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AIDS IN AFRICA: Ray of hope for children

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (BP)–Excited chatter fills the one-room school as children, some of them infected with HIV, tug at Amy Boone’s dress. She lovingly touches them, speaks to them in their language, laughs with them and gives them periodic presents. The children team up to read brightly colored books, pointing wide-eyed at the pictures and talking.

Imizamo Yethu Preschool is nestled among the shacks in Cape Town’s Vuk’uzenzele township -– the name literally means “Get up and do something for yourself.” HIV infects one in four of the 25 children there. Boone comes every week to teach, sing and pray with the children.

Boone calls her work a “backdoor” ministry: Teaching children in government-built townships allows her to share the Gospel with adults, such as Nomakhaya Matshaya, the preschool’s principal.

“If I said, ‘I want to come and study the Bible with you,’ she would say, ‘No,'” the Southern Baptist missionary explains. “But she will translate for me when I teach the children, and so she’s learning all these stories about Jesus, and her faith has just grown so much. Working with kids is a backdoor way to reach the adults.”

Nomaxabiso Daycare for disabled children provides another backdoor as Boone teaches songs and Bible lessons there. After time with the children, she leads a Bible study with caregivers. Despite strong backgrounds in ancestral worship, they listen to the stories. Now two of the five caregivers at Nomaxabiso and its principal, Nontuthuzelo Nozulwane, no longer pray to ancestors. They believe in Jesus.

God called Boone to missions as a second grader, but she could not have comprehended the AIDS/HIV pandemic awaiting her in South Africa. Now, four years after she and her husband Mike arrived in Cape Town, they know the harsh effects of poverty.

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The Boones have developed relationships with daycares like Imizamo Yethu and Nomaxabiso. They have trained and supported pastors in the townships. And they go into communities that don’t have a church of any kind.

“We just go door to door,” she says, “and try to start a Bible study in a house.” Once started, they try to nurture it into a church. That’s the way it happened in Matshaya’s home -– now a church meets there on Thursdays.

“We try to get the pastors to start a work somewhere else,” Boone says. Sibusiso Nqeto is one of the pastors who has welcomed the Boones’ help. “It was exciting today because Nqeto said he’s going to start a Bible study in the principal’s [Nozulwane] house.” Still, Boone admits the job is daunting. “It’s such a massive city -– massive problems. You get discouraged, definitely.” She says she reminds herself that she must help one person at a time.

She recounts the story of starfish washing up on shore. A man picks one up and throws it back into the water. A friend asks: “Why did you just throw one back? You didn’t do anything because you didn’t help them all.” The man answered, “Tell that to the one I threw back into the ocean!”

“That’s kind of the way I feel,” Boone says. “When I was real little I felt called to missions and never wanted to do anything else. I just love telling people about Jesus.
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Heidi Steinrock is a junior journalism major at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.