Silencing the Roar
By Tom Davis
March 19, 2012
Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Millennium Project, tells an amazing story about an AIDS clinic in Malawi. On one side of the hall, people are dying three to a bed. Family members sit with their loved ones during their last moments, watching them succumb to an opportunistic infection. But on the other side of the hall is a different story.
On that side, HIV-positive Malawians are lining up to pay the $1 fee for antiretroviral medications (ARV). They are—based on outward appearances—normal and healthy citizens. You wouldn’t know they were walking around with a viral death sentence we know as AIDS
The difference: $1 per day. Doesn’t sound like much to you and me. But in Malawi, the average income is actually 50 cents per person per day, putting life-saving ARVs far out of reach for the average Malawian. So, they die three to a bed on the other side of the hall.
Swaziland, a little-known kingdom in the southernmost part of Africa, boasts the world’s highest HIV infection rate at over 46 percent. That means that one out of every two people are going to die—period. Left behind are thousands of children who are now the heads of their household. At 11, or even 9 years old, they are now providing food, paying school fees and doing what their parents used to do. But there is no work and no food. So what do they do? Many are forced to sell their bodies for a loaf of bread.
Swaziland could turn the tide of this infection rate if it had a national AIDS-prevention curriculum in the schools. But it doesn’t. Perhaps lives could be saved if the men who raped virgins in the hopes that they will be cured of AIDS were brought to justice. But they are not. Instead, HIV/AIDS is devouring Swaziland—and most of Africa.
It reminds me of the words of 1 Peter 5:8: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (TNIV). It’s interesting that the devil is described as a roaring lion. Have you ever seen lions hunt their prey? They lie in wait, silent. Any noise would set the prey running. Lions don’t roar when they hunt—they roar to keep other animals away. The only time a lion would roar before eating its prey is if their kill was certain.
The devil is roaring throughout Africa. His kill is certain. Why? Perhaps because we are not standing between the lion and its prey. To quote Mother Teresa: “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
The devil mocks the Church ... roaring over the 50 million people he is devouring by way of AIDS. He gloats over the 143 million orphans and stands atop a mountain of 33,000 children each day who will die from preventable issues like malaria and malnutrition.Satan knows that if the Church took poverty as seriously as we take abortion, we could wipe it out in a generation. The issue isn’t whether or not we can do it, but rather if we have the will to act.
I urge you to consider three key realities:
There is no neutral ground. You might think what is happening to Africa is somehow part of God’s will. I submit to you that this viewpoint is complete heresy. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” What God claims, He claims for good and love. What Satan counter-claims comes with lying, death, suffering and apathy. AIDS is Satan’s most clever tool of destruction. He unleashes a disease that is spread mostly through drug use and sexual contact in a place where millions will die, while the Church argues whether or not AIDS is a lifestyle issue.
There is no Plan B. God decided that the agents of His “claiming” the universe would be His followers. He doesn’t have a Plan B. Through the ministry of Jesus, we are taught that what really matters is the degree of love and compassion we share with the world. God did not call us as judges. Instead, He called us as reconcilers and healers. We must practice a radical and redemptive love for the least of these.
There is no other choice. If you take Christ seriously, then you must daily put yourself in front of the roaring lion. You may get attacked. In fact, you probably will.
I recently had breakfast with a South African pastor who drove this point home. After seeing his government systematically ignoring poor children in his community, he took the story to the national newspaper. The scathing article brought death threats upon his home. “I am already dead to Christ,” he said. “What can they do to me?” He’s still alive and well ... and the government is now building a school for these children—all 1,500 of them.
I believe Jesus’ “red letters” divide us into those who talk and those who do. To know Jesus is to love and advocate for the poor, the orphan, the widow and the outcast. Everything else is negotiable. I choose to “live red,” and a new movement of Christians is building behind this idea. It’s about putting the words of Christ into action, and watching the miracle of what happens when you become Jesus to a dying world.
--TOM DAVIS is the president of Children's Hope Chest, a global orphan care ministry working in Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa. He is the author of Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds and Fields of the Fatherless: Discover the Joy of Compassionate Living.
This article originally published in the Jan/Feb 08 issue of RELEVANT Magazine.