Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas in Malawi



While it is cold and wintry here in the USA, it is the hot and rainy season in Malawi. From December through March, the ground is soft and broken up, new crops are planted, green leaves grow and flowers blossom. Because it rains almost everyday, flash flooding occurs from time to time, making the dirt roads in the country unreliable and food distribution difficult.

Seventy-five metric tons of USAID food aid arrived two weeks ago at our warehouse in Mzuzu, but we have not yet begun our distribution to the 40+ medical clinics, orphan care centers and social service agencies that have come to rely on CitiHope for protein-fortified supplements to their daily servings of maize. While we can’t do much about the delay, we are purchasing some basic food supplies for 30 AIDS orphans in two HopeHomes for Christmas.

A HopeHome is simply an extended family unit that receives nutritional food aid, medical assistance, and educational scholarships from external sources. It's hard enough for families to support themselves in Malawi where extreme poverty prevails. For an average nuclear family of five who have informally adopted another 10 or so orphans, it is almost impossible. But many Christian families in Malawi are willing to care for the basic needs of an extended family, and we want to help them do this See my blog for Oct 23).

Rev. Copeland Nkhata approached me in September about his desire to start a HopeHome. One of our ministry partners, Hopegivers International, provided initial funding for Copeland and his wife (and church family) to care for 10 orphans and abandoned children who had found their way to his church.

Rev. Nkhata is the young pastor of a small Methodist church that meets in a large thatched hut with a dirt floor near our mission center. He is also an enthusiastic participant in our Pastoral and Congregational Care Training program (see October 19).

Earlier in the week I received an encouraging report from Copeland. I want to share it with you because it will lift your heart today as you see how God and his people are providing help and hope to AIDS orphans in Africa at Christmas time:

Dear Rev. Michael,

We send you many thanks for your bountiful donation of charities to Mzuzu United Methodist Church. I am exceedingly excited to report on a successful HopeHome program that we have run since last month. The task of distribution of maize/corn is just starting. As planned we bought food for 10 children but as usual some needy families felt neglected or ostracized. And the leaders decided to redress the situation by being more inclusive as they assessed the claims to be genuine. And so we ended up feeding 16 children. Subsequent are the details of expenditure…

NOTE: The list below are the names of new vulnerable children and orphans whom I had missed out on in my proposal chiefly because of oversight for they are not consistent in attending the junior Sunday school but are children of bona-fide members. Some belong to HIV infected parents:
1 Khumbo
2 Esnat
3 Shadreck
4 Mercy
5 Glory
6 Shirozi

Also note that groundnuts are good for porridge, making it more nutritious. Porridge is served in the morning and evening especially to the infected. We have not yet bought them this December because we are waiting for supplies.

Thanks for making this program happen. We are very happy as a Church. Kindly consider including the new names on your list and raising more funds in the next phase. God bless you.


Well, of course, when I read the names of the six additional children and saw the pictures he sent me, I said ‘Yes’, and authorized additional funds to be given for the purchase of food and supplies in time for Christmas. Thanks to Hopegivers International, we’ve had funding for two HopeHomes this year. We plan to start more HopeHomes in 2007 as new sponsors are identified and engaged.

A HomeHome sponsor pledges $1000 to support 10 orphans and abandoned children who need nutrition, health, shelter, safety, education, family and protection—the seven hopes of every child.

Rev. Nkhata also sent me this brief note to update me on Hope # 5--the educational needs of the children in his care:

we have identified a [secondary] school for two of our students and they are ready to start in January. The boys are so grateful for your considerable heart to take care of their critical need. By February or March 2007, I will update you on this.

Our Prayer: May the Lord Jesus richly bless you and all those involved in this project.

Love from, Copeland (Pastor)
cc Darlison (Treasurer)
cc Leaster (Lay-leader)



PLEASE REMEMBER IN YOUR PRAYERS PASTOR COPELAND AND THE 16 ORPHANED CHILDREN IN HIS CARE. THOUGH IT’S HOT AND RAINY IN MALAWI TODAY, IT IS STILL CHRISTMAS!

mchriste@citihope.org

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

AIDS twenty-five years ago:

When I was an urban minister in San Francisco in 1981, I heard about a strange new form of cancer affecting gay men. The doctors called it “KS” and “GRIDS” (Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome). By 1984, HIV was identified and the disease became known as AIDS—a deadly killer.

Patient Zero was identified in New York as the first carrier of the deadly virus. In 1983, Malcolm, the first person I knew who was living with AIDS, came to my church in San Francisco. In 1986 I performed my first AIDS funeral. In 1987, one of our Sunday School kids, Joey, got AIDS and died. By 1988, the number of AIDS cases in America reported to the CDC totaled 55,000. By 1991, a year after I had left my church to became an AIDS Chaplain, the cumulative number of AIDS infections in America had reached 270,000—most of whom had or would eventually die. The disease had doubled, and would continue doubling, every 18 months.

Global AIDS 25 years later:

Here are the alarming statistics from the UN and WorldHealth Organization released November 20, 2007:

• 1.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the USA
• 24.7 million people are living with HIV/AID in sub-Saharan Africa
• An estimated 39.5 million people world wide are now infected with the virus.
• Some 2.9 million have died this year from AIDS-related illnesses.
• 4.3 million more were infected with HIV
• Infection rates are on the rise. Young people between 15-24 account for 40% of new infections world wide.
• AIDS has killed more the 25 million people since the first case was reported in 1981.
• 63% of the world’s infected people live in Sub-Sahara Africa
• 17.7 million women worldwide living with HIV/AIDS.
• In Sub-Saharan Africa, women with AIDS account for 59% of the total cases. (UN AIDS epidemic update and World Health Organization, Nov 20, 2007. Source: AP )

Also, consider this:

Five people die of AIDS every minute
In the same amount of time, nine more people are infected with HIV
Total who have died of AIDS since 1981: about 25 million—the same number who are now infected in sub-Saharan Africa.
There are at least 12 million AIDS orphans on the continent of Africa!

The good news is…that HIV/AIDS can be treated by ARV’s and managed as a chronic disease, and is no longer an automatic death sentance.

Good news for those who can afford and can access ARV drug treatment. Not every one in Africa can be tested and put on ARV’s due to lack of resources, transportation, and nutrition. Denial and stigmatization also loom large in countries like Malawi.

Malawi is a small land-locked country of 13 million in the sub-Sahara, bordering Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Malawi is particularly vulnerable to famine and disease, and suffers disproportionately from extreme poverty and AIDS. Currently, AIDS infects 25%-33% of the population and accounts for over 85,000 deaths per year, leaving 900,000 AIDS orphans.

Who is the Face of Global AIDS?

In order to put a face to all these numbers, I will tell you the story of Jinnee --one in a million AIDS orphans in Malawi!

Jinnee, a beautiful eight-year old girl, was selected from many in her village to go to camp for a week. “It is not our mission to provide food or medical aid,” the director of Children in the Wilderness explained to me. “What we offer is a camping experience that leads to educational empowerment.”

