Lyn @ Race against Time Summit.30/11/06
2006 Global Summit on AIDS and the Church - Race against Time. Saddleback
Lyn (and CARIS) is privileged to be present at the Race Against Time conference at Saddleback Church. One thousand eight hundred Christians from all over the world came together for two days to be challenged and equipped to respond to HIV.
Lyn reports from Saddleback:
I will try and share some of my impressions with you. The scale of this summit is difficult to convey to. To have a church with the scope and size of Saddleback is a bit overwhelming. I have been in villages that are smaller than the ‘Saddleback campus’. The human and physical resources available are huge. Everyone goes out of their way to make you feel at home and welcome.
I am unable to record everything from all the sessions, but I will try and reflect some highlights from the different sessions.
Again, as in so many occasions where one has the opportunity to meet with other Christians, the discussion and networking opportunities where a large and wonderful part of the conference. It is a privilege to meet so many brothers and sister who have been challenged by the AIDS pandemic and who have responded to these challenges in so many ways
Rick Warren welcomed everyone and emphasised that all sectors of society should be involved in addressing the problem. He said that this conference is an attempt to bring together those who might not otherwise work or talk together.
A video was shown highlighting the current situation in the world and asking if we are ‘okay with it’. The worship team leads with a song “Waiting on the World to Change” which again challenges Christians to get involved.
Kay Warren says that we can’t wait to change the world. She talks about the Word of God saying in Psalms that God listens to “The cries of the needy.” She says that she is glad that He does, because until recently the church did not listen to the voices of the needy. She tells us how her confrontation with the realities of HIV changed her view of reality. The article confronting her brought the painful reality of 12 million orphans started to haunt her.
She was faced with her own-
Her obstacles to becoming involved were:
Coming back to the USA, her husband did not feel that AIDS was something that touched him or Saddleback Church. Rick Warren tells his story:
For twenty years he was wrong about AIDS – he didn’t care, because he was to busy with other ‘good’ things. God got his attention through.
Pastor Shane Stanford shares his story as a person living with HIV since he was sixteen. He shares that his journey was in many cases a race against time and a challenge for his faith. Today he realises that HIV has shown him what God can do in your life – lessons about time, relationships,
An enthusiastic praise and worship team from Africa introduced some ‘rhythm’!
Ambassador Mark Dybul, U.S Department of State emphasised the role of faith based organisations and the need for even more involvement from churches.
Richard Feachum, executive director of the Global Fund emphasised that the fight against HIV is impossible without the church.
What churches do particularly well is:
He once again emphasised the importance the Global Fund places on the faith based sector and the large amount of funding the Global Fund distributes through these channels. The role of commercial organisations in strengthening the Global Fund is highlighted.
What your Church Can Do. Kay and Rick Warren highlighted guidelines for practical involvement proscribed by Scripture:
C – Caring for the sick. Video Story of Prisca from Rwanda emphasises the difference it makes in people’s lives if they have love. Kay suggested basic to more advanced steps for getting involved
H – Handle testing and Counselling – If you don’t know your status you are in denial! Testing provides opportunities for being thankful and staying negative if you are negative. If you are positive you have the opportunity for protecting others and for positive living choices.
U – Unleash a volunteer force of talent, purpose, energy. Reaffirm role of church as change agents.
R – Remove the Stigma. Losing your job, Rejection of you and your family is part of the added challenges of living with HIV. Touching, holding and praying with people reduces stigma. People are stigmatised in all parts of the world! Stigma breaks the Father’s heart. It is not a sin to be sick! Being left to die should not be the consequence of any sin! The question is not “How did you become ill?” but “How can I help you?”
C – Champion healthy behaviour. Churches can encourage healthy lifestyles because God cares about bodies – God made it, Christ died for it, and the Spirit lives in it! It is necessary to use strategies for risk reduction as well as risk elimination – slowing the pandemic as well as stopping it.
Better still is to eliminate risk:
The church should give the right message that it and God is not anti sex, but pro – sex. God gives us rules for healthy healed abundant sex.
