Many of you know that in graduate school, I tailored all of my research, papers, projects, and presentations to HIV/AIDS in Africa. In fact, my master's thesis was designing a multi-faceted AIDS intervention program to be implemented in the small African country of Swaziland. I spent countless hours researching the AIDS pandemic and its effects on the Swazi people, pouring over statistics that seemed too incredulous to be reality, and learning in just a very small way how the HIV/AIDS virus can devastate an entire nation. And now, Lord willing, in seven months months Isaac and I will travel over 8,000 miles to see Swaziland and meet its people first hand. To gain a greater understanding of the world and how many of its people live. To grow in the knowledge that Christ has called us to be servants.
When I wrote my thesis over four years ago, I shed tears as I slowly pieced together a picture of the situation in Swaziland. Recently, I pulled out my thesis and examined it again. The statistics jumped off the page:
- Forty-one perfect of Swaziland's population is under the age of 15
- The average life expectancy at birth is 32 for men and 33 for women
- The HIV prevalence rate is 33 percent, the highest of any nation in the world
- Sixty thousand orphans reside in Swaziland
According to Heart for Africa, the average life expectancy is now 29. Twenty-nine years old. Isaac and I both turn twenty-nine this year. There are now 200,000 orphans in a country the size of New Jersey, and the HIV prevalence rate is now 42 percent. Fifteen thousand households are headed by orphans, and if the trend continues as it is, there will be no adults left in Swaziland by the year 2020. This knowledge breaks our hearts; how can we understand this information and not be moved to action? And while these numbers bring us to tears and leave us stunned, we cling to the hope that is graciously given by our Christ. He knows the people of Swaziland; he loves them and cares for them. And he is calling us to show his love for them.
We will keep you updated on the entire process of preparing and going to Swaziland to serve these beautiful people. We covet your prayers as there are many things which require preparation before we can go and learn to serve others as our Savior serves us. We both must raise $3,550- an overwhelming amount, to be sure- but not an unattainable amount through the grace of the Lord. To begin raising the funds necessary to travel to Africa and serve the people of Swaziland, we have created a fundraising page through Heart for Africa (it currently links to Jenny's account, but once the money for one complete trip has been raised, we will change everything to an account for Isaac's trip):
Our Swaziland Fundraising Page
There is also a permanent link on the right-hand column under the heading "For the Least of These"; simply click on the picture, and you'll be taken to our fundraising site. We are also planning on hosting some other fundraising events; if you have any ideas or would like to help us in any way, please feel free to let us know. Most of all, we pray that our trip would be bathed in prayer as we seek to joyfully serve whom the world as deemed "the least of these."