But Jinnee was not just in need of an educational camp experience. She also needed food and medicine to live. Her parents had died of AIDS and her Grandmother had become her guardian. The grandmother agreed to have Jinnee tested, and sure enough, she was HIV positive.

Jinnee was eligible to receive antiretroviral drugs (only available in Malawi since 2003), but she was unable to access the AIDS treatment for lack of resources. Her grandmother could not afford the nutritional supplements to make the treatment effective, or provide the transportation necessary to get to the AIDS clinic in the city.

Untreated and under-nourished, Jinnee’s health deteriorated. While it was not the organization’s mission to provide food and medical assistance, a camp counselor found a way to transport Jinnee to the Rainbow Clinic in Mzuzu—one of the clinics CitiHope channels medicine to.

At the Rainbow clinic, painted with bright colors and murals depicting a Black African Jesus welcoming children into his arms, Dr. Joseph Yu, one of our ministry partners from Taiwan Medical Mission, arranged for a nutrition program as well as medical treatment. It saved her life. Now she can return to camp and benefit from the educational experience and social empowerment programs which she deserves!

Whew. A flood of emotion just hit me, as it did last September when I heard this story in Malawi. Why are my eyes tearing right now as I write? Tomorrow is December 1, World AIDS Day. It is also “Family Survival Day” in our family of four. Every year on this day we pause to remember the day nine years ago when our daughter, Megan, was diagnosed with childhood leukemia.

After 26 months of chemotherapy, her life was saved. So, on December 1st each year we gather and pour Martinelli’s sparkling cider into Russian crystal goblets. I lift my glass and toast “to the girl who lived…” This year, I will also remember Jinnie, and all the other children who simply want to live.

It is deeply gratifying to be part of a ministry that helps thousands of orphans like Jinnee survive the Global AIDS crisis.
How do the people of God heed the biblical call to ‘seek justice, encourage the oppressed, care for the widow and the orphan and visit the sick and imprisoned’ (Isaiah 1:17; 58:6; Matt 25)

The best way, of course, is to be a “Good Samaritan” to the person in your path (Luke 10:25). “Who is my neighbor?” the attorney asked Jesus. The truth of the parable is that the one who at some risk shows compassion and cares for the stranger in need is the kind of neighbor who heeds God’s call.

Beyond personal compassion and care, we can join campaigns like ONE.org dedicated to mobilizing people and resources to end extreme poverty and global AIDS in our life time. Bono is a great champion of this plan of action, as I’ve profiled in a previous blog.

We can also get involved in relief and development organizations that are working to alleviate extreme poverty and AIDS in the third world: World Vision, Jubilee Network, Church World Service, Save the Children and Compassion International are among the many trustworthy, faith-based, humanitarian organizations that are making a difference in the world.

My particular involvement over the past 25 years has been with CitiHope International—a non-sectarian, Christian, humanitarian relief and development agency working in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

CitiHope’s mission in Malawi is to bring help and hope to vulnerable children and their families by supplying nutritional meals to orphans, widows and abandoned children; delivering life-saving medicine to hospitals and rural clinics; and providing Pastoral and Congregational Care Training (PACCT) in AIDS prevention and compassionate care in communities suffering from AIDS.

So far this year CitiHope International and its ministry partners have

• provided a million nutritional meals to 2,800 orphans in six Orphan Care Centers and 21 schools, prisons and other social institutions,
• assisted 11,780 patients in 10 hospitals and rural clinics by delivering $1.7 million dollars of medicine, and
• trained and equipped 40 pastors and staff in dealing with the social and spiritual issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in their churches

Next year, with your help, we could do more.

If you would like to make a donation to CitiHope's relief work in Malawi, or receive a ‘Hope Gazette’ newsletter, or volunteer to go on a mission trip, visit www.citihope.org

As John Wesley said: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving in Malawi



Home for the holidays. This year, nine members of our family of 17 will sit down at the table for a delicious Thanksgiving Meal. When Dad cooks he doesn’t like to prepare a traditional turkey, mash potatoes and gravy dinner, but something more exotic. Last time it was curried lamb and mulligatawny soup. This year, it's curried shrimp (classic Indian and shrimp Korma), two types of dahl (green and red), six varieties of chuntney, a fresh fruit platter, nan bread and condiments.

Today, millions of American will enjoy an abundant meal topped off with pumpkin pie for dessert. Even in the soup kitchens of America, volunteers have donated and prepared turkey dinners for all who want to eat. As we give thanks for living in a land of plenty, let us pause a moment to remember that 60% of the world’s population will still be hungry at the end of today!

Here’s a simple way to visualize global poverty adapted from the folks at Oxfram relief and development agency: (sourc: Oxfam Hunger Banquets at www.ONE.org)

If 20 people are sitting around your table today, let each one represent a percentage of the world's population. Three will eat a gourmet meal (like my family today). Five will get rice and beans (enough to live). And 12 will receive a small portion of rice (not enough to be well-nourished, like what the AIDS orphans in Malawi are eating today).

In the real world, the problem isn't a lack of food. As Gandhi said:
“There are enough resources in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

The problem is the distribution according to need, rather than accumulation according to greed. It’s an inequity that that can be fixed if we have the will to do so.

What can you do? Consider joining the campaign to end extreme poverty in the world in our lifetime by sharing some of your time, talent and treasure with an organization working in the developing world. Visit www.ONE.org for a list of NGO partners worthy of your support during this season of sharing.

As for me and my house, www.citiHope.org is the charity of choice.

This year (2007) CitiHope distributed 75 metric tons of food commodities (a protein-fortified nutritional soup mix) to 40 institutions in Malawi, enough to prepare approximately 4,000,000 meals and feed 22,000 people for six months. However, due to the lack of other food resources, many institutions used up the soup mix, which was intended as a nutritional supplement, as their main meal. Therefore, the estimated number of recipients fed was only 12,000 needy orphans, patients, and children. And now, the food has run out.

More food aid is needed this month and next year, and with your help, CitiHope can do more.

If you and I are lucky enough to have food on our table this Thanksgiving, then you and I also have the power and means at our disposal to help end extreme poverty in the world.

I urge you to make a contribution to a humanitarian relief organization or your choice that delivers food aid and assists in agricultural development in the third world. If you choose to support CitiHope International, you may do so online at www.citihope.org or send a check ear-marked for Malawi Orphan Care to
CitiHope International
PO Box 38, Andes, NY 13731

Thanksgiving, of course, is not celebrated in Malawi, but those who receive enough food today and tomorrow to nurish and sustain themselves will survive and thrive knowing that they are not fogotten by the world.

How grateful they are for the gift that has been supplied.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post Election New Start


Post elections present opportunities to re-prioritize how to spend one's life, re-commit to important causes, re-affirm higher values and make a brand new start. On this first day after a decisive national election, when the future seems uncertain, I propose a simple action that could change your life. I signed and made an important pledge today in support of a worldwide movement to end extreme poverty and global AIDS in my lifetime. And I invite you to do so as well.

