on a hospice seminar for past and present CROSS Project churches, similar to what they did during the 2014 trip. We are expecting a really big turnout, with almost 200 people passing through the seminar over the course of the four days. Then, on Saturday, August 6th, we all head to a local lodge for our AZ Team Retreat, both missionaries and national workers. BBC will be watching the kids and putting on a program for them and also be facilitating the teaching for the team retreat. We really look forward to this time together! You can follow the team’s blog here.

Pr Elections

Zambia Presidential Elections: Then, BBC leaves on Tuesday, August 9th, and the rest of us will lie low for Zambia’s Presidential Elections, which take place on August 11th. This election season in Zambia has been marked by more violence than previous elections, and we would ask for prayer for Zambia during this election time. Also, the new constitution says the presidential winner needs to have 51% of the vote, so we are praying for a clear winner and for peace and stability to prevail.

Thanks so much for praying!

Marriage and Marshfield, WI

IMG_2680Christian marriage is always a hot topic in America with numerous opportunities for couples to attend a host of marriage seminars, weekends, or conferences that deal with marriage, sex, family, kids, etc. Zambia is no different, in that marriage and sex are hot topics, but there aren’t nearly as many opportunities for couples to attend a seminar or conference about marriage, sex, or the family.

Last week, ACTION Zambia was blessed to have a short-term team from Faith Fellowship in Marshfield, WI come and put on a one-day Marriage and Family Life seminar for present and former CROSS Project churches. On May 27 and 28, we had almost 400 people (couples and kids) come to Camp Ciyanjano. The topics that the team covered were Biblical Marriage, Marriage and Purity, Discipling Your Children, Leaving a Legacy, and Medical Care for Your Family. Because the extended family, and culture as a whole, plays such a big part here in Zambia, to live out a Biblical Christian marriage can be really challenging for couples, especially younger ones.

As a CROSS Project Team, we felt that the Marshfield team did a great job of explaining Biblical marriage and appropriately and biblically addressing difficult cultural challenges in marriage and family here in Zambia. The team also got a lot of complements from the participants that they were encouraged by the teaching and time.

Driving through Kanyama

IMG_2595Yesterday, Pastor John and Jacob (two of our AZ National Workers) and I drove to a church in Kanyama Compound. Kanyama is one of the biggest compounds in Lusaka, with some people estimating that almost one million people live there. Much of Kanyama is very under developed with high rates of poverty and extreme poverty. We went to go visit the pastor of a church, where we taught the CROSS Project a few years ago, about some future ministry possibilities with their community school that has over 1,500 students.

I haven’t done a driving video for a while. So, below is some of our drive into Kanyama yesterday –

Encouraged by Our Visitors

In Romans 1:11-12, Paul, says to the church in Rome that, “…I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

When people come and visit us, they usually remark on what a challenge it must be to host people for a couple of weeks at a time and they appreciate that we are willing to host them. Yes, hosting has become more challenging with two little kids, but just as Paul talks about in Romans 1:11-12, we are so encouraged by our time with people that come to visit us and stay with us!

Over the last three months, we have had the joy of hosting Wade and Annette Hetrick, from my home church in Appleton, WI (Wade is the pastor there), for a week in Zambia and then a week in Cape Town, South Africa; Kristin’s parents, Terry and Connie Carlson from Burnsville, MN, for a few weeks; and then last week, Nelson and Linda Reed from the Seattle, WA area. Nelson was ACTION’s International Director for nine years up until this last March and is still our Africa Regional Coordinator for ACTION. All of these three couples have encouraged us so much and have been a huge help with the boys! Charlie and Sam have loved every minute of play time with their Meme and Gpa, Nana and Papa, and “Grandma-Auntie” and “Grandpa-Uncle” (those were the names that Charlie came up with for them).

All three of these couples were also a help and encouragement to ACTION Zambia (AZ) as well and those we minister to here. Wade and Annette did a one-day marriage seminar for AZ’s Pastoral Leadership Development department. Terry and Connie gave the graduation address to two of the graduating CROSS classes and also did some medical home visits through Faith Tabernacle Church in George compound. Nelson and Linda greatly encouraged us all here on the field and gave us all some soul care!

We are thankful for our recent visitors and for making the trek all the way here to encourage us and minister to us, as well as others! We hope that we were an encouragement to all of them as well.

Some Mid-October Prayer Requests

IMG_1629-Please pray for us as we are in the thick of hot season in Zambia, with temperatures well into the 90s every day. This time of year is always challenging with such hot, dry, and dusty days before the rains start. Hopefully, in late October or early November, rain will be here.

-Please continue to pray for Zambia, as the entire country is still on 8-hour/day power outages due to low rainfall. Although, strangely enough, our power has improved a little bit this past week, and we even had one day where the power was on for a full 24 hours! 93% of Zambia’s power is generated by hydroelectric power. When there’s not enough rain, there’s no power. Tanzania, which borders Zambia, just shut down all of their hydroelectric power due to not enough water.

-After a slow start to the CROSS Project HIV/AIDS Ministry this term, we are praising God for three churches that have signed up! For those that are familiar with the Lusaka area, we have a teaching locations in Garden Compound, George Compound, and in the Kasupe area near Ciyanjano. All three churches are on Lesson 2 (out of 16) this week.

IMG_1617One of the churches we are teaching at this term. 

PRAY that God would work mightily in hearts, minds, and actions, as people think and pray about how should they respond to, as Christians, and glorify God in HIV/AIDS and domestic abuse in their lives, their families’ lives, churches, and communities.

-Please PRAY for John and Eta (our two national workers in the CROSS Project), as they do the bulk of the teaching at our new churches for CROSS to teach at this term (September – December).

-Please pray for Sam, as he’s been struggling with some stomach and digestive bugs for the last couple weeks. He’s still energetic and happy but just can’t seem to shake this little bug.

-We PRAISE God for two happy and healthy little boys, who keep us on our toes. Please PRAY for them and for us as we seek to parent them in a way that is honoring and glorifying to God. We, as parents, need a lot of wisdom and guidance, and please PRAY that God would give these two boys soft hearts to him and his Word. 

-Please continue to pray for Jason and Grace Van Ankum, as they are now back in North America this Fall raising more support and connecting with current supporters. They hope to be back with us here in Zambia by the first of the year. You can find more about them here.

-Please PRAY that God would give Derek wisdom and supernatural guidance as he continues to settles into this new role as Country Director and seeks to lead this field.

action team pic facebookSome of our team members at Staff Meeting 

-Pray that the ACTION Zambia Team would put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, love, and peace. And pray that the Word of Christ would dwell in us richly. (Col. 3:12-17)

-We would really appreciate broad, general (Pauline-type) prayers for our entire ACTION Zambia Team as well as their ministries – Ciyanjano, PLD/APC, CROSS Project, Bible Clubs, and Feeding Programs

-Please continue to pray for more funds for CROSS and CROSS Graduation Bibles. Click here if you would like to donate to help get Bibles future CROSS Project graduations. In the Comment box at the bottom of the page, type “Bibles.” Click here if you would like to donate monthly  or one-time to the CROSS Project.

Please click here for giving options, if you feel so led to donate to the Dearths personal support.