North American and African churches form new alliance

By September 29, 2009

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
(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.

Click here to learn more about TEAM's involvement in
Zimbabwe and how you can help.

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