A common tendency among foster parents is that we love to talk about it. We love to talk about it in the hopes that others will see the need and opportunity to care for the countless number of kids needing a home, and we love to talk about it because each foster family’s story is filled with unique joys and challenges. As much as I like to talk about foster parenting, I was a little surprised to find myself talking about it in South Africa.
On a recent trip to explore a new aspect of our 3-year-old partnership between Baptist Global Response and Kentucky Baptists to meet emergency needs in Sub-Saharan Africa, I was pleased to learn that the Baptist Union of Southern Africa has an orphan and foster care ministry much like our Sunrise Children’s Services. The leader of that ministry currently has six foster children. In a nation with 4 million orphans, the need is overwhelming.
South Africa is one of several nations in Sub-Saharan Africa suffering the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by HIV/AIDS than any other part of the world. Nearly 23 million people are living with HIV in the region. In 2012, 1.2 million people died from AIDS there, and 1.9 million people became infected with HIV.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 14.8 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease. The HIV prevalence rate now exceeds 20 percent in a number of African countries, pushing the average life expectancy in some countries below 49 years. Households are severely affected by the loss of income earners, necessity to provide home-based care for sick relatives, and an ongoing orphan crisis.
In the midst of such hopelessness, a bright light that has been shining for nearly 140 years is the Baptist Union of Southern Africa. BUSA was founded in 1877 by five partnering churches in the Eastern Cape. Today it comprises more than 800 churches spread throughout Southern Africa.
Having worked with several overseas Baptist conventions in the past, we’ve been greatly encouraged by the diversity, organization, and commitment observable in BUSA’s leadership. As KBC Disaster Relief Director Coy Webb shared steps for BUSA to establish its own disaster relief ministry, we found leaders anxious to grow their ministry to the hurting. Plans are in the works for us to support their training efforts.
The proverb is true, “It’s better to teach a man to fish than give him fish for a day.” While we will continue to serve alongside BGR to help the hurting in Sub-Saharan Africa, we are excited by the prospect of coming alongside African churches as they help the hurting in their own land.
Paul Chitwood is the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.