H – Help with Nutrition and Treatment. Dr Robert Redfield (Institute of Virology, Maryland. It is exciting to see the church poised for greater involvement and taking a leadership role. It is fundamental that churches be involved in providing care and also the greatest opportunity the church has had. Medicine has a emotional and spiritual component that should also receive attention – God heals, He wants us whole, and this is only possible with a full re-engagement of the church in health care. The imbalances in health care in different parts of the world, ‘poaching’ of health care professionals and inappropriate healthcare system is some areas is an issue that churches should attend to. The divide between church and medical facilities can and should be broken down in order to strengthen the church and the medical facilities. Only providing access to medication is ineffectual, if access to food security is not also ensured. Treatment support, transportation, and actually providing medication in churches is some of the possibilities for churches to learn. Eventually, some of the models of churches involved in health care can be brought back to America and used for other health care challenges. God did not cause HIV, but He allowed it and the suffering can be used for greater good – for the church to learn love. The church is awakening – medicine dreams of a time when there is no unnecessary suffering or early death; The church dreams that humanity and mercy should return to the world – These should be united. God gave us the choice and the responsibility to do this!
After lunch, Dr Christian Pitter of the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation graphically exposed us to the challenges of paediatric HIV care. He emphasised the importance of care in a family centred approach. The challenges of preventing MTCT were highlighted as well as the importance of treating parents and strengthening families/
Dr Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, spoke on the challenges world wide of caring for orphans. He also emphasised the opportunity that the orphan crises presents to the church. God’s heart is about and for orphans.
In one of the many simultaneous workshops this afternoon, Elizabeth Styffe introduced some of the tools from Saddleback and provides guidelines for how to start a HIV ministry in a local congregation. This includes increasing awareness, adjusting attitudes, taking action and allocating resources.
In the session on Women and HIV, Mary Davis Fisher, United Nations special representative on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Deborah Dortzbach, international director, HIV/AIDS programs, World Relief, spoke passionately on the specific challenges and opportunities facing women in the pandemic.
Edward Green, Ph.D., Harvard University anthropologist and AIDS prevention authority spoke on the difference between risk avoidance and risk reduction. He highlighted the fact that different prevention strategies are required in high risk and generalised populations. He explained the dangers of a strategy becoming an ideology and presented statistics showing that behaviour change is possible.
The evening session started with a video where rock star Bono pleaded for churches to stand together to wip our “stupid poverty”, that allows children to die while others live in abundance.
The final session provided the opportunity for three pastors to show how their churches responded (or did not respond) to HIV and AIDS:
- Pastor Luis Ortez emphasised the importance of clergy training.
- Bishop Charles Blake
- Pastor John Ortberg
1 December 2006
Lyn shares some thoughts from day two of the Race against Time Global HIV Summit:
The focus of the second morning was on “working together.”
Rick Warren introduced Kent Hill, director, Bureau for Global Health, USAID, who encouraged the faith based sector to work with national and multinational organisations. He emphasised, like so many of the speakers at this conference, the importance of the church and faith based organisations in addressing HIV.
Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini from the Episcopal Church in Rwanda brought the realities of the challenges the church in Africa faces to life. He emphasised the message they convey to their members about three things:
An energetic and passionate presentation by Rev Eugene Rivers III, pastor of the Azusa Christian Community in Boston, highlighted the challenges and role of the African American Pentecostal churches. He described the pandemic as a Kairos moment for the church of God where the crisis provides the opportunity for the release of the Spirit of God. According to him the local church should be involved in:
- Advocacy – standing in the gap.
- Humanitarian assistance
He highlighted the need of the church to be a prophetic voice to declare the word of God and the need for churches to challenge government to apply resources to address the challenges the world faces. He emphasised that churches in America and elsewhere can’t advocate on increased resources for war and be quiet on resources for the poor. He describes the AIDS pandemic as a revolutionary opportunity for the Spirit of God to bring His children together, and show the world hope, conscience and a witness of the love of God.
Rick Warren told participants about the Global P.E.A.C.E Plan, which he believes can address the “Goliaths” of the planet. These Goliaths are
He describes the five things Jesus did on earth and suggested that these things could be used to address each of the major challenges of the planet. While on earth, Jesus:
Jesus left the world with a set of instructions in Matt 10 and Luke 10, which gives us the guidelines for practising His PEACE plan in the world. The key to this P.E.A.C.E plan is:
“Ordinary people empowered by God making a difference together wherever they are” and the pillars of this plan are what differentiate it from other processes:
When the church ignores an issue, God creates organisations to step into the void. The creation of large non profit organisations unfortunately let Christians sit back and think they can and should leave aspects such as caring for the poor, hungry, youth and others to the “professionals” in these organisations.
