Bethany First Church of the Nazarene and the Swaziland Partnership
Swaziland is a country of great beauty and natural resources. When you encounter Swaziland and her people it is difficult to juxtapose a deadly disease that is literally killing the population of this beautiful southern African nation.
Rev. David Busic, senior pastor of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene (BFC), and Dr. Loren Gresham, president of Southern Nazarene University (SNU), felt compelled to get involved in Swaziland which has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. Between the church and university they formed what was called The Swaziland Partnership.
They knew that the mission of the original founders of the Church of the Nazarene in Swaziland, Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach and Dr. David Hynd, was to preach, teach and heal. Schmelzenbach and Hynd started 150 churches, three colleges of higher education in theology, nursing, and teachers training, high schools and primary schools, and Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital along with a series of 17 rural medical clinics. These institutions all remain today. Nowhere in the world do you see this type of infrastructure for the Church of the Nazarene with a church, clinic and school in many of their communities. Their mandate from 100 years ago still stands with churches, healthcare, and education.
Yet, even with this great support, Swaziland has an HIV prevalence in adults of 31%. This country of less than a million people is threatened with the loss of half of its population due to AIDS.
Rev. Busic, Dr. Gresham, Dr. David Alexander, and Rev. Bob Miller did an assessment visit in November of 2007 to identify needs and to meet the leaders of the regional Nazarene Church in Johannesburg, Swazi Nazarene district church leaders, Nazarene Healthcare Institutions, and the government of Swaziland. They came away with the Swazi National Board plan and an invitation to partner.
This is what they saw and learned:
- Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world
- HIV prevalence in adults is at 31%
- A 15 year old has approximately 48% chance of reaching 35 years of age
- 15,000 households are headed by orphan children
- By 2012, there could be as many as 200,000 AIDS orphans
- The United Nations ranked Swaziland #4 in the world for food security issues, meaning that starvation will outpace AIDS as the #1 killer
The Swaziland Partnership began with BFC and SNU, but today has many partners in Swaziland, South Africa, Canada and the United States.
On-site coordinators were needed to build relationships and to work the partnership. Rev. Will and Karis Stemen served as our first on-site coordinators from July 2008 to March 2009. Brent and Michaele LaVigne served as our second on-site leaders from May 2009 to June 2010. Andy and Amy Curry are our current on-site coordinators. They departed for Swaziland on May 18, 2010.
In January, 2009, Barbi Moore accepted the position of Director of Global Outreach for BFC. She and her assistant Pat Burton work with GO Teams and all aspects of the Swaziland Partnership.