Swaziland, Africa, has the highest incidence rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. The Nazarene Church has had an influential presence in the country for more than 100 years, but the health crisis has stretched pastors and congregations to their limits.
Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, in Bethany, Oklahoma, asked the four Swazi District Superintendents how the church could come beside them to help them reduce the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country. An idea was formed to bring all the Swazi pastors together to learn about the disease, and to be encouraged, strengthened, and inspired.
The Swaziland Pastors Conference took place August 16-19, 2011. This was the first time in the history of the Swazi church that pastors from across the nation had gathered together. About 200 participants attended the four-day event in Manzini, at the Faculty of Education, on the campus of Southern Africa Nazarene University.
Day sessions focused on education and training with talks on how to respond to AIDS as a holiness people, myths about the disease, and how to compassionately respond to those affected by HIV/AIDS. Evening sessions were designed to inspire and encourage, with Dr. David Busic, Senior Pastor at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, reminding the pastors of their deep Nazarene roots of compassion and mercy to those who are broken and hurting. Several services closed with pastors flooding the altars to commit themselves to God’s work in their nation.
Dr. Filimao Chambo, Africa Regional Director, challenged the pastors and spouses to be leaders in their congregations by knowing their own health status. Free health screens were offered by medical professionals, and most took advantage of the opportunity to learn their own HIV/AIDS status.
“It has been said that the local church is the hope of the world,” said Dr. Busic. “These pastors are now equipped to be a healing force of mercy and compassion to those in their communities affected by HIV/AIDS.”
Bethany First Church of the Nazarene (BFC) has committed to a unique 10-year partnership with the Swaziland Church of the Nazarene. BFC has coordinated more than 400 volunteers travelling to the small African kingdom to work in construction, education, medical, and compassion teams. The Swaziland Partnership has grown to include Swaziland Health Institutions, the Swaziland HIV/AIDS Task Force, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, and Southern Nazarene University.
Posted on Thu, October 13, 2011
by Bob Miller