Southern Africa (MNN) — The
global financial crisis is threatening efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as
countries around the world cut back on funds for medical relief.
Some countries that suffer high rates of infection are
scaling back their healthcare budgets, and it remains to be seen whether U.S. president
Barack Obama will fulfill his campaign promises for AIDS relief.
However, the ministry of World Hope International to youth
in countries severely impacted by the AIDS virus is still going strong, and it has an opportunity to
WHI uses a special "Reach4Life" New Testament developed by
International Bible Society/Send the Light to reach African youth with the
message of the Gospel and God's plan for their lives. It also uses a 40-lesson "AIDS-oriented, young
people-targeted curriculum" that complements the New Testament, said WHI's
"It introduces people to the Gospel," Erickson explained. "It helps them wrestle individually and among
their peers with what it means to live a life of purity. We're inviting people into
life transformation, where by God's grace and with the power of the Holy Spirit, they can continue to live a life that will give them a future
and protect them from HIV/AIDS."
The program has operated for two and a half years and has
already impacted more than 70,000 youth. It offers hope to every young person it touches, including those who
have made poor choices or become infected with the deadly virus.
"If they are already infected or have been promiscuous, it
invites them into a future that has a profound hope at the center of it. And
it's a hope that rests in the liberating power of Jesus Christ," Erickson said.
The Gospel-oriented program relies on the power of God's Word to
bring about real change in young lives. It uses the New Testament to discuss sin, Jesus Christ, and the cost of
"With this tool, it's not just up to human teaching; this is Biblical truth," Erickson said. "We
claim the promises of Scripture that the Word of God is quick and powerful and
is able to transform. And as they read the New Testament, the Holy Spirit
will help interpret and apply it."
The program acknowledges the challenges that young people
face when they choose to make good decisions. The influence of the media is strong in the developing world like it is
in the developed world, so young Christians must deal with that as well as with
other problems like self-image and peer pressure.
The program discusses "what does it mean to be different,
and how can that be a wonderful thing rather than a stigmatizing thing,"
Erickson said. Ultimately, the Gospel
has a much greater impact on the lives of youth than a simple commitment to
"The challenge is to live into a life of purity–of biblical
purity. That's a higher standard than abstinence, and it's one that by the
presence and the transforming power of Jesus Christ is possible,"
WHI has a new opportunity to reach African youth with the
hope of Jesus Christ: "We have been invited by the government of Zambia to implement this program in all the high
schools in Zambia. But frankly, we don't have the financial resources to do that," Erickson
It only costs about $10 to reach one student with the
Reach4Life program. This price covers
the cost of launching the programs, providing the books, training peer support,
and analyzing the impact of the programs.
Prayer is also needed. "When we implement this program, we are running headfirst
into some of the forces…that don't want biblical truth to be shared or to
become the basis for the lives of young people for the future," Erickson
said. "So we would just covet
prayers for our staff and the volunteers that we support and equip to aid us
in this process. They are the ones on the frontlines, and they need prayer support."