Stan Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cannonsburg, Ky., believes the love of Christ compels believers to personally reach out to people in desperate need.
The congregation is helping relieve the suffering in sub-Saharan Africa by partnering with the In-Home Care Kit program of Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization in Nashville, Tenn. The kits are five-gallon plastic buckets filled with medical and hygiene supplies to help the Christian caregivers and to ease the suffering of people affected by terminal illness. Most of the items in the kit -- from lip balm to clean sheets -- would be completely unavailable to the patients.
"We realized what a great need there was for this type of ministry and how practical it was," Williams said. "Just giving money to a ministry seems impersonal, compared to filling a bucket with needed health and hygienic items that will be used by those who are suffering with the HIV/AIDS virus."
More than 4,700 kits have been sent the past two years to South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Guinea and Niger. This year BGR has received requests for 6,000 buckets from partners in Africa.
Churches all across North America are being challenged to make a difference by helping people suffering from terminal illness experience the love of God for themselves -- and learn that they can have hope even in the face of death, said Mark Hatfield, who with his wife, Susan, directs BGR work in sub-Saharan Africa.
"When we hear statistics about the HIV/AIDS crisis, we often just go numb. The numbers are bigger than we really can comprehend," Hatfield said. "But instead of saying we can't solve a problem that big, we are reminded that each one of those numbers is a real person, someone who is suffering and needs to personally experience the love of Christ.
"We can't solve the whole HIV/AIDS crisis, but we can make a real difference, one person at a time, that has eternal implications," Hatfield said. "When a church packs an In-Home Care Kit, they know how overwhelming a gift it will be for the person who receives it. The pleasure of lying on clean sheets and putting balm on cracked lips -- and knowing it came from caring Christians in the United States -- makes a life-changing difference, for now and often for eternity too."
The Cannonsburg congregation loved the idea of providing a physical and spiritual touch to people dying from AIDS and other illnesses, Williams said.
"We made filling the buckets a church-wide ministry and devoted a Wednesday evening service to filling and praying over the buckets," Williams said. The church, which runs about 175 in worship, filled 50 buckets.
"I feel this is the greatest ministry opportunity to come along in a long time, and would encourage every church to get involved in this ministry," Williams said. "Each family and each Sunday school class could easily fill at least one bucket."
Zoe Allen is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response. For information on how to get involved in the In-Home Care Kit campaign, visit www.inhomecarekit.org.
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