Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles from 2010, click here.

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Grace Church attendees burn twigs from a tree that was taken down the day before.

Distance

Written by JaLynn Robison

While Grace Church member cleans outdoor chairs before putting them away for the winter.

As I drive to Grace Community Church for Sunday morning’s commissioning, I think about distance. Not just because it’s 7:45 am, and I’m driving almost 14 miles north when my project site is less than a mile south of where I live, but because it seems especially relevant to the service project that I’m shadowing today.

My project today is Loving South Africa (LSA), a ministry that cares for HIV/AIDS suffers in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa and seeks to get local Christians involved in what God is doing in South Africa.

It might seem strange to spend so much of ourselves to help people an ocean away. I mentioned this to Claire Wybrow, wife of LSA founder Geoff Wybrow. Claire replied that as Christians we are called “to take care of widows and orphans” and the AIDS epidemic has turned Kwazulu-Natal into “the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic” and has turned the region into “the greatest concentration of widows and orphans.”

A Grace Church member drills holes to hang digital picture frames.

According to a regional report issued by UNAIDS, “in 2008, more than 14.1 million children in sub-Saharan Africa were estimated to have lost one or both parents to AIDS.” South Africa has the largest infection rate of any country in the world, and Kwazulu-Natal has the highest HIV-infected population in South Africa. These devastating figures create the perfect opportunity for American Christians to act as the hands of God.

On this Sunday morning, U.S. citizens were able to do just that. Several participants in the Weekend of Service helped LSA by painting the outside of its office and doing basic yard work and cleaning.

While this type of work was deeply meaningful to LSA’s staff, even more interesting was the work that was being done inside. A few people were working on a project for the room where LSA’s staff has its meetings. But to explain this project’s significance, we’ll have to take a few steps back.

This room is dedicated to what is happening in South Africa. In a corner of the room, a lamp has a red light bulb. This light bulb represents people that are suffering from HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Behind the light bulb are pictures of the mass graves that are needed to bury people that die of AIDS-related illnesses.

The cemeteries have run out of space, so the government pays farmers to use their land for mass graves, instead of growing food in a country where food is scarce.

This drill was used to hang digital picture frames that tell the story of LSA’s South African partners.

Today’s project will counterbalance these images of death with images of hope. Today, the team is hanging digital picture frames that will feature pictures of LSA’s South African Partners –Light Providers, World Changers Academy, Lily of the Valley, Sinikithemba, Makaphutu Children’s Village and Siyaphila.

Not only will these pictures remind LSA’s staff why they do what they do, these pictures will also show people new to LSA what LSA does.

Showing people LSA’s work with its South African partners has become a crucial part of this ministry. In fact, the organization is currently working on its newest project: the HIV Positive Experience. This project, housed in the back of LSA’s office, will show Americans what it is like to live with HIV in South Africa.

The experience is an interactive walk-through exhibit with a variety of stations.  Participants will watch videos, sit in a replica hut, drink South African tea, and touch dirt from mass graves.

This hut is part of LSA’s new HIV Positive Experience.

According to LSA’s Jay Kirkpatrick, the experience will introduce people in central Indiana to the “sight, touch, taste, and smell of South Africa.” The experience will shake visitors, but it will also inspire visitors. They will leave with “practical tools” that they can use to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The HIV Positive Experience will open to the public within the next few months. Once it is open, it will abolish the distance that separates people in central Indiana and people in South Africa. Distance will seem so petty when people realize that the horrors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are so tragic and so easily preventable.

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Next Steps
    • Learn more about the AIDS epidemic in Africa by watching the feature film Yesterday. You can even host a viewing party with some friends to spread awareness. Yesterday tells the story of a young South African mother that learns that she has been infected with the AIDS virus.
    • Support LSA by donating through this secure link.
    • Stay tuned to LSA’ s website to learn about what is happening with the HIV Positive Experience. It should be open to the public in the next few months.
    • Pray for LSA’s and its parent organization, Loving Accurately Ministries. These two organizations are performing critical work to help Christians learn how they can be effective in how they show their love to the world.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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Comments

  1. Jim M. said... 

    Reply

    November 12th, 2010 at 1:23 am  

    Jalynn,

    I always love to read about what is going on at LSA. The battle for justice at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic seems an impossible task. A few years ago I visited LSA on a prayer walk and was blown away by what I experienced and saw. The staff there is doing unbelievable work. And they continue to claim victory one life at a time. Anyone who has not visited LSA should go. Thanks for this article.

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