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I’ve been struck by the number of people I’ve spoken with recently who believe that the crises of disease such as AIDS, tuberculosis, polio and malaria which have devastated Africa are over or under control. “I just don’t see anything on the news anymore,” a fellow remarked. “I figured everything is ok — that it must be over.”
The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.
Recently, I received a letter from Fr. Jozef De Bekker — a Missionary of Africa priest who lives and works in Korhogo — a city in the north-central region of the country of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa. There, Fr. De Bekker is working to save lives . . . lives that continue to be threatened by the devastation caused by the human immunodeficiency virus — the virus that causes AIDS.
“AIDS is claiming the lives of men, women and children every day,”Fr. De Bekker writes. “And while some might think that individuals can be cured of the disease, the truth is that there is no cure — only treatment to address the devastating symptoms. And here — AIDS is at epidemic proportions.”
“Côte d’Ivoire has West Africa’s highest rate of infection. In some areas of the country,
more than ten percent of the people are infected with the disease. And if they do not get
the anti-retroviral drugs they need — they will die.”
“Once an adult contracts AIDS, families fall into poverty as they lose their primary breadwinners. The virus leaves children parentless and AIDS orphans drop out of school to earn money to care for their siblings, trapping them in a cycle of poverty. Communities fall apart as civic leaders, teachers, parents and children slowly succumb to the disease. Even though these stories may not be in newspapers or on television, the crisis is real — and it is still among us.”
“Additionally, ten years of war have ravaged this nation,” he continues. “The people here have seen nothing but death and disease around them every day. We want to help them begin to see hope — that things can change. We are trying to show them how to improve their lives . . . to help them see that they can make changes to save their communities, their families and their lives.”
“It is a slow process, but the young people here want our help! They are committed to change — they are just not sure of what they need to do. For missionaries like myself, it is the essence of my vocation . . . to reach out to those who are asking for help.”
My friend, Fr. De Bekker’s mission in Korhogo desperately needs financial support if it is to be successful in establishing a large-scale educational program to help stop the disease that is claiming an entire generation of men, women and children.
My hope is that we can raise at least $32,000 to provide educational equipment and the vast assortment of materials needed not only in in Korhogo, but in many of our other missions throughout Africa as well.
Is there some way you can help . . . some amount you can send?
I know that these are difficult and uncertain financial times. Despite the challenges that face us, though, you have been so faithful in helping our missionaries continue their work among some of the poorest men, women and children in the world. I am hoping and praying that you can at least send something — large or small — to help Fr. De Bekker reach out to those who are asking for hope. The people in Korhogo have suffered so much . . . I am praying you will be as generous as you possibly can. Thank you for caring.