Saturday, January 20, 2007

Poverty, AIDS & the Church

This afternoon I went to a seminar called "Poverty, AIDS and the Church: Looking at the Church’s role in global and local outreach" hosted at a local church. I'd heard about it through my work and thought I'd check it out. I'm so glad I went - there were numerous things shared that I was glad to hear. Here are a few highlights:

Bono interview clips (at the 2006 Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels showed an interview he had with Bono, the lead singer of the band U2)
- The Church has always been behind the curve.
- The Church is afraid of politics
- The Church has been very judgmental about the whole AIDS crisis
- Christ won’t let the Church walk away from the AIDS emergency
- Tell your church about the ONE campaign. You’ll be marching with a lot of colorful people who may make you nervous. Chill out!
- Addressing the AIDS emergency is not a burden or a duty. It’s really an opportunity, an adventure.
- “What can I give back to God for the blessing You’ve poured out to me?”
- “I never had a problem with Christ, but Christians I always tried to avoid. They can be very judgmental on surface problems.”
“I’m very interested in grace because I’m so dependent on it.”
- In a world of plenty, how are people left to starve to death???

Panel discussion
Debbie Dortzbach – World Relief’s International Director of the HIV/AIDS program
Christine Gardner – Professor of Communications at Wheaton College, Former Communications Director for World Concern
Jack Swanson – Serves on the John Stott Ministry Board, Co-founder of CARE in the Philippines, Former Director of Lawndale Christian Development Corp.
John Green – Founder and Head of Emmaus ministries in Chicago and Houston (works with male prostitutes)

o A new frontier in the fight against HIV/AIDS is cultural – how we talk about it, how we think about it and label it

How rhetoric and the Church can make an impact
1. Words can & should empower others
2. Words can influence our actions
3. Words constitute our character and actions

* Get involved where the need is greatest, where the need is closest, where we can have an impact
* Talk less and listen more – sometimes the absence of words can make a huge difference

Provide ways for people to change their situation.
1. Economic – provide opportunities to increase economic viability
2. Education – relying on property taxes to fund education creates inequity in poorer areas (ex. Aurora, Chicago vs. Wheaton, Naperville)
3. Evangelism – the most effective work will be church based

John Green
- For those in poverty, AIDS is a death sentence.
- It all comes down to time, touch and talk!
- People don’t need programs & policies, they need proximity – people who will come and walk with them. That’s what hurting people need.
- How do we view those who are so other from us? – could be rich, poor, different race, etc.
- If all our friends are white, middle class, just like you, what’s that say about who we are? It’s not love for others, it’s self love.
- Confront fear – “Bowling for Columbine” is an excellent film with Marilyn Manson being the clearest speaker to how we are immobilized by fear.

Learning to See My Neighbor
Challenges for the poor in DuPage
- Transportation – not an easy county to navigate
- Housing – affordable housing not being built
- Health Insurance – generally inaccessible for those working only part-time jobs due to high premiums
- Child care
- Education & Job Training

Other challenges (compared to their wealthy counterparts)
o More likely to be in a single parent household
o More likely to have a physical disability
o More likely to have lived with abuse
o More likely to be of color and have to deal with race issues
o More likely to have less access to education
o They live in the midst of tremendous wealth – we live in a comparison world.

Being poor is….
o Knowing exactly how much everything costs
o Having a heater in only one room
o Turning down a job because there is no good child care available
o A 6 hour wait in the emergency room with a sick child
o Having people recognize you aren’t stupid
o Not having enough space for all you live with you
o Not being able to leave when Katrina is coming

Strategies to help the poor:
o Pray
o Know your own resources – money, time, touch, talk, mental health
o Commit yourself to something
o Model yourself after someone else

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