East Africa (MNN) — The HIV/AIDS epidemic is still wreaking havoc on the so-called “Dark Continent,” even though the rate of new infections has been steadily declining since its peak in 1996. Set Free Ministries is counteracting this hopelessness by introducing AIDS orphans to a new life in Christ.
According to UNICEF, Eastern and Southern Africa hold 10.5 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. As reported here, AIDS orphans often face discrimination. Some turn to forced labor or prostitution for survival.
“Satan’s best work in Africa: [the] genocide of a million people, and the destruction of millions through AIDS because of fornication and adultery,” states Dean Vander Mey of Set Free Ministries.
Today, we’re beginning a three-part series exploring God’s redemptive work in East Africa through Set Free and local believers.
Helping AIDS orphans prosper
Set Free began working in East Africa when Vander Mey saw the desperate situation of AIDS orphans first-hand. He and a few other Set Free leaders were holding a workshop for local believers, and he saw a gaggle of unattended children hanging around the group each day.
When Vander Mey asked the local pastor about them, the man said they were orphans who had seen a poster advertising a free cup of porridge. They had come to the workshop because they were starving. Vander Mey pressed further, asking who would take care of the orphans and how they would get food, shelter, schooling, etc. The response of local believers broke his heart.
“They said, ‘We don’t know [what will happen to them]; we’re poor. This is just how it is here.’”
The Holy Spirit prompted Vander Mey to act. In the mid-2000’s, Set Free and local believers partnered to start a small school that would care for and educate AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children.
The movement quickly grew, and small church-based schools began popping up throughout the region.
“Children would come from all over,” says Vander Mey. “They would come from over 10 kilometers away to go to school because they had faith, they had hope, and they were being loved.”
Shining light into darkness
Through the efforts of Set Free and local believers, AIDS orphans are prospering. Set Free’s work has grown to include 15 schools throughout East Africa.
Tomorrow, we’ll hear another update about this work. For now, could you keep Set Free in your prayers? Local witch doctors are presenting quite a challenge.
“These witch doctors are evil,” says Vander Mey. “They rape our children; they wield demonic power. 70% of the people who are in those communities are terrified of these witch doctors because they wield lots of power and they’ve all been abused by them.”
But, just like the region, witch doctors aren’t beyond redemption. Vander Mey recalls a girl who once wandered into a Set Free conference and began thrashing on the floor. It turns out she was the daughter of two local witch doctors and hadn’t been home in months.
“She would walk around [the community] dazed and the boys of the neighborhood would rape her every night,” reports Vander Mey.
“One of our guys picked her up [off of the floor] and prayed over her for five hours. She came to her right mind and started to worship.”
Later that evening, the young girl returned home. “Jesus Christ is Lord,” she told her parents.
“The next morning,” Vander Mey recalls, “her mother came with all the witchcraft from all the generations. She laid it at our feet and we burned it, and she accepted Christ that day.”
Three days later, the girl’s father also gave his heart to Christ.
“We’ve had several witch doctors convert to Christianity because they see our power and they know it’s way greater than the god they serve.”