"Celebration of Hope, it's not just about a blip on our calendar, but this is about one of the core values of our church, about the work that we do all year round." said Lead Pastor Heather Larson. As part of the annual Celebration of Hope, Willow Creek hopes to provide regular updates on many of the partner churches and organizations from around the world. This past weekend, Heather talked about a pastor in Zambia who is making a lasting impact in his region.
Pastor Ngoma started a church back in 1997 in a rural part of Zambia. It was a small group of people coming together in the midst of a community that was facing extreme poverty, but that wasn't their only challenge. They were also gathering together in the midst of what is now known as the global AIDS crisis. The issue of AIDS was dividing families and communities all around them because the stigma was so high. No one wanted to interact with someone who was diagnosed with AIDS, but Pastor Ngoma and his small church decided that they had to figure out how to be the church in the midst of that AIDS crisis.
Pastor Ngoma began to educate himself. Then he began to educate the people around him. He then declared to his people that not only should they not be afraid of people with AIDS, but that they should reach out to them, love them, and should care for them. Their church started a home-based care ministry and actually began going into homes to show God's love to people who were dying of AIDS. He also pulled together other pastors in the community. He tried to help them to see what he was learning about what this disease was and what the disease was not. However, many of those pastors said that AIDS was a demon that needed to be cast away and they criticized Pastor Ngoma.
"It was so hard and frustrating I almost gave up," said Pastor Ngoma, "but I knew I needed to head the call and continue on with the work." Not only did he continue with the work of caring for people with HIV and AIDS, but they also began nutrition programs in their communities to help families who were struggling and didn't have enough food. They began to receive seeds, packed by Willow Creek during the Celebration of Hope seed-packing drives, and distribute them in their communities so their families could plant gardens. They also began an education and Awana program to be able to help children in their community. God blessed that church and not only were they reaching the needs of people around them, the church began to grow and thrive as well.
"A couple years ago this church was a recipient of our 40-church initiative," says Larson. "Because of your generosity, this church has now even planted two other churches throughout Zambia, even in the midst of the AIDS crisis." This church was able to endure. This church was able to thrive.
Ministries like Pastor Ngoma's are hard-pressed to do the work God has called them to without the support and provision of other's generous giving. To read more about how your giving is making an impact or to see other programs that it supports click here.