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Students teach abstinence, preach gospel in AIDS-plagued continent

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–In the African country of Tanzania, one-third of the population is infected by AIDS or HIV.

Just as sobering: More than 40 percent of the country’s hospital beds are occupied by persons who are sick with AIDS or HIV.

It is against this backdrop that a missions team from Boyce College — the undergraduate program of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — sought to educate Tanzanians about AIDS prevention. While the team talked with Tanzania citizens about staying free and clear of the disease through abstinence, members sought to deal with the deeper reality — the root of the sin that leads to AIDS — and even worse, an unregenerate heart.

Eight Boyce students, led by student Charles Juma, a Kenya native, undertook the mission for two weeks in January. The results, Juma said, were astounding.

“We shared with Tanzanians how sin in the human body is the root of all these tragedies,” Juma said of the teams’ witness in various public settings. “We showed them how our sinful choices and actions have both temporary and eternal repercussions.

“Besides AIDS, God would judge unrepentant sinners in the lake of fire someday, but that God’s forgiveness could be received now by trusting his Son, Jesus, as Savior. This is how we fused the gospel with our AIDS education. AIDS education was done alongside our evangelistic program.”

Unlike America, where the AIDS virus is often passed through homosexual relations and intravenous drug use, in Tanzania the illness is more typically transmitted through heterosexuals who have multiple sex partners. This has made the problem much more profound in terms of numbers in that country, Juma said.

The team lectured on the temporal effects of AIDS, telling of how the disease undermines the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to all germs, ultimately leading to death. Alongside this teaching, team members spoke of the eternal effects of AIDS and an unconverted heart.

Dan Rice, a sophomore at Boyce who works as a nurse at a Louisville hospital, joined Juma on the trip. Rice conducted AIDS education seminars with Tanzanians and sought to help them to understand their more pressing need — that of a new heart.

Some AIDS workers in Tanzania use “scare tactics and gory videos to try and teach about AIDS,” Rice said, “and it’s not helpful at all. We taught abstinence and tried to articulate the fact that fear will only stop things like this for a short time. We tried to teach them that they needed a deeper change in their heart through the gospel to see any lasting difference.

“There was such a great response to this. We saw a number of people come to Christ as a result of this work. One young man came to us at the end of the presentation and said he was under deep conviction about his sexual practices and saw his deeper need of salvation. In my 30 years as a Christian I have not seen or experienced this powerful of a move of the Holy Spirit through the simple presentation of the gospel,” Rice said.

Juma said the interest in both teaching on AIDS and the gospel was so great that many Tanzanians skipped lunch to attend the presentations.

“One could see worries, questions and concerns spelled out in their faces, as most of them were living immoral lives already,” Juma said. “One man came to Dan and me after the lectures and told us that he was having multiple sex partners and he was concerned about his life.

“He willingly accepted the Lord as Savior there and then. One other man was so concerned that he begged us to help him start an AIDS education program in Tanzania. And many others received the Lord as Savior after the AIDS lectures. Our efforts were well received, as it turned out to be such a great ministry in that part of the world.”

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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