An impossible goal, you say? Perhaps. But suspend your disbelief for a moment and read on. Consider the possibilities. Dare to believe what could happen when critical mass of people of faith, good will and commited action are mobilized and deployed in the Name of God and Spirit of Christ. A critical mass of people of good will whose faith "is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not (yet) seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Go to WWW.ONE.ORG "The Campaign to Make Poverty History."

Read the ONE DECLARATION signed by over 2 million people.

See why so many world Christians, people of good will, and faith-based organizations have joined the movement. Perhaps you will join us in this new and positive campaign. Each of us doing our part. Electing and supporting only those leaders and politicians that seek to follow and be faithful to the homeless Rabbi who opened the scroll of Isaiah 61 in the temple and declared that he has come to bring good news to the poor...and proclaim the year of Jubilee.

ONE.ORG was started by my favorite rock star--Bono of U2. Bono is also my favorite preacher. If you missed what Jim Wallis calls "his best sermon yet' last year at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., then here's link:

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=sojomail.display&issue=060203

Go there and read it for yourself. May Bono's prophetic words, and the Spirit of Jesus, move you today to take commited action in behalf of the world's poor, especially in caring for the AIDS orphans and widows in Africa.

"For true religion, pure and simple, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unpolluted by the world." (James 1:27)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day and the Poor


It’s Election Day and I intend to vote my conscience. Problem is my conscience is conflicted.

On the one hand, how can I reconcile my Christian faith with support for politicians who justify bloodshed in Iraq, torture for terrorists, hanging for convicted dictators, and trampling on the poor in order to build an Empire? On the other hand, how can I support politicians who engage in negative and vicious campaigns, take bribes, self-serve and corrupt themselves with power?

On the one hand, no President has done more than George W. Bush in 3rd world debt reduction and making AIDS drugs available and affordable in Africa. Prior to 2003, AIDS was an inevitable death sentence. Now, thanks to the Global Fund (which George W. deserve much credit for funding), millions of Africans don’t have to die. ARV treatment has now made AIDS a chronic disease for those who are able to access the protocals.

On the other hand, George W. is not my favorite President…and I don’t want to vote for those who support him.

How best to vote as a Christian in the midterm election? I find some guidance in John Hay’s “Seven Considerations I Make When Voting” on his blog site: http://bikehiker.blogspot.com excerpted below:

1. WHAT DOES IT DO TO THE POOR? Neither domestic poverty nor the impact of American policies on those who are poor internationally factor much into campaigns. Yet it was to the poor who were being crushed by the empire and belittled by religious sects that Jesus of Nazareth primarily addressed himself.

2. BEWARE LITMUS TESTS. Beware: personal piety does not necessarily translate into sound leadership or policies that reflect Biblical integrity.

3. AMERICA AND GOD’S KINGDOM ARE NOT THE SAME. Combining or confusing the two is, to my way of thinking, a potentially lethal mix

4. COMPASSION BEYOND CLICHÉS. I look for a candidate who I think will lead compassionately, not just talk about it. Will the candidate give an ear to those who are vulnerable and dominated?

5. LOOK BEYOND “ALL OR NOTHING.” Neither candidate is as extreme or demonic as the other camp says he/she is; neither is as morally right and righteous as his/her own press indicates.

6. CONSIDER THE USE OF VIOLENCE. I ask “How has a candidate responded to violence or used violence? And how does he/she plan to respond to and use it in the future.

7. AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD. Finally, I consider how candidates envision America’s place and role in the world. I am very concerned, as are many Christian missionaries, about an emerging aura of “empire” or “Pax Americana” that American actions are foretelling.

It’s Election Day, and at the end of the day, I suspect that I will take the advice of Robin Williams in “Man of the Year” who said: “Politicians and baby diapers are alike… in that they should be changed often and for the same reason.”

Monday, November 06, 2006

PACCT calls for Behavior Change to Counter AIDS



Persistent famines, pestilences, extreme poverty and civil warfare have wrecked havoc on the continent of Africa. Worldwide, 25 million persons have died of AIDS and 40 million are living with HIV disease. Sub-Sahara Africa suffers most from the AIDS pandemic where there are over 12 million AIDS orphans. If no corrective measures are taken now, it is estimated that Africa will have 20 million HIV/AIDS orphans by 2010.

Malawi, a relatively small country of 12 million, is particularly vulnerable to famine and disease, and suffers disproportionately from one of highest incidence of AIDS. Currently, AIDS infects 25%-33% of the population of Malawi, and accounts for over 85,000 deaths per year, leaving over 900,000 AIDS orphans in need of food and medical care. In spite of great efforts of large-scale AIDS awareness campaigns, what is missing is a carefully-targeted, grass-roots, faith-based, biblically-informed, theologically sound, practical approach to AIDS education and character development within the churches. Since the majority of the people in Malawi attend church, the church tends to mirror the culture, and thus a church-based behavior change intervention will significantly impact a majority of the population in northern Malawi.

During my September visit to Malawi, I was told many stories about how school-aged girls and boys who were sexually accosted on their way to school, either forcefully raped or economically pressured to trade sexual favors food and money.

Married women, too, are often victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. According to recent local government reports, “gender violence is on the increase in Malawi”. In addition to rape and predatory behavior in the community, “reported cases of domestic violence in Mzuzu have increased by over 50% this year.” (Mzuzu City Assembly reported in The Nation, April 2006).

According to a national study, “various violent acts and abuse against women by their partner put them at risk of contracting the virus that causes AIDS.” In fact, “49% of [married] women in the country have experienced some form of abuse from their partners…” In Mzuzu, a total of 796 registered cases (and countless more unreported cases) of rape, indecent assault, incest, defilement, etc. were reported to the courts. (Case Statistics on Gender Based Violence Against Women Tried at Mzuzu Magistrate Courts, 2004-2006).

Thus, a combination of economic issues, cultural beliefs, abuse and marginalization of women in the country is making more youth and married women vulnerable to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.(Crime and Justice Division of the National Statistics Office, April 2006) Clearly, standard “safe sex” education (ABC’s) falls short of what is needed in Malawi. Behavior change, character development, a new commitment to traditional values (including abstinence in singleness, monogamy in marriage and care for the afflicted), and the willingness to challenge certain cultural practices are required in this extraordinary time of AIDS pandemic.

Empowerment for women to say No, as well as confrontation and remedial interventions for males who prey upon and exploit women and children are most urgently needed. In addition to conventional AIDS education, “watchdog” confrontations and interventions are needed to stop predatory behavior and open the door to professional counseling, support groups, recovery programs and character development opportunities sponsored by the churches. Twelve-step type recovery groups, voluntary testing, and practical access to treatment programs are also needed to stop the spread of AIDS and help men and women overcome their experiences of rejection, exploitation and victimization.

Many community-based tribal leaders, Christian ministers and their spouses, church elders and members, and teachers of children and youth are ready and willing to become change agents in their communities and congregations—if specific, grass-roots, church-based training can be provided.

