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