I just returned from South Africa with a new perspective on the worldwide impact of Kentucky Baptists. My time in the country included days spent in and around Pietermaritzburg where I was able to trace the footprints of Kentucky WMU, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, KBC Collegiate Ministry, and numerous volunteer groups that have gone there to serve and share the love of Christ with orphans, AIDS victims, and countless lost and hurting people.
I was accompanied on the journey by my 18-year-old son, Daniel, and Chuck McAlister, our KBC Evangelism, Church Planting & Collegiate Ministry Team Leader, who also serves as the chairman of the board for Baptist Global Response, the humanitarian relief ministry of Southern Baptists. Since much of the work in Pietermaritzburg is funded by BGR and supported by Kentucky Baptists through a unique partnership between BGR and our disaster relief ministry, Chuck and I were eager to get a firsthand look. We were also looking forward to connecting with a team of our college students serving there through KBC’s Act 1:8 Leadership Experience.
What we saw left me in awe of what God is doing through the giving and going of Kentucky Baptists and also deeply grateful for the ministries supported by our churches. We visited Tabitha Ministries in Pietermaritzburg, home to 42 orphaned children now being cared for by missionaries and staff. Most of these children lost their parents to AIDS, and roughly one-third of the kids are HIV positive. They are the thrown away and forgotten. They are “the least of these” our Lord called us to serve and love. And Kentucky Baptists are answering His call.
In an outlying community called “Sweetwaters,” we were able to see a ministry center constructed, in large part, by Kentucky Baptists. That ministry center is now a beacon of hope in the midst of overwhelming hopelessness. Each week, 130 child-headed households come to the center for a package of food. There are no parents in these families, most of them having fallen victim to AIDS. The oldest child has assumed responsibility for his or her siblings and leads them in a struggle to survive. We distributed the food paid for by Southern Baptists and thanked God for the compassion of His people that would prevent the starvation of the least of these.
We also made several home visits with a Southern Baptist missionary doctor to check on hospice patients and deliver buckets packed with personal-care items. Those buckets were packed and provided by Kentucky Baptists. We had the joy of seeing some of those patients, and their caregivers, come to Christ. And, again, we thanked God for the love and generosity of our churches at home that haven’t forgotten the least of these.