THIS IS WHAT CITIHOPE'S PACCT PROGRAM IS ABOUT. AND WHY I'M INVOLVED IN CHURCH-BASED AIDS EDUCATION IN AFRICA.

Our Pastoral And Congregational Care Training (PACCT)includes: frank discussions of various modes of AIDS transmission, HIV infection prevention strategies, dealing with denial and social stigma of AIDS, the need for voluntary counseling and testing, how to access medical treatment, find transportation to clinics, how to pay (if necessary) for needed medicine, and how to start, run or join recovery and support groups.

As a church-based equipping and empowerment program, PACCT is designed to train and empower 200 pastors and church leaders in Malawi to more aggressively take on high risk behavior issues in the fight against AIDS—without being moralistic. Those equipped will in turn train 50 more leaders in their churches and communities for a total of 10,000 persons equipped to help stop the spread of AIDS in Malawi.

So far we have trained and equipped 40 (mostly Presbyterian) pastors in Malawi. More trainings are needed as funding becomes available (see previous blogs.

If you are interested in learning more or helping me fund PACCT, I'd love to hear from you.

mchriste@citihope.org
citihope.org

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Moment of Kairos in San Francisco


Earlier this month, I was in San Francisco celebrating my past and future ministries. On October 6, 2006, Golden Gate Community, Inc. turned 25 years old. On that same day, I signed official papers registering WorldHope Corps as a new ministry. The next day, October 7, my youngest daughter turned 14, signaling another change in our family. The following week was the 25th Anniversary alumni celebration of my graduation from Yale Divinity School where I first felt called to international relief and development work during my first trip to Haiti to deliver emergency food provisions during a famine.

As I reflected on the timing of these seemingly unrelated events--the end of one era and the beginning of a new one--in my favorite city in all the world--if felt like syncrinicity--acausal effects somehow being connected. It felt like a special moment of kairos when past, present and future time all came together as one. Past ministry and future mission meeting in the present moment. Let me try to explain:

One fine day last Spring I got an unexpected phone call from Tess Reynolds, the new CEO of Golden Gate Community, Inc., informing me that the ministry to homeless persons that I founded in San Francisco in 1981 was now 25 years old. She invited me and Rebecca to fly out to SF to receive a special tribute at the 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Westin St. Francis on October 6.

I was both shocked and delighted to hear this news. Shocked because 25 years is a long time ago and I found it hard to remember what happened in those early years of planting a church and starting a ministry in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. And delighted to have been remembered, honored in this way, and invited to participate in an anniversary celebration of my organizational “baby” that had grown up into full maturity.

I tried to track down as many of the early Golden Gaters as I could, but was only able to reach a few. Still, it was wonderful to see former staff, community members and supporters who showed up for the event, including: Bonnie Wong, Michael Dotson, Andrew and Steve Worthington, Mike and Brenda Davis, Paul Moore, Clari and Sue Kinzler, Ira Hillyer, Ann McArtor, Cynthia Morse, Ralph Timms, Cliff and Connie McClain, Lisa Dosa, Veronica Hernandez, Susan Gamboa, Olga and Sophie, Mark and Joan Weimer, and many more. Also great to meet new Golden Gaters (who referred to us as the ‘old timers’ and ‘aging hippies’) and who were familiar with our pioneer work. One young staff member even said: “I read and memorized your book, man.”

The anniversary celebration featured a silent fund-raising auction and a program that featured testimonies from three current youth clients, a PowerPoint tribute to GGCI's history and development, and specials tributes to three key leaders for their contributions to the ministry: Randy Newcomb (my immediate successor), Alexa Culwell (board chair) and myself as founder.

Golden Gate Community met its fund raising goal of $50,000 for the evening, and exceeded its $250,000 goal for the 25th anniversary campaign and Tribute Fund for a total of $300,000. Not bad for a ministry that once lived hand-to-mouth, month-to-month, by grace through faith, praying daily that enough donations came in from our 500 supporters to meet our $100,000/year budget. Twenty-five years later, the annual budget of GGC is 4.6 million! I guess our earlier prayers were answered.

Yes, so much has changed and many aspects of the ministry have remained the same. GGC Church and GGC mission are no longer tied together but have progressed on separate tracks, each successful in their own right. The Oak Street House in the Haight has been sold to another ministry, as was Oak Street II—our Care House for persons affected by AIDS. The new digs of GGC are in the Mission District which attracts more youth and houses the economic ventures. New staff has replaced the old timers. The mission is much more professional and mainstream. The church has grown into “one community with multiple parishes.” in the city. And pprecious lives continue to be transformed, one at a time, by God and God’s faithful people who love and help those most in need.

Amazing, isn’t it, how a little house-church of twelve folks reaching out to the homeless in the Haight grew into a multi-congregational church of two-hundred and a 4.6 million dollar social service agency with three economic ventures in the city focused on job training development for vulnerable youth by 2006?

If you look at the history of Golden Gate Community Church and see how it has evolved over the last 25 years http://www.ggcc.org/who-we-are/history/ and then look at Golden Gate Community, Inc.’s website at www.ggci.org , you get an idea of how much has changed and remained the same since 1981 in terms of the original vision and core values that we originally established.

I see the organizational DNA evidence from the early days of working with street youth, single mothers and homeless families. I am quite proud of the fact that GGC is now regarded as a premier social service agency in the city and acknowledged for its “best practices” in the non-profit world. But I also see the need for the ministry to reclaim its spiritual focus and to lift high the name of Jesus who transforms vulnerable young lives by the power of the Spirit. I’m proud to be associated with Golden Gate Community, past and present, pleased to take a bow for starting the church and mission so many years ago, and confident in its bright future.

Somehow related to all this is the promise of a new ministry focus for the future. While in San Francisco, I was invited by Joseph Lam, President of World Children’s Fund, and Paul Moore, President of CitiHope International (both of whom were present at the GGC anniversary celebration), to help start a new ministry that would mobilize professionals and lay volunteers for mission projects around the world. Together, we signed papers to register WorldHope Corps as an international relief and development organization to train and utilize volunteers in global missions, a kind of a “believers without borders” approach to ending poverty and AIDS in the world. If you are interested in helping me develop this new venture, please contact me and I’ll involve you in the ground work of this emerging enterprise.

In the meantime, my hat’s off to all who have been involved in Golden Gate Community and made the church and mission what they have been and what they are today. Here’s to the next 25 years in the City by the Bay!

Monday, October 23, 2006

First HopeHomes Sponsored




Mission Update: Through the generocity of Hopegivers International, we were able to sponsor the first HopeHome in Mzuzu, Malawi last week.

A HopeHome is simply an extended family unit that receives nutritional food aid medical assitance, and educational scholarships from external sources. Instead of adopting AIDS orphans from outside the country, our approach is to strenghten extended family units within the country of origin. It's hard enough for a family of five in Malawi to support themselves where extreme poverty prevails. It is almost impossible for nuclear families that have informally adopted another 10 or so orphans to care for their basic needs. But many families in Malawi are willing to do this, and we want to help them do it. That's why we found a way to sponsor the first HopeHome in Mzuzu.

