TEAM has been serving in Zimbabwe for years, but hopefully this new alliance will help more people than ever. (TEAM photo)
Zimbabwe (MNN) ― A recent study in Thailand cast a glimmer of hope for the estimated 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
According to BBC News, the study involved over 16,000 Thai men and women between the ages of 18 and 30. Half of the sample received a vaccine, while the others received a placebo. In the end, 51 of the people receiving the vaccine became infected with HIV, and 74 of the people receiving the placebo contracted the disease. These numbers showed the new vaccine lowered the risk of HIV by a third, BBC News said.
However, while these results look promising, further testing of the vaccine and eventual distribution is years in coming.
Thus, mission agencies like The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) around the world are doing what they can now to fight the staggering effects of this virus.
For TEAM, this effort is in the form of a newly-formed alliance between churches in North America and Africa. Nancy Sturrock, who works with TEAM in the U.S., said they are focusing on the country of Zimbabwe, which has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS and the country's social and economic infrastructures collapse.
"We're still in the beginning stages, but the idea is that there's just this huge opportunity for us in Zimbabwe through the challenge of HIV/AIDS to really have a transformational effect on, hopefully, the whole country," Sturrock said.
As they begin this huge undertaking, they will continue their medical work at Karanda Mission Hospital but also serve in several other areas. TEAM has been in Zimbabwe since the 1930s. They established the hospital in the 1950s with a goal "to provide [and] demonstrate the compassion of Christ through medical work, strengthen the local church through participation in spiritual ministry to patients and local communities; educating and training Christian professionals for medical ministry through the hospital and nursing school, and facilitating the training of leaders for the local church," according to their Web site.
But they do not want to solely focus on medical attention.
"More than a medical project, we're really hoping to come alongside the Zimbabwe church and help them to be able to be the voice and the hands of Jesus, as we build the body of Christ there," Sturrock said.
They plan to do this in several ways.
"We also hope to be involved in agricultural things. There's a program called Farming God's Way. We hope to be involved in schools with orphan care [and] with helping communities that have lost a generation of leadership ... where it's really practical, hands-on work that the churches can do as well," Sturrock said. "It doesn't require a lot of money and equipment but more of the coming alongside of support that can be done at a grassroots level."
Sturrock said they hope to reach three groups of people in Zimbabwe: those infected with HIV, affected, and not yet affected. She said, sadly, the last group would most likely soon be affected, and they want their ministry to be as far-reaching as possible.
Pray for the missionaries TEAM is gathering together for this alliance and the members of the African churches they will be working with. Pray that they will not grow discouraged from the enormity of their mission and that they will impact as many people as they can.