I struggled with my sermon this week. I had some issues swirling around in the church and I wasn’t sure if I should let it go or incorporate the issues into the sermon. I called Pastor Bowman in Lusaka and compared notes, got prayer and felt the clouds lift. The issue is HIV/AIDS. Zambia is a nation that is bombarded with advertising and programs to inform and educate people about HIV. The problem is not lack of knowledge; it is a lack of will to be serious. The code word for HIV here is TB. You visit the hospital and there are no HIV/AIDS patients but the TB ward is full. Statistics are easy to play with, and it is to the advantage of some to make the numbers worse than they are. In the early stages of the disease here in Zambia it tore into your management level people. Those that could use their positions and money to support an extra spare tire or two, were the first ones to contract and spread the disease and begin to die. What percentage of people is carrying the virus? A mine that closed and reopened in the Copperbelt insisted on testing all returning employees and published the results: 34% This should be a high # considering these are your wage earners who have the means to move around in larger sexual circles. A common # I hear is 25%.
This reality has entered the church, specifically our church. I have counseled people who have tested positive. We had Bible studies on the church member’s topics of choice and how the church should deal with HIV/AIDS was one of those studies. I have gathered the medical people that attend church and did presentations on the disease. I have used a slide show put together by a Swiss couple doing survey work here in Southern Province. It is not a subject I feel I need to hide from, nor do I believe that the word of God is silent on the issues that go with HIV/AIDS.
The obvious issue of sexual activity and the disease is spoken to clearly in the Word of God. Live a morally clean life and the disease will not be an issue. We have done a True Love Waits program with the young people. The ABC’s that highlight the education program in Uganda are abstinence, be faithful to one partner and finally condoms. The answer for the Christian is abstinence and faithfulness. The answer for the whoremonger is condoms or conversion. This is very clear for the church.
The issue that is not clear is the issue of testing. This really becomes a battleground issue for people here in Zambia. The disease is a heterosexual disease here. Reasons why it manifests itself differently here in Zambia, compared to America are: weaker immune systems, poor diet, tropical diseases, and sexual practices between men and women. Marriage is a time when they are going to hear from me a strong recommendation that both parties get a HIV test. This issue of testing is what I ended up preaching.
Prov 2:10-11 When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11 Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, NKJV
Wisdom and knowledge are related to HIV and the issue of testing. Unless you have knowledge of your HIV status you will not be able to take the actions that are related to keeping you healthy. Without knowledge of your HIV status you might do things that will endanger others. The healthiest thing a person can do is to live the way God wants you to live. The problem is watching someone struggle with the recurring sicknesses without making the effort to get tested. “Anxiety in the heart causes depression”. Each hospital visit is surrounded with the unspoken issue of HIV/AIDS. No answer, no relief from the anxiety that is working away at you while you try to fight off the disease. In a nation like Zambia it is wisdom for someone who is or was sexually active to get tested. Why? Wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom is doing the right thing at the right time and you cannot practice wisdom in regards to HIV/AIDS without knowledge of your status. A person living in darkness lives a life of struggle. Easy things become difficult and difficult things become impossible. A person who embraces wisdom and knowledge find ways to survive and thrive.