Since 2003, CitiHope has provided emergency food and life-saving medicine to 1000 orphans in four day-care centers (feeding outposts) in Malawi on a daily bases. In addition, we provide nutritional meals and medical aid to 10,000 hospital patients and prisoners in 40 social and church-sponsored institutions in Malawi each month. At least 50% of these orphans are believed to be HIV infected. All of them are vulnerable and at-risk of malnutrition, disease and exploitation unless they remain under the care of their guardians who bring them from their homes to the Center.

Guardians are grandparents, uncles, aunts, and neighbors who serve informally as foster parents after their parents die or are unable to care for the kids themselves. It is deeply inspirational to see how the extended family system works in Malawi, and re-assuring to know that they are not just looking for a free hand-out but just a hand-up to make it on their own.

HopeHome Sponsorship entails financially supporting nutritional food suppliments and educational expenses for orphaned children. (Primary school is free but those who are able to continue past the 8th grade must pay approximately $300/yr.)

For as little as $50/month, we can feed an orphan and keep him or her in school for a year! For $600, we can sponsor an extended family with 10 orphaned or abandoned kids.

So, I'm on a fund-raising campaign to fund 10 HopeHome sponsors before year's end. If you are reading this Blog, maybe you will be one of them.

If you have a heart for orphans in Africa and want to help, please contact me:

mchriste@citihope.org

You can make a contribution at www.citihope.org

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Madonna Adopts Baby in Malawi


Madonna Adopts AIDS orphan in Malawi?
Her baby boy is just one in a million in Malawi!

Controversial pop superstar, Madonna, who offended Christians this last Spring when she staged a mock crucifixion during her world concert tour, declared her intention to donate a million dollars to support an Orphan Care Center in Malawi. Then she announced her desire to adopt a motherless baby boy from "Home of Hope" Orphanage run by the Presbyterian Church of Central Africa in Malawi. Now that she has custody of David Banda, she wants to build a new orphanage for some of the 800,000-1,000,000 remaining orphans and abandoned children in Malawi. Her intentions and efforts, however controversial, have succeeded in calling world attention to this tiny, Pennsylvania-size country of 12 million people in central sub-Sahara Africa.

The tragic story of David Banda, whose mother died of AIDS and whose father left him at the orphange when he was two weeks old, mirrors that of thousands of other orphans in Malwai and throughout Africa. International adoptions may help, but support for those left behind is critically important.

I returned last month from Malawi where I saw first-hand the desperate needs of AIDS orphans and vulnerable families coping with severe famine, extreme poverty and life-threatening disease. They need all the help they can get from people of good will and right motive. While I welcome celebrity involvement, including Madonna’s, I Christians and people of good will should reach out and care for orphans and abandoned children in Africa in any way they can. Not only by adoptions but by sponsoring a child within Malawi who needs nutrition, education and medical assistance, or by supporting a Malawian family that has enlarged its nuclear family unit by including orhans in its household, and/or supplying medical aid to Africa's most vulnerable.

Personally, I favor faith-based approaches to ending poverty and AIDS because such ministries can be more holistic in addressing the needs of the body, soul and spirit. Evangelism and giving a cup of cold water and a warm meal in Jesus’ Name is the whole gospel for the whole person. That’s why I like what CitiHope is doing in northern Malawi.

If Madonna, who does not understand the true meaning of the Cross, can adopt motherless child and contribute a million dollars to help AIDS orphans in Malawi, so can those who understand both the suffering of the Savior and the power of the Resurrection, reach out and do what we can. Jesus told his disciples not to forbid the little children to come unto him. That’s why we provide daily meals and medicine to 1000+ orphans and 10,000 patients: that they might come to Him and live.

www.citihope.org

Presbyterian Pastors Receive AIDS Training



News Archieve: PACCT Program Launched in Malawi

Pastoral And Congregational Care Training (PACCT) began in September in Malawi as part of the on-going relief and development efforts of CitiHope International—one of the ministries supported by Y-Malawi at Central Presbyterian Church.

Forty pastors and community leaders participated in the three-day PACCT Workshop, including: 20 Presbyterian ministers selected by the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa; four ministers from United Methodist, Assembly of God and Adventist churches; and representatives of the Malawi Ministry of Heath, Ministry of Education, National AIDS Commission, World Vision, and the Livingstonia Synod AIDS Program (LISAP).

The workshop was focused on curriculum development for what is projected to be a series of training events for pastors, spouses and lay leaders around the religious issues of HIV/AIDS in the congregations: transmission modes, prevention measures, stigma and discrimination, voluntary counseling and testing, appropriate pastoral and congregational care, and special protection of women and children.

Malawi has one of the highest incidence of HIV infection in Africa (25-33% of the population of 12 million), and has at least 800,000 AIDS orphans and abandoned children. CitiHope assists 40 social and church-sponsored institutions in providing high protein meals and needed medicine to 10,000 recipients in northern Malawi.

Dr. Moira Chimombo, Professor of Education at the University of Malawi (center), Dr. Andy Gaston, MD, Director of Livingstonia Synod AIDS Program (right), and Dr. Michael Christensen, Africa Regional Director for CitiHope (right), led and facilitated the PACCT Workshop in September.

Future PACCT trainings will be offered for Ministers’ Wives, Lay Leaders, Women’s Guild, and teachers of children and youth.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Children's Coffins?


On my recent trip to Malawi, I visited FOMCO--one of the orphan day-care centers we support. On the road leading to the center I saw a sign advertizing wood coffins.

Children’s’ Coffins! A lot of children die in Malawi due to famine and disease. Coffin-making has become the #1 industry in Malawi, I was told. “You make coffins for the children you can’t save, so that you can save the ones you can,” my colleague Paul Moore Jr. observed.

FOMCO means Friends of Mzuzu Community Orphans—a community-based organization run by members of the community who volunteer their time and services. Established in June, 2000, the Center feeds 200-300 orphans and abandoned children their one and only meal, which is served outside to the orphans as they sit quietly on the red African dirt with their plastic bowels in hand.

Church volunteers also come daily to the FOMCO Center to help feed, clothe and care for the kids. When visitors visit, the kids love it because they get to play with donated soccer balls, balloons, freebies, and simple group games. Volunteers and visitors teach the kids new songs, and the kids and guardians show their visitors how to sing and dance their songs. The kids sometimes receive simple gifts and candies from the visitors, and always love and prayers.

Teachers come to the Center to hold class sessions in an outdoor, make-shift class room for those unable to go to public school. Skilled volunteers come to center on Tuesdays and Thursday to teach sewing to the older children. They make drapes and simple clothing to sell at market to support the work. A master carpenter comes daily to make small and medium sized coffins in the woodshop, and teach carpentry skills to others and to help provide income for the Center.

