World AIDS Day, December 2009, South Africa
It has been a dry season here in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and many locations are without water. Because the rains are late this year, the grass and trees are still brown and people are struggling to grow their crops.
Psalm 72: 1-7 (from The Message Bible) “Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God, that gift of just rule to the crown prince. May he judge your people rightly, be honorable to your meek and lowly. Let the mountains give exuberant witness; shape the hills with the contours of right living. Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants. Outlast the sun; outlive the moon – age after age after age. Be rainfall on cut grass, earth-refreshing rain showers. Let righteousness burst into blossom and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing. Rule from sea to sea, from the River to the Rim.”
It has been a dry season here in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and many locations are without water. Because the rains are late this year, the grass and trees are still brown and people are struggling to grow their crops. This extended dry season, when nothing wants to grow, also reminds me of the AIDS pandemic that is affecting so many in South Africa, and the poverty, hunger, violence, and abuse that exacerbate this virus. And facing this dry season, the many which have died as well as the many more (often children) left behind, it is easy to feel hopeless and helpless.
One recent morning, however, I was reading Psalm 72 in preparation for a World AIDS Day celebration on 1 December. It is a passage that reflects the Psalmist yearning for a world of justice and righteousness; a world in which God’s love are like small droplets of rain, bringing forth new and abundant life. This passage was used in one of our local UCCSA churches during their World AIDS Day service, and after singing, dancing, lighting candles, prayers and sharing communion together with our South African sisters and brothers, one can see small seedlings of hope, tolerance, peace, smiles, empowerment, love and worship. God’s people have been like rain on this dry soil, they are providing hope to those who are suffering with HIV and AIDS; they are lifting up our brothers and sisters not only in prayer but in providing physical care and support for those who are sick and have lost hope.
It has finally begun to rain this week. For the past five days we have received showers, and as I sit and write this the rain is falling softly outside. The grass is green again, the trees are no longer wilted, and the crops are starting to grow. And while World AIDS Day has just past, let us, in whatever season we may be in, remember those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS throughout the world. May God bring down showers of peaceful rain, both on our land and in our lives.
Revs. Jon and Dawn Barnes
Jonathan and Dawn Barnes are missionaries with the Kei Regional Council of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, South Africa. They serve as development officers in the Kei region of the Eastern Cape of South Africa.