"Standing With Africa:  A Campaign of Hope"

     Some of you know that last summer (while I was on my honeymoon!) I was elected at the Synod Assembly in May to serve on the Synod council for our Southwest California Synod.  While the idea of spending a whole Saturday in a meeting every three months doesn't thrill me, I have learned so much in the past nine months about our Synod's role in the larger church.

     One of the suggestions that was presented to the Synod Council and approved was that we make "Stand With Africa" an emphasis in our congregations during the season of Lent.  You have heard a lot about this three-year campaign to support African churches from our Stewardship Board (Flo Arnold, Trudy Wadman and Roberta Ritch).  You have been asked to help these churches and communities they serve as they battle AIDS, eliminate hunger and create peace.  Together with Lutheran World Relief, the ELCA World Hunger Program and LCMS World relief, we are doing our part in this "Campaign of Hope."

     Why is this important now, you may be wondering, with all the other threatening situations going on around the world?  I asked myself that several times in the past few weeks.  As I write this article the United States is on the verge of war and by the time this is published the United States may be at war.  But did you know that last year AIDS claimed 5,500 African lives EVERY DAY?!  And that orphans of parents with AIDS make up 94% of the AIDS orphans worldwide! This is a very real and serious problem in a part of the world where resources and help are very limited.

     One of the criticisms I have heard of the people of the United States is that we have often absented ourselves from the realities of war and poverty, disease and abuse because so many of us live in very good circumstances.  But since September 11, 2001, we have learned that we are not invincible to the forces of evil in our world.  Now some time has passed since the World Trade Center was leveled and most of us have settled back into our very good lives.  "Stand With Africa" raises our awareness level with some very tangible ways in which we can assist our African brothers and sisters in an area of the world that desperately needs our help.

     I hesitated to write this kind of article because I don't want it to sound like a marketing campaign, a guilt-trip or a play on our emotions.  Many of us will never go to Africa in our lifetimes and experience first-hand the poverty and disease.  I have never been and have no plans to go.  But all of us have the ability to share our wealth with our African brothers and sisters and make a difference in the lives of God's creation.  I am encouraging you and your family to pray about this campaign.  I am encouraging you to consider how much support you are willing to give (all of us are more than able).  I am encouraging you not because this campaign is any better than any other assistance organized by any other church.  I am encouraging you to get involved with this campaign to raise our awareness level beyond our own community, our own state, and our own country.

     For more information and resources, look in the Sunday bulletins, chat with the Stewardship Board members and visit http://www.standwithafrica.org./.

     May God bless your Lenten journey by turning your eyes to the cross and filling your hearts with wisdom.

Pastor Laurie