FOMCO’s Director, Mrs. Sichinga, took me into the kitchen hut and introduced me to young Viola (1.5 months) whose father died of AIDS. Her mother now volunteers as a cook. It takes two pots of porridge-- soy-protein mixed with maize--to feed all the kids at FOMCO one meal each and every day. As the meals are served, a group of guardians sing and dance. The Director provides a rough translation for me:

“It’s not the wish of these children to lose their parents…
We are thanking you today for giving us this meal…
People are caring for us,
Because if you are caring for the children,
You are caring for us.
Continue caring for us, and giving us food and clothing.
We thank God because it is the same God who gives you this Heart.

While I enjoyed the singing, I could not help but think about the chidren's coffins...and the children who die in Malawi due to famine and disease.

“You make coffins for the children you can’t save, so that you can save the ones you can.”

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mission Accomplished!



Trip Report complete
Results in from the field: At toal of 10,565 individuals have
benefitted from this year's Food Aid Program,7,757 being hospital patients suffering
from diseases such as TB, HIV/AIDS, Marasmus; and 2,808 being orphans and abandoned children at 8 Orphan Care Centers.
40 pastors have been trained and equipped to deal with AIDS issues in their congregations through PACCT
2 new staff hired by CitiHope Malawi to deliver and monitor the next shipments of food and medicine through CitiHope.

TRAVEL BLOG Soweto

On this last day of my mission trip, I toured SOWETO—heart and soul of the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa in the 70’s and 80’s. How well I remember the conflict between the White apartheid government in retrenchment and Black nationals gaining global solidarity for the justice of their cause. In both college and seminary, we as students lobbied our institutions of higher learning to divest themselves of South African corporate holdings to help break the back of the regime. We were inspired by Nelson Mandela’s long imprisonment and championed his release. We welcomed with great enthusiasm Bishop Tutu’s visits to the United States to update supporters on the resistant movement’s momentum and success. Finally, we celebrated the free election of Nelson Mandela as the first President of the new South Africa.

After 20 years, I finally had the chance to visit the sites of the Soweto uprisings. My Nazarene hosts—Linda Braaten and Kenneth and Theola Phiri—drove me into the Southwest Township of Johannesburg (SOWETO), past Diepsloot Squatter Camp to Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church which served as a public gathering space for the movement.

On June 16, 1976, Bishop Tutu was speaking at the podium when the police raided the church. The marble altar was broken by the butt of a police rifle; gunshots pierced the windows of the church; the crowd dispersed in a panic, breaking through the altar rail. They showed me the bullet holes still in the ceiling of the church as the choir was rehearsing for Sunday’s service. How could this happen in a sanctuary? I asked myself. Thank God for the prophetic witness of this church. Why were so many other churches in South Africa silent and uninvolved?

Our next stop was the site where Hector Pieterson, the youngest of the victims, was shot to death in 1976. Now a national monument and museum, the pilgrimage site is well-maintained and often-visited. I was shocked again by the familiar photograph of an older kid carrying young Hector's body. I was struck by the silent witness of those who gathered here in remembrance.

Our final stop was House No. 8115 on Ngakane Street, corner of Vilakazi in Oriando West-Soweto—the home of Nelson Mandela where he lived with his family before he went to jail for 27 years. A simple four-room house, it now contains many artifacts and memorabilia of Mandela, including: his boots, boxing belt, animal-skin bed covering, photographs, letters, and some of the diplomas of honorary doctorates. Every day pilgrims from around the world pack into this small house that has become a museum.

Today, Nelson Mandela lives in a bigger house in Johannesburg, and the movement he embodied and inspired lives on in the spirit and nationalism of the people in South Africa.

I pray that the good people of Malawi, as they continue their democratic reforms and struggle with poverty and AIDS, will learn and take heart from the experiences in South Africa.

Friday, September 22, 2006

TRAVEL BLOG Johannesburg



Back at the Park Hyatt Johannesburg where I began my mission trip to Africa two weeks ago. With Mission Malawi accomplished, I am here for two nights in transit to meet with Nazarene missionary, Linda Bratten, and others who may want to partner with CitiHope.


I met two local Nazarene youth leaders, Kenneth and Theola Phiri, who along with Linda, invited me on a Safari through Pilanesberg National Park.

The wild game reserve is about 2 hours from JoBurg and covers an area of 500 km square. Since this was my first African Safari, I was excited about 'shooting' the Big Five. Here is the list of wild animals sited and shot today with a digital camera:

17 Elephants (1 single and 16 in a herd)
15 Giraffee (4 sitings)
9 Hippopotamus (before and after going underwater)
23 Impala (jumping everywhere)
3 Kudu (sampled kudu jerky today for first time
1 Black Rhino
2 White Rhino (definately cool)
17 Springbok
12 Tsessebe
12 Warthogs (none named Pumba)
13 Waterbuck
37 Wilderbeest-Blue (ugly)
44 Zebra (many near the water)
5 turtles
lots of beautiful birds



More photos will be attached to this Blog.

What a wonderful way to end Trip #2 to Africa

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

TRAVEL BLOG Lilongwe, Malawi


Here in the capital of Malawi, the hotels are nicer and the food better than in Mzuzu. We're here for a series of meetings essential for present networking and future funding. As much as I hate meetings, our time was productive and promising with the Ministry of Health (medical programs), Ministry of Education (food program), USAID (food), World Vision (AIDS education), and Project Hope (medical aid).

The one fish we fry at each of these meetings is that Anti-Retroviral drug treatment for AIDS patients is not effective without nutritional food assistance. Can't do one without the other. AIDS orphans need meals and medicine, as well as transportation to clinics, emotional and spiritual support, and empowerment. Help us, help them, we say to those we meet.

Tomorrow, after speaking at the Nazarene Theological College, we fly to JoBurg, South Africa, before returning home.

Monday, September 18, 2006

TRAVEL BLOG Livingstonia


I preached today at the Livingstonia Mission Church--named after Dr. David Livingstone, the famous Scottish explorer, educator and medical missionary to Central Africa in the mid 19th Century who exposed the slave trade which led to its demise. Livingstone is remembered today as bringing the 3 C's to Central Africa: Christianity, Commerce and Civilization through colonialism.

The Livingstonia mission station itself was established by his successor--Dr. Robert Laws--who spent 53 years as a medical missionary and developed what is now the Central Church of Africa--Presbyterian. Today, there are over 130 churches with multiple ministries of holistic Christian care as part of the Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia.

It was Dr. Laws who built a mission campus on the plateau overlooking Lake Malawi that became known as the “greatest achievement in Central Africa.” Today, the compound includes the mother church, primary and secondary schools, a hospital, teachers residences including Dr. Law's Stone House, woodcutting factory and store, and Livingstonia University with teacher's college, agriculture, and seminary. It sits ontop of a mountain plateau, too high for misquitos. Still, Malari is number two disease, second only to HIV/AIDS.

