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