USA (MNN) — More than 16,000 young people did something historic. They put their hands and feet together to make a tangible difference in the lives of the poor and hurting in Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Volunteers who work with AIDS victims in Swaziland and other African countries will receive Caregiver Kits assembled by 16,000 attendees at Urbana 12. Urbana 12 is InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's triennial Student Missions Conference, which is being held at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, December 27-31, 2012.
The kits include medical and hygiene items for the compassionate care of AIDS victims in a part of the world that has borne the brunt of what has been called the largest humanitarian crisis of all time, and where access to basic health care is greatly limited. "The Caregiver Kits provide practical materials which bring dignity and comfort to those living with AIDS," said Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision, which is partnering with InterVarsity on this project.
Over the past year, World Vision saw 40,000 kits assembled. During this one Saturday night at Urbana 12, another 32,000 kits will be added to that total. Each Urbana attendee will pack two kits and enclose notes of encouragement and blessing for the kit recipient.
Urbana's program director Nikki Toyama-Szeto told Mission Network News, "We wanted to look at the intersection between proclamation and demonstration." She added, "One of the things Urbana requested is that these kits be used to fuel a proclaimed and lived-out witness in the communities where they are. A Gospel just demonstrated is but half a Gospel. A Gospel that's proclaimed but not lived out is but half a Gospel. We're just challenging folks to lean into the fullness of what God has to offer us," Toyama-Szeto says.
Items in the Caregiver Kits include antibacterial soap, ant-fungal cream, petroleum jelly, gauze pads, washcloths, and water purification sachets. After moving through the assembly line, each attendee will take their assembled kits to a shipping container in the arena. Then they will be shipped to Africa.
"Today's college students are service oriented and volunteer oriented," said Toyama-Szeto.
How did the students respond? Annie Zirbel from North Dakota says, "It's huge to be able to encourage those who are on the ground every day in that kind of way, and those who are suffering: to know that in some way we get to love them extraordinarily. That encourages them for what they're doing every day."
Writing a note to each caregiver was a part of the project. Rochelle from Lincoln, Illinois, says, "I just wanted to not only say 'thank you' but to let them know that I praise Jesus because of them, and just thank them for what they do."
The 32,000 kits prepared for World Vision caregivers will allow them to lovingly touch hundreds of thousands of lives.