Monday, November 27, 2006

I'm Off to Turkey

In a couple of hours I will begin a 21 hour trip to Istanbul, Turkey. I'll arrive about 2 hours after the Pope is scheduled to be there. This will be my 4th time to Turkey since the fall of 2002.

It should be an interesting week. I am meeting with a variety of leaders both Turkish and people from around the world to talk about leadership development issues. The church in Turkey continues to be under pressure, and harassment of church leaders in many forms is not uncommon. It will be good to get an update of what is happening.

Should also be interesting to be in the country the same time as the Pope. As the protests prior to his arrival have indicated, Turkey doesn't do well with freedom of religion as we define it in the west.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Reflections from my time in Malawi

I was in Malawi the first week in November -- my 3rd time in the last 12 months. For those of you who don't know, Malawi is one of the 20 poorest nations in the world. Per Capita income is less than US$1 a day, and 50% of the population lives on US$120 a year. Life expectancy is about 37. There are 1,000,000 orphans -- more than 50% of those are as a result of HIV/AIDS. More than 15% of the adult population is HIV+.

In the middle of all of this, there are Malawian believers and Christians who are doing incredible ministry to the sick and dying, the women and grandmothers and the orphans and vulnerable children. We are trying to walk alongside the Malawian church as it ministers in communities devastated by the AIDS pandemic.

AIDS in Malawi is all-encompassing. Every aspect of society -- family, economics, education, religion, business -- everything -- is touched and affected by HIV/AIDS.

From this trip I have two images burned into my heart and mind. Let me briefly share them with you.

The other day I was taking a shower, and in the middle of that lovely, warm shower the following two pictures came to mind.

The new borehole/well in Matanda, Malawi

Carrying home the precious gift of clean water!

These two pictures tell a story. The Matanda area, on the outskirts of the capital city of Lilongwe is a typical Malawian community. There is no electricity. There is no running water. Until we dug this borehole/well this summer, there was no clean water available to the people in the area. This young girl walked at least one kilometre to get to this well, fill up her pail and walk home with her precious gift of clean water. She can't do what I do -- have a shower everyday with hot water. She can only dream of something like that -- if she even knows it is possible. My life and hers are unbelievably different. The question that I ask myself often is simply this -- what can I do to make the life of this young girl, and millions like her more human? What is my responsibility to see her life become more like God would want it to be? How can I help the Kingdom come to Matanda and to Malawi?

My second story is also about a young girl from the Lilongwe area. Her name is Matilda.


Matilda is 12 years old. She lives in Ngona -- a very poor community in Lilongwe. Matilda's mother is dying of AIDS. Matilda lives in a small, one-room mud-brick house with her younger brother and her 17 year old cousin. Her cousin often gets drunk and becomes violent. One night her cousin will come home and may very well beat and rape Matilda. If her cousin doesn't do this, then one of the other men in the community probably will. The beating and rape of young girls is an everyday experience in Ngona. Women and girls have no rights, and the men who abuse them rarely suffer any consequences. Matilda represents thousands of young girls in Malawi and millions in sub-Saharan Africa.

But, unlike many other orphaned girls in Malawi, Matilda has something going for her. She knows a woman named Theresa. Theresa is looking for ways to help Matilda -- to find a safe place for her to live, to help her get an education, and to find a way to get her adequate food and clothing. Matilda has hope. Millions of other young girls and women don't know a Theresa, and there is little reason for hope.

As my friend George Snyman from South Africa says -- the fact that millions of girls and women in Africa live in fear of getting HIV/AIDS through no fault of their own, and that they are subject to beatings and rape as a regular part of their existence, and that they have no rights when it comes to sex or education or so many other things that western women take for granted -- all of this is simply UNACCEPTABLE if there are Christians in this world.

And, if this is unacceptable, then what am I doing about it? What am I doing to love my neighbor across the street or in Africa? What am I doing to see the Kingdom come to Matilda and the girls and women in her situation? What are we doing?