The following is an update from Living Hope Community Centre near Cape Town, South Africa, which is ministering to those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
2010, Here They Come!
“We won! We won! We beat them 13 goals to none!” They are a bunch of boys, ages 8 to 13. They do not have fancy soccer clothes or shoes, and more often than not, they have to practice in what space there is in the church yard. Yet, the boys’ soccer club at Living Hope has the potential to change the lives of these young people forever. The alternative choices they could make for spending their time are far less promising and positive.
It all started on a holiday when Sonwabo, then a seminary student also on holiday, watched a group of boys as they played soccer. They fought and cussed, and right then, he determined to do something. Sonwabo asked if he could help them and organized the soccer dlub. The club now meets weekly to tune their skills, and to learn those life lessons not only with words, but through their interaction with Sonwabo as their teacher. “I want to influence them and impact them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Sonwabo says. The kids learn discipline, order, how to win and how to lose and what it means to be loved! Sonwabo believes that their lives will be permanently changed for good and that they will be empowered to make positive choices for their futures.
Living Hope Kids Learn Self-Esteem
Living Hope volunteer Heidi Steinrock shared a video with the 11 kids at the after school club at the Ocean View location to show them how special they are. After the video, Life Skills Educator, Melanie Mogoiwa asked the kids if there is ever a time when they don’t feel special. “Yes,” one boy said, “when they hit you.” Another small girl in a pink shirt and braided hair said, “When you steal.”
“Do you think God makes junk?” Mogiwa asked. “No,” they replied while shaking their heads. Mogoiwa explained God loves them no matter how they look or where they’re from. After a day at school with classmates who poke fun, the kids look forward to this club where Mogoiwa is considered fun and cool, as well as safe, both in her words and actions. What a contrast to most people in their lives.
“If you tell them they can spend the rest of the afternoon into the evening here, they will do that, just to avoid going home,” Mogoiwa says. Because the kids don’t see hope in their life situations, Mogoiwa feels she must do all she can to be a living example of God’s faithfulness. “All I can do is say, this is how the love of God works. It’s here all the time, it’s secure, and He wants to protect you.” Mogoiwa’s work in helping the children with self-esteem is an important link to HIV/AIDS prevention.
AIDS Grows Faster than Treatment
The importance of a responsible Christian lifestyle in the work with HIV/AIDS cannot be overemphasized with the news that while anti-retroviral drugs have dramatically increased the health of people with the virus, they have also allowed so many to return to the kind of behaviors that led to the problem in the first place. This is especially true among younger people. A United Nations report says that “for every South African who started taking anti-retroviral drugs last year, five others contracted HIV, and research shows that a South African who turns 15 today has nearly a 50 percent chance of contracting the virus.”
“It is clear we cannot deemphasize a Christian lifestyle while we continue to emphasize treatment,” says John Thomas, Living Hope Chairman. “While we fully support every means used to help prevent this disease, we remain committed to our belief that it is primarily in abstinence and faithfulness in marriage that we can begin to slow this killer virus.” While one of the concerns is that Christians preach against certain sins and do not show much care, Thomas points out that Living Hope does both. “We demonstrate daily that we care deeply,” says Thomas. “We believe we have earned the right to speak up on this issue.”