Every now and then while I am doing my devotions, I am 'arrested' by something that someone has said, this happened to me this morning so I decided to go back and find my little notebook from 2004. I always carry a little Moleskine notebook with me (I use the Moleskine folders to keep cards, notes etc, and then cut the small, cheap, ruled notebooks to put into the first folder - here's a picture of one of mine).
The notebook that I was looking for in this instance dates back to November 2004 - I was at the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's Mission Conference in Umtata. At that conference the President of the all Africa Council of Churches, Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, was speaking.
Back to the point, in his keynote address Mvume said something to the effect of, "If we [Southern Africans, and particularly the Churches in Southern Africa] do not wake up to the crisis of HIV / AIDS we shall be re-colonized within the next generation".
I was shocked by that statement, but there was truth to it. He went on to say that AIDS is killing so many young people, skilled, gifted African women and men, that we shall soon have very few people between the ages of 20 and 60, and much fewer skilled persons between those ages. When that happens we will be colonized once again. However, this time we shall not be colonized by a nation state (such as America, China, or England), rather we shall be colonized by multinational corporations who wish to exploit the natural resources of our fair lands. If we have gold, oil, platinum, coal, and a host of other precious commodities , yet there is no-one left to extract, refine, and use these resources, those who have the power, the money, and the skill, from elsewhere in the world will do it for us, and eventually, they will do it in spite of us.
This colonization is a concern, but of greater concern is the reality that we are loosing a whole generation of people because of poor choices, hidden truths, and a lack of knowledge.
I worry about such things... Perhaps it will never happen in the way Mvume described it, but if I can do anything to stave the spread of this disease, and in some small and insignificant way help Africans to benefit from the blessings of Africa, I need to do so!
Then it struck me, I can make a difference - the difference that I can make is in the sphere of Education! I see this magnificent sign at least once a week when I go onto the University of South Africa (UNISA) campus. It is a picture of our past President, Nelson Mandela, the caption reads: "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world". I believe it! What we need is education that does a number of things:
- First, we need a very basic and simple form of education that teaches persons their value and dignity. Education that helps people to realise just what a gift they, a gift from God to the world. Life is precious and must be guarded and valued.
- Second, we need education that helps people to survive in the face of great challenges - in particular we need to help our young people (and our old) to make wise choices for life. It scares me to death to think that when I was at school, if I had a sexual relationship with someone the worts that could happen is that she could fall pregnant. Now, however, my daughter or son could die from just one bad choice! We need education to prevent such tragedies!
- Third, we need education that helps people not just to survive, but to truly live. This is the kind of formation and development that helps people to rise above the ordinary, to become the best that they can be; moral leadership, intellectual leadership, all matched with exceptional skill.
Perhaps what I am asking is that those of us who have some measure of influence should ask God to give us the courage to use it for the common good. If you write, write about what matters, when you pray, pray about what matters most, as you work spend your energy not just in pursuit of gain and pleasure, but spend yourself to bring healing and transformation to individuals and society.
I shall say it once again - if you are the best, the very best, if you're a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist, a parent, a gifted thinker, a passionate feeler, if you can do anything in the whole world, then do it for God!
Let's counteract ignorance with love, and spend our lives in service of Christ's mission to heal and transform the world - petty theological arguments, minuscule points of difference, differences in taste, these things should not stop us from being effective for Christ.