We can not let motivation of religion get in the way of doing things or helping people. We must work together.
He thinks that it is time for a second reformation. The second reformation is not about changing beliefs but about changing of our behaviours. We must also return civility to civilization.
Senator Sam Brownback, United States Senator for Kansas, highlighted how personal health challenges and the challenges faced by friends have brought him and others closer to the Lord. The fact that he and others at this conference have been given much, place a bigger responsibility on them to give more. He equates the parable of Lazarus to the situation in America at this time and reminds Americans that their response to the need of the world may in fact determine their condition of their eternal soul.
He illustrated various examples of the unimportance of our personal barriers, perceptions and prejudices in the light of the magnitude of the needs of the world. An enormous potential coalition exists throughout the world which is waiting to come together if and when we reach out and love each other. One of his suggestions is for local individuals and groups to go to the areas of need worldwide to see and experience the realities, to become involved, to, together, change the world.
Sen Barack Obama , United States Senator for Illinois, emphasised that faith is not something you believe, but something you do and that one should never underestimate the power of passionate individuals. He told of his experiences in Kenia and South Africa and personalised the statistics by telling the story of one woman he met in South Africa. As a Christian he, and each of us, need to understand that the families, the individuals suffering are our brothers and sisters. He suggests that key aspects for addressing HIV should be:
He emphasised that the the issues surfaced in high prevalence situations can escalate other challenges and instabilities (like poverty and political instability) in communities and countries. He once again highlighted that our faith reminds us that we are all sinners and that it is not a sin to be sick, that Christ was sent to heal and reconcile situations and people, that our faith compels us to be ‘our brothers keeper’, in the USA and in the world. In this way we can get something meaningful done. He ends by continuing the story of one woman in South Africa who with courage and commitment faced the challenges and realities of her life, and made a change in her community. He challenged those present to use the resources they have to make a difference and to use this AIDS Day to tell the stories of those who overcome and made a difference.
Rick Warren reminded us of situations of inequity in the past where the church took the lead to encourage change. He exhorts us to be the face of compassion and to be the in the lead in addressing the challenges and difficulties of the Aids pandemic.
The morning is ended by a prayer for the two senators (from the right and the left) as representative of all in leadership positions in government in the country.
Senator Sam Brownback, Sen Barack Obama and Pastor Rick Warren committed themselves to being publicly tested during lunchtime. A free testing service was available to all delegates throughout the conference.
After lunch Kay introduced the next session where the presidents of four large international organisations spoke of the work their organisations do:
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, spoke of the importance of saving lives, in spite of the differences between us. Quoting II Sam 11 he spoke of the sin of David and the things he did to try and keep his sin hidden. He equated this to the reaction of many in the time of Aids.
Sammy Mah, president of World Relief, emphasised the theme of the conference “a race against time.” He quoted a NASCAR driver who said “It is amazing what can be accomplished if no-one care who is getting the credit” We can be the voice of the voiceless and work with the local church assessing local needs to create meaningful programmes. He feels that the Lord has a challenge and an opportunity for us to get involved – now!
Wess Stanford, president of Compassion International, pleaded for God’s people to make sure that this is the last generation suffering from AIDS. He reminded us that we have come far and that we have things to celebrate in spite of all that is negative – he celebrated that the church moved past the point of asking “Who have sinned” to embracing those infected. He highlighted some of the wrong steps the church, governments, business and others have taken as well as some of the wonderful thing that has happened.
He feels however, that we have not come far enough and reminds listeners that access is not pills on a shelf - that is just inventory! He suggested that churches and organisations need to take the next step where they get involved with the individuals, especially children, on ARVs.
He shared the moving history of nine year old Caroline. He spoke about her physical and emotional pain living with HIV and watching her mother die and said that this pain is why access is not enough, education is not enough, nutrition is not enough. He spoke of the 'last mile' we should walk with those suffering. The last mile includes some-one caring for and loving the Carolines and helping and caring for them in every aspect of their lives – the ones doing this, the ones walking the last mile is the community workers all over the world. The miracle workers of the last mile are the people of the church! The church is a viable, credible community for action throughout the world.
