Fighting HIV and AIDS from the Top

To desire to to lead is an honourable task (1 Tim 3:1). If the Apostle Paul were standing here today he would honour you. He would not honour you with the  prestige and respect of adorned chairs, special sitting location, and a huge honorarium for your presence that we are accustomed to today. This is not what Paul had in mind when he stated that leadership is an honourable thing. In Paul’s day, Christian leaders were persecuted, faced great dangers, troublesome responsibilities and even rejection for encouraging people to Love God and their neighbour.

Seen in this light, Paul’s encouragement to be a leader prohibits those who want to be leaders because of the public honour and respect they stand to receive. On the contrary, he says it is an honourable thing because, under those dangerous circumstances, true leaders were hard to find and would need to be encouraged by eternal motivation to aspire to such a role.

Most of you leaders in this room today face the same situation. You’re leading in troubled areas and troubled times. You provide leadership in communities with high rates of poverty, HIV and AIDS, and unclean water. Quality education, health care, and employment opportunities for youths are scarce. The place you provide leadership is not desirable for those seeking stable benefits and upscale working conditions. In many ways, those of you who work for the church in this community may have an easy time understanding what Paul is saying because you know that when your motives are right, the work you do pays eternal dividends.

The reason we invited you to this workshop is because we believe that you dream of a peaceful and prospering Chibuluma where infants shall not die before the age of five; families shall build brick houses; miners shall not labour in vain; farmers shall sell their produce at a profit and send their children especially girl children to school; where Chibuluma shall be free from HIV and AIDS. If you do not have that dream you should not be a leader and you should not be here. To achieve this dream you need a new understanding of greatness. Here it is: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among must be your servant (Mark 10:42-43).

We have invited you here to brainstorm how you can provide leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It is my prayer that in the next two days you will consider what it means to be a leader in a place that is troubled by HIV and AIDS and poverty. I hope you will ask difficult questions like how is true leadership found? How much will it cost me to help the people I am leading to stop the spread of AIDS and help those infected live productive lives? I hope you will leave this place with an understanding that true spiritual or community leaders are focused on the services they can render to God and others and not on the residuals and perks of high offices or holy titles. I pray that you will leave this place with an aim to put more into your community than you take out. Be assured that with such an attitude God will never forsake you or leave you. He did not forsake our Lord Jesus Christ who today is standing at the right side of God the father cheering you on as you work in difficult circumstances.

Lawrence Temfwe

(extracts from a message delivered to 50 church, community and civic leaders in Chibuluma who have started an initiative in partnership with JC to fight HIV and AIDS from the top).