The CMP program in River Gee is focused on educating the local churches' response to those living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is a real issue in Liberia-however, one that is hard to measure. The reason being that once sick, many people will not get tested in fear that if they are positive -the stigma that may follow would be too much to live with. In a county where rural health education is limited, many see HIV/AIDS and other diseases as a curse from a witch and not as a disease that can be transmitted. When patients do get tested the health officials have to take confidentiality procedures to ensure that the name of the patient remains anonymous.
Many victims are left on their own-to go to a local health clinic for their treatment, to find food and to draw their water. Weakened by sickness leaves them living in extreme poverty with no one to care for them. But, our CMP program is hopefully changing that. Through our training, church/community members are educated on what HIV/AIDS is and how people can become infected. It is amazing to hear the beliefs that some people have on how HIV/AIDS is transmitted!!! And it is amazing how these beliefs can be erased through education and discussion.
The training is just one aspect-through the training our facilitators work with the church to pick a 'seed project' that will meet the physical needs of these vulnerable people group. In River Gee the church has started cabbage gardens. The cabbage seeds are planted in a little nursery...
Little seeds are planted in a nursery bed...
When they get this big and all crammed together the get thinned out.
CMP facilitator Marcus (on the right) and a local pastor/CMP participant thinning out the little cabbage plants.
"Ahhh we can breath and grow!" All the little cabbage seedlings with room to grow.
When the cabbages get a certain size and start to out-grow the nursery they are transplanted to a plot of land that the community has given to the church to use. The CMP participants are responsible to clear the area and make sure that the cabbages are planted carefully, weeded and cared for.
So what does cabbages have to do with people living with HIV/AIDS? Well, the church harvests the cabbages and takes them to the local hospital/clinic where they can be given to not only people HIV/AIDS patients (that would be too obvious who had the disease) but others who are sick and can't farm or work for their food.
I love this program for many reasons, but one main reason is seeing the church physically and spiritually respond to those in need. If you look in Acts 2:42 onward, we are given an account of the early church-I really love this passage- it's such a beautiful picture of what the church is supposed to be-look at these key verses:
42:All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing meals, and to prayer...
44:And the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
45: They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
46: They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.
47: All the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
When I visit our CMP projects in River Gee this passage of scripture is fresh in my mind. Even though the local church has very little compared to our churches at home-they are coming together to care for a group of people that would be left to suffer on their own. There is a long way to go for sure-but much like the cabbages that start off as a little seed-the seed can grow to something that can be used.
As us Canadians head into Thanksgiving weekend-I would challenge you to maybe 'thin out' your pantry and take some of that extra food to the local food bank or the Salvation Army so they can give to those are in need. Much like the judgement the victims of HIV/AIDS face here-let's not judge who we are giving it too or why they need it. But give in the same attitude found in verse 47:"all the while praising God" and look what happened! 48:"And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being SAVED!"
Happy Thanksgiving everyone-enjoy your time with family and friends!