He spoke passionately of the work of Compassion and the partnership it has with local churches throughout the world, through which children and families receive comprehensive compassionate care and support in all aspects of their lives. He emphasised that local churches can not do this work without the partnership and brotherhood of churches all over the world.
The greater challenge of doing the work their organisation does is not to get the church in areas of need involved – they are already involved - it is to get the ‘privileged’ church involved! He feels that the next generation will hold us accountable if we do not walk the last mile with our brothers and sisters who need us.
Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, told us how difficult it was for him initially to be exposed to the realities of poverty and AIDS – he mentioned the fears he had going into Africa for the first time. He explained how the face of AIDS in Uganda became for him primarily the face of children, and then also of woman and elders. He was ashamed, then felt compassion, then became angered and eventually resolved not to rest till the Church of Christ was awakened and involved.
From Matthews he drew parallels between the man with leprosy and people with Aids. He describes how Jesus touched the man, and how the church should touch those with Aids. He again highlighted that this crisis can not be solved by any government, any organisation or any group, without the involvement of the church in Africa, in America and elsewhere. The church has resources and has the reach to address the need.
World Vision trained 61 000 pastors in theprogramme (WOW!) in the last year. As a result of this programme 600 000 orphans and vulnerable children are being cared for through their congregations in Africa, thousand of home based carers were trained, thousands of children were trained in a life skills and sexuality programme, thousands of lives were touched. We live in a time where the challenges have never been greater, but also where the resources and abilities have never been greater. He challenged the church to BE the church. This must include:
The question facing the church today is the same one the leper put to Christ “If you are willing...” The question to us is also “Are we willing?” or are we a wealthy and apathetic church. This can be a defining moment for the church – are we willing?
Rick Warren mentions again the importance of both professional and ‘ordinary’ participation in all the issues surrounding HIV and Aids. The Willow Creek /World Vision Courageous Leadership award for congregations involved in HIV was explained.
After a workshop session, Rick and Kay Warren led the final session of the full and powerful conference, a session based on Christ’s great commission – “Because of Love”
Kay said that she prayed that everyone would leave the workshop as seriously disturbed as she is. She emphasised that the process of becoming involved in HIV should include:
Rick summarised by saying that the heart of the issue is an issue of the heart. AIDS could in fact stand for:
Rick emphasised that this can only be turned around by repentance, acceptance, presence and endurance.
He told pastors and leaders that they will have to take the lead and the heat – there will be others who do not want them to take this view, or start on this road, but the need to do what Jesus would do!
He reminded us that the real change in this pandemic is not initiated by the pastors in the American mega-church leaders, but by the pastors in the villages caring for people.
A video was shown showing the work of Pastor Stratton in Rwanda, who epitomises what CHURCH should be.
Rick then introduced Pastor Stratton who conveyed a strong message of hope emphasising that this hope will come from the church. He talked about his ministry of presence - or as he calls it the 'ministry of hugging'. He explained that just being present in the lives of people has actually reduced the number of AIDS deaths in his community and highlighted that the church needs to care for those with HIV and Aids because God puts them on our paths.
Rick Warren thanked everyone for their presence at the conference, he thanked those involved in HIV work, and he thanked those living with HIV who survived times of despair. He reminded us that we who are involved in the HIV terrain do not do what we do for a cause, but we do it for a person, Jesus Christ! He reminded us that we are compelled by the love of Christ (I am sure this sounds very familiar to Churches, Channels of Hope participants!). Although as individuals or individual churches we can not do much, the combined efforts of millions of Christians can! We can choose to watch history, or be used by God and become part of writing history.
He invited those living with HIV to come forward to receive a blessing and prayer while a song "Use Me" is sung. He prayed for a miracle year for all involved!
This brought two very full and busy days to an end for all the participants and hundreds of Saddleback volunteers. Although this report conveys a very limited impression, I believe that few people could leave Saddleback after these two days unchanged and not understanding a little bit more about HIV and the complexities of the pandemic. I pray that many churches and Christians were encouraged and compelled by the love of Christ to minister hope and reconciliation to their brothers and sisters infected and affected by HIV.