Africa (MNN) — Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL have created a groundbreaking new AIDS prevention program, reaching 12 African countries in 90 languages.
As Wycliffe continues to create writing systems for the many languages in Africa, they are simultaneously translating AIDS education material. Many other programs exist to teach AIDS prevention but are almost exclusively in official languages that are harder for people with other native languages to understand. Wycliffe is using this leverage to support their program.
A true story of an AIDS orphan is also used to get attention and to speak to people with something they can relate to. The story is told of a young girl whose parents die of AIDS; the girl is left to be the mother figure in the lives of her five younger siblings. Eventually, she finds solace and help from the church.
Once interest is gained in the program, participants are in for an even more exciting twist. Wycliffe's training is Biblically-based, geared specifically toward at least nominal Christians. AIDS in Africa is spread 90 percent of the time through sexual relations, but many Africans are uncertain of how exactly the disease is contracted. Once believers understand this, they typically turn to the Lord with a heart for outreach. Kathie Watters of Wycliffe's Cameroon outreach gives an example of how this would work.
"Say you're a Christian in a small village church, and you see how Jesus reached out to lepers and had compassion on them. You say, ‘Ok, I'm going to go and take food to this person I know who has AIDS. I don't know how they got it, but I'm not going to judge them. I'm going to go there, offer to pray with them and share the Gospel with them.' And yes, some of these people can certainly become believers."
As people are given the Scriptures in their heart language, this is one way for them to respond and apply in a relevant fashion. Watters says one pastor explained that after understanding that the disease is not contracted by just sitting with someone or touching them, he can now minister freely to people living with AIDS.
Other positive outcomes have occurred as well. After completing the educational program, many believers have immediately gone to get tested for AIDS. Certainly most are more convicted of the importance of sexual purity as they read the Scriptures, thus preventing AIDS as well as promiscuity.
The AIDS pandemic is extremely widespread throughout Africa. With continued training like Wycliffe's, not only should the AIDS problem eventually ebb, but there will be fewer orphans like the one in the story. The greatest hope is that more and more hearts will be given over to the Lord through biblically-based training of a highly serious and relevant issue.
Wycliffe will need continued support to take on such a great project. Pray that Wycliffe would be effective in their training would be able to reach many more with it. Please pray also for the African believers affected by the program, that they will be convicted by the Spirit and be excited to reach to those suffering around them.