David Gordon Hospital in Livingstonia is part of the original mission station, established in 1975. Currently, the hospital is in need of various medicines and

Livingstonia has a population of 70,000 and 7k we're told by the doctors, are HIV positive. The hospital we toured serves over 8K patients each year, 75% of whom have AIDS. The whole country seems to be HIV positive, and it permeates the church and culture. Thank God the Anti-Retro Viral drugs are available and with this treatment AIDS becomes a chronic but manageable disease.

What a privilege to preach to 700 or so congregates who filled up the splendid sanctuary. My text was John 4--the stimatized Samarian woman at the well... The music of the 5 choirs, mostly young people, was incredibly good. Perfect pitch, rhythm and movements. Distinctively African. Well practiced. Brought tears to my eyes. Although the service was two hours long, it did not seem that way. It was well-organized and wonderfully-conducted. I kept wishing my family were here to experience worship at its best.

We had dinner at Dr. Andy Gaston's home, and along with the feast at the Taiwan
Medical Mission, it was the best food I've had since coming to Malawi 10 days ago. All my other meals were the same: lean chicken, greasy fries, spinach greens. Breakfast eggs are always cold. Beef is tough which i never get. I mostly eat french fries, greens and protein bars.

We swam in Lake Malawi. Very fresh, clear, warm water. Refreshing. Fun in the sun, no summer beach crowds, simply wonderful. Paul and I wanted to return just to hang out on the beach where the rooms go for $12/night! Its a favorite place for drifters, backpackers, expats on holiday, and the young at heart. No tourists, than God.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Guest Travel Blog by Paul Moore


Good Evening:

Michael asked me to share my experience visiting some of the medical clinics we assist with medicine and supplies.

We visited a district hospital near the lake today and it was hard to see the patients. They are doing their very best, but there is so little that can be done. Lots of little kids, most of them near death or dying.

One little boy, there with his granddad and mother, had an extremely bad case of malaria. His little chest would rise and fall as he struggled for each breath. There was an almost an apathy in the level of despair. Like they had seen so much death, that it was almost expected that he should die. I didn't do so well with that. But the doctors were encouraged by our presence.

One thing I learned today was why over the counter cough syrups are so important in third world countries. If a child has pneumonia, the doctor will prescribe w/e antibiotic they can get their hands on (btw - the augmentin we delivered was a big hit!). So, while the antibiotic addresses the illness, there is no relief for the symptomatic aspects of it. The child takes the medicine, but the coughing doesn't stop. The mother then ups the dosage of antibiotic, which helps speed up the process, but they are unable to finish a sustained course of treatment. Not only does the child not get well -but a resistance is built up for the antibiotic and then, if the child dies- a lack of trust is built in the community and the patient returns to the "traditional healer" aka 'witch doctor'. Vicious cycle.

This also happens because people have to travel so far for health care. They come to the hospital by bike or by walking, but their child's lympnodictumor needs to have a shot once a month for the next six months, but they are needed on the family farm. So, the first shot decreases the size of the big tumor on their face and neck, and then they are put back to work. But if they just finished the course of treatment - it is completely curable.

This is why our Food program is so important. Some of the hospitals use it as a tool to motivate parents to bring their kids for treatment each month. Come get your child her shot and you can have a box of breedlove soup.

Tonight we had dinner at the Taiwanese Medical Mission and Dr. Joseph Yu, the Director, is just and incredible man. He became a Christian as a teenager and God forever changed his life. He decided to become a doctor to heal others, but after close to2 decades of gaining prestige and position, then he felt God called his heart and he knew he had to do something to help others - so - he has been in Malawi leading the center, bringing specialists for 3 months, 6 months,and 1 year at a time. The food at the Taiwanese Mission was awesome!!! It was like being back in NYC. What a joy and treasure - especially when 70% of all Malawians do not have running water or electricity.

Tap water is such a miracle. lightswitches are such a miracle. Btw - I love Seema (sp?) It is like day old grits - you know, when it gets nice and firm so, I am doggin it down - just wish I had some eggs and bacon to go with it.

Guest Travel Blog by Paul Moore



Good Morning from the warm heart of Africa!

Yesterday was a great day. Our first visits were at the inspiring orphan care centers where we deliver food. We were treated to a few songs by their volunteers and then we served the food. They have one week's left there and at the second orphanage, they ran out a month ago. Thank God the container is on it's way! As Dr. Christensen began to speak with the children and minister to them - I took a tour of their carpentry shop and sowing area. They make coffins for children there to raise money to help cover expenses. I told her how moved I was that they made coffins for children they couldn't save to raise funds for the ones they will save. Then I decided to teach them the song “Rise and shine” and played the same game I do with our Sunday school children - it was a big hit. We also visited St. Johns hospital where we saw our medicine in storage and they expressed deep gratitude for all we have given. Again, tremendous thanks was given for the FFP food as well because without it, the ARV's they give AIDS patients would have "no effect". The head doctor told us "without good nutrition and added fat, all the ARV's in the world have no value to us" - it was profound and it verified what Dr. Joseph Yu had told us earlier in the day. Ratindine was still in use in the hospital - he told us there was no way they could have afforded it outside of CitiHope. Well, I have to jet - breakfast is calling me from out "summer hut."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

TRAVEL BLOG Mzuzu, Malawi


We're staying at the CitiHope Malawi Mission Center in Mzuzu. Our internet connection has been down for 2 days. Also no hot water, several power surges, and a VCR that does not work. But I like this place. Clean, newly renovated rooms, office areas, kitchen and 2 baths. A wonderful thatched roof hut in the back yard. Secure brick fence around the property. And a property staff of three: a day watchman, a night watchman and a cook/housecleaner.

Back online after launching our PACCT program on Monday. Originally designed for 25 pastors, we have 45 pastors and NGO reps here for three days, fully engaged in the workshop on how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in their churches through morinformed preaching and teachirelevant education, overcoming denial and stigma, and behavior change. Two people living with HIV told us their story which put all things in perspective. I was particularly moved by Lillian, whose husband died 10 years ago, and who now has 13 kids and step kids under her care. She's on first line ARV drugs (now available in Malawi) which makes AIDS a chronical but managable disease for those who can access treatment. Part of our mission is to make sure more women and children living with HIV get the treatment they need.

I shared my own story of getting involved in AIDS work this morning in the first session. Twenty five years ago, patient zero was diagnosed. A hand full of cases of a "strange new cancer" surfaced from 1981-1983, and soon grew to 100,000 cases. What was initially called GRIDS--Gay-Related Immuno-Defieciency Syndrome--became known worldwide as AIDS. I was a pastor back then, and my church in San Francisco had AIDS. I shared some of the stories of those who came to my church and mission center for help and hope. And how I became an AIDS chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital. Now, 25 years later, there are 70 million infected world-wide, and 20 million deaths. How strange to find myself back in AIDS ministry after leaving San Francisco for New Jersey 13 years ago.

