Sarah Sidwell reflects on Sunday's activities:
Sunday was a very relaxed day. We got up early and headed to a local church where we were expecting to attend a 10:15 English service. However, upon arriving we found out that they had done away with the English service and we were an hour late for the Setswana service. So we decided to turn back around and stop at the grocery store on the way home. Somewhere along the way, we decided to hold our own church service and have Dr. Watts deliver the message. Dr. Watts raised some very compelling questions and many very valid points that were quite applicable to what we are experiencing here in Botswana and South Africa through a passage reading of Mark 12. He caused me, and I believe the entire group, to again see the importance of understanding the context of a situation or person before making any judgments or assumptions.
When we returned back to the lodge we had a relaxing afternoon of catching up on reading and journaling.
During dinner, which as always took place around our beloved campfire, we were joined by Dr. Musa W. Dube, who is a professor here in Botwana and received her doctorate from Vanderbilt University. While on our trip we have read two of Dube’s works: “50 years of Bleeding,” and “Fighting with God.” Throughout the African continent, Dube is a strong activist for AIDS victims and works hard to educate and encourage people to do their part in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Dube, whose education taught her how to look at things through a biblical perspective, said that when she arrived back to Botswana, she was hit full force by the shock of the AIDS epidemic and did not know how to deal with AIDS from a biblical standpoint. So, as she began teaching at the University, in a time period when the stigma of having AIDS was even stronger than it is now, she taught in a way that was relevant to her students by confronting the ignored problem of AIDS and encouraging them to find a biblical way of dealing with AIDS. (Quick history: Botswana has the highest percentage of people affected by AIDS in the world. 36% of the “sexually active population” in Botswana is affected by AIDS. In 2002, there were 13.2 million children orphaned by AIDS—which was prediced to double by 2010. AIDS orphans are subject to many injustices, such as sexual abuse, being forced to drop out of school to care for siblings, and isolation because of the stigma AIDS has, just to name a few). If any of you are interested in Dube’s conclusion on how to biblically help AIDS orphans, I would encourage you to read “Fighting with God: Children and HIV/AIDS in Botswana.” It is incredibly moving and thought provoking.
At dinner, Dr. Dube shared some of her wisdom and conclusions on how everyone can do their part in the battle against AIDS, not only in Africa, but also world wide, and why everyone should do their part.
First: Why should we all help in the fight against AIDS?
“If one person suffers, we all suffer. If one person is HIV positive, everyone is HIV positive. WE are all part of the Body of Christ and if one part of the body has AIDS, then the whole body has AIDS. This way of understanding and thinking should close the gap between people and create a solidarity.”
This was a revolutionary way of thinking about the Body of Christ for me. It emphasizes our responsibility to one another as human beings and shows the importance of a community that cares for each other.
Second: “How can I help in the fight against AIDS?”
“If you are a doctor, musician, preacher, artist, anthropologist, education, scientist, etc… Do your work in your area where you are trained. Figure out how you can do your part. Everyone must contribute in their specialized area to get every part/area covered.” Every skill is valued.
This way of thinking opened my mind to realize that just because I’m not a doctor or just because I’m not at a point in life where I can donate a lot of money, doesn’t mean I can’t do my part in fighting against AIDS and caused me to begin thinking where my specific part might be.
Near the end of our talk with Dr. Dube, she referenced a verse: “…for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me." Through this verse she enforced what we have been learning every day of this trip. The importance of community, the importance of taking action, the importance of loving people—but not simply in a sentimental or romantic way—in a way that isn’t always easy or comfortable, that isn’t afraid of taking an unpopular stance. Loving in a way that many of us have grown idle to.
Dube references Mark 9:33-37: “The disciples were arguing among themselves concerning who was the greatest. In response, Jesus said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and servant to all.’ He then took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me’.” Dube further explains, “ … The key point in this passage lies in the word ‘welcoming.’ When you welcome someone into your house, place, or heart, you make them comfortable. You give them a place. You protect them and ensure that their needs are met. This is what ‘welcoming…’ means. That is how we should “welcome” those suffering from this disease.
I am so grateful that Dr. Dube took the time out of her busy schedule to come around our campfire and share (she literally arrived in Botswana just a few hours earlier, after presenting a paper in Switzerland on HIV/AIDS.) I truly believe we were all touched by her words of wisdom.