2011-Jan-14, Zambia's HIV/AIDS crisis steals the future; hope restores

Zambia (MNN) ― In Zambia, more than one in every seven adults has HIV/AIDS with roughly 200 new infections a day. 

In 2009, nearly 76,000 adults were newly infected with HIV. That same year, according to the United Nations, there were 690,000 AIDS orphans.

Rody Rodeheaver with IN Network says, "They're left to either fend for themselves on the street, or they're left with someone who becomes a caretaker, who may already have their hands full."

Thousands are abandoned over stigma or a lack of resources, while others run away because they have been mistreated and abused by foster families to search out their fortunes on the streets.

The devastation of AIDS overshadows every aspect of life in Zambia, casting gloom over the massive growth of evangelical churches. What future will the country have if this trend continues?

If IN Network has anything to say about it, it will be a future of hope. Rodeheaver says the Misaka Home, now four years old, provides a place for orphans and vulnerable children to be loved, fed, and educated. "It provides food for them, helps pay their school fees, and gets them a uniform so we can get them into school. It helps our staff provide some food for these children and for whoever their caretaker is." The goal is to have 300 children sponsored in Misaka.

When a child is sponsored at $32 a month, there's a personal impact in his/her life. It's an investment in the future, explains Rodeheaver. "We're introducing them to Christ; we're sharing the good news of the Gospel. For many of these children, they need hope even beyond just the food and the tennis shoes. Those are very important, and the education is very important, but we also need to share Christ with them."

It also provides the foundation of relationship. Once the kids are in a program, the indigenous church can build into the lives of the children and their families. Accountability and love are strong cement that needs to be poured in early. "In building these relationships with these younger kids, we hope that they will find either education or a trade that allows them to become self-sufficient."

The IN Network team in Zambia begins with discipleship, training, and empowering young men and women to be leaders in their communities. But it doesn't stop there. They also work hard to spread the truth about how HIV is spread so that people will not unknowingly put themselves and their children at risk. Hope can affect an entire village.

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