In Malawi, population 12 million, WHO statistics state that HIV infects 14.4% of the people and accounts for 85,000 deaths per year, leaving over 800,000 AIDS orphans in need of food and medicine. The medical professionals we work with in country estimate that between 25-33% of all Malawans are infected with HIV and need to be tested or in treatment. Which is of course, why we're involved in mission in Malawi.

Here in Mzuzu, the third largest city in Malawi and capital of the Northern Region, CitiHope works in partnership with the Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia (David Livingstone's legacy) and supports 37 community organizations caring for those in need of food and medicine, help and hope. Tomorrow we will visit 2 AIDS orphanage centers, a school for the blind, and medical clinics. Tomorrow we will meet with several doctors and village chiefs, monitoring the situation and finding out what else we can do to help.

But for now, its time for bed; tomorrow is just a few hours away.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

TRAVEL BLOG Lilongwe, Malawi


A relatively short flight from JoBerg to Lilongwei--the capital of Malawi. We managed to get through customs with two large CitiHope boxes of augmentin antibiotics that we brought with us as "extra cargo" ahead of the next month's shipment of medicines and medical supplies from our warehouse in Andes, New York.

There at the airport to greet us upon arrival was Rev. Maurice Munthali, Deputy Gen. Secretary of the Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia, and his wife, Thandi--our ministry partners and hosts. And Ya-Mei Huang, CitiHope's Country Director, and her husband, Dr. Bong--a pediatric public health physician with Taiwan Medical Mission--another ministry partner. And Gabriel Mosongole, CitiHope's Food Aid Program Manager, who was all smiles.

We loaded up the van and proceeded to Mzuzu where our mission center is and where our relief work continues. Tonight we stay in the guest rooms of our newly renovated mission center, and tomorrow we start the Pastoral and Congregational Training Program in the city.

What a wonderful guest house/office/mission center this place is. Ya-Mei has spent the summer overseeing the renovation of this building, adding a security wall, water tank and summer hut in the background. This is headquarters for CitiHope Malawi.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

TRAVEL BLOG Johannesburg, Africa



Paul Moore Jr., Vice President of Citihope, Dr. Tanya Soldak, Medical Director, and I, serving as African Regional Director, left JFK today (9/8/06) at 6pm on a 17 hour flight to Johannesburg via Dakar. We will overnight at the downtown Hyatt before catching tomorrow morning's flight to Malawi (9/10/06) where we will be met by our hosts (Rev. and Mrs. Munthali), CitiHope Country Diretor (Ya-Mei Haung) and World Children's Fund representative (Doug Kendrick), one of our major funders.

In JoBurg we enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner at the Hyatt restaurant before settling in our most comfortable bed for the night. Thank God for Gold Club membership which got us a great discount in this ***** international hotel. It was to be our last great meal before two weeks of enduring the bland diet of available food in Mzuzu, Malawi--our mission destination.

Paul's mission is to monitor food security and distribution of the 75 metric tons of emergency food our staff has delivered in partnership with USAID's Food for Peace program. Dr. Tanya's mission objective is to secure a memoradum of understanding with the Minister of Health to continue our medical deliveries and systematize our pharmaceutical management programs in Malawi. My mission is to launch PACCT--our Pastoral and Congregational Care Training program to prevent the spread of AIDS.

A three-day curriculum development workshop for 40 pastors and NGO respresentatives is scheduled for next week which will result in a training resource manual for use in church-based AIDS education, behavior change interventions, and greater community protection of women and children at risk of infection.

The international sponsors of these programs are World Children's Fund, HopeGivers International, DaySpring, and Central Presbyterian Church of Summit, NJ. Together with CitiHope, we continue to large supplies of food and medicine to 36 institutions in northern Malawi.

I hope you will follow our steps for the next two weeks, pray for good success, and share this travel blog with others who may be interested in faith-based approaches to ending Poverty and AIDS in Africa.

9/10/06

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

MAN ON A MISSION TO MALAWI


One year after my first trip to Malawi, Africa, in August 2005, I am still affected by my encounter with hundreds of AIDS orphans at three Orphan Care Centers in the north. In the photo above, I’m holding one of the HIV positive orphans at the Kutemwa Center run by Rev. Mumba (who also pastors the Presbyterian Church next door). My 15-year-old daughter, Rachel, left, accompanied me on this trip, volunteered at an HIV clinic in Mzuzu, and met with a church youth group. Together, we visited many of the 36 community-based projects—medical clinics, schools, orphan care centers, and feeding programs—sponsored by CitiHope International—a Christian humanitarian relief and development NGO—and its partners.

Today, I begin a sabbatical from Drew University where I teach pastoral theology and direct the Doctor of Ministry Program, to serve as Africa Regional Director for CitiHope International. Although I will conduct some research and continue writing during my sabbatical, this is an active leave of absence dedicated to training pastors in Malawi to take on the AIDS pandemic through church-based AIDS education, calling for voluntary testing, de-stigmatization of the disease, and empowering behavior change in their congregations to stop the spread of HIV.

This leadership educational program is called PACCT—Pastoral and Congregational Care Training—the goal of which is to train and equip 200 ministerial leaders who will in turn equip lay leaders, teachers of youth and children, and community leaders in developing an intervention curriculum this month in Malawi to help stop the spread of HIV and care for those with AIDS. PACCT is a holistic approach to AIDS intervention: medicine and medical supplies are distributed to clinics, emergency food and nutritional supplements are supplied to schools and orphan care centers, and a church-based approach to AIDS education, prevention and care is conducted with local pastors. (see PACCT Program Summary)

I leave for Africa on Friday, September 8, to launch PACCT with a local resource team that will facilitate a 3-day conference of 50 key persons—pastors, community representatives, persons living with AIDS, and consultant-trainers, tasked with developing the training curriculum. There is much to do, and great hope and excitement about this program, and I am delighted represent CitiHope in this capacity.

In addition to conducting PACCT, I have been asked to manage the CitiHope Malawi staff which delivers and monitors 75 metric tons of food aid and 3 million dollars/year of medical assistance to 36 institutional recipients serving 22,000 AIDS orphans and their extended families, school children and hospital patients.

I am also engaged in raising the annual budget for this mission. We need $328,000 in 2007 to continue this level of food, medical and educational assistance. I am confident that individual, congregational and organizational sponsors will contribute to the cause. If you would like to make a donation, or learn more about how you can help, please contact me directly at mchriste@citihope.org or visit our website at http://www.citihope.org/

When I return to Drew next year, I want to have made a difference. My mission goal is to save the lives of a thousand AIDS orphans, deliver 3-5 million dollars of food and medicine to 36 community-based organizations, and equip 200 pastors and lay leaders in basic AIDS education, prevention and care. And I want to do so with a community of partners, sponsors and supporters who will pray for me, perhaps will join me on a trip, and will reach out to those at-risk for AIDS in Malawi through CitiHope International.

I am inviting you to support me and CitiHope in any way you can. Please let me know if you would like to continue receiving my Reports from the Field and E-Letter updates on the Malawi Mission. I will be posting daily reflections on my Travel Blog during my upcoming trip (September 8-24).

mjc