April 2010 Archives

Stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS

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Estimated HIV/AIDS prevalence among young adul...

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AIDS is a condition (or syndrome) caused by HIV, which is a virus. AIDS can be passed through sexual fluid or blood. It can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or through breast milk. There are many stigmas and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS, particularly in the 3rd world but also here where we boast first world medicine. As an aside person with HIV may not have AIDS.

You will not cure yourself of AIDS by having sex with a virgin. You will not cure yourself of AIDS or ward it off by having sex with animals. Chances are if you're reading this then you knew that, but this misconception has led to raped virgins in an effort to rid oneself of this illness - leaving a victimised person with the possibility they have HIV/AIDS themselves - further spreading the infection.

Now, here are some misconceptions I hold. You can hug, kiss on the lips, share a glass with, use the same toilet as be coughed on by an HIV/AIDS sufferer and the risk of infection is so small it's negligible. The exception to all this is that if there's blood involved you're at risk. I'm also not suggesting you go out and try all the above, but you can touch people with HIV/AIDS without catching it yourself. 

To be honest the thought of this makes me nervous - why take the risk? At Parachute this year I spent 30 minutes walking 3 or so years in the shoes of Beatrice, a girl from Africa. Her older sister is HIV positive and has a baby girl, but Beatrice is left to care for the baby after her sister dies. Beatrice needs to be tested for HIV - so I go to the clinic and sit down. And wait...and wait. Then I step up to the counter, I'm HIV Negative! What hit me the most is that after this I had the chance to take some HIV positive people back to the village with me - they were just sitting there, not able to return unless someone took them. If this was the real world maybe I'd have thought more deeply about it or asked for some guidance on how infectious they were, but these were strangers to me and my gut thought I should look after myself, so I walked by them.

We fear the unknown, and in the void before HIV/AIDS was investigated something had to fill that void. This fear of the unknown lead us to isolate the sick from the healthy, to remove them from society for the greater good. We believed all sorts of things and those fears have stayed with us, because we haven't wanted to know more than "stay away from the sick people". There is some merit to this approach, it can help prevent HIV positive people infecting others deliberately. But what of the rest? They're ignored.

Why take the risk? Pretty much everyone knows I've had RSI for 4 years - some days it's good, others it's bad. I've had prayer for it, but it's still there. One day I was given a magnetic bracelet to help with the pain in my wrist. It doesn't do much medically but it's a reminder to me that someone cared and reached out with something simple and heartfelt. It's an encouragement that I value more than a lot of the words I've heard. 

For me to take that feeling and give it to others - give encouragement where there is little hope, give support where there seems to be none then I think that'll involve more than words, it'll involve physical contact. That's a good enough reason for me to risk.
Youth with a Mission

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When I first heard about this Hawaii thing I had no clue what it was, other than it was a photography course run by a Christian group called PhotogenX. The more research I did into it the more I found out about outreach - what to pack, when to arrive, what visa I needed, how I needed to pay for my fees, etc. You get the picture, I was busy.

I knew that PhotogenX and Youth with a Mission (YWAM) were related and I also knew that YWAM had been around for a while but I just didn't feel the need to dig into that side of things - the practical matters were in the front of my mind.

After weeks of prep stretched over a few months I made it to Kona, Hawaii safe and with all my gear (minus one lock that the TSA cut open). I took it for granted that YWAM existed on this island and that it had been around longer than me. In fact, YWAM turns 50 this year - by then I'll be 24 - so that's 26 years of work done before I was born - another 15 or so before I became aware of YWAM. This book documents YWAM, from the very start to the Anastasis arriving in Kona. 

From my viewpoint the book breaks into two parts - "Where did God lead?" and "Where did we go?". There's a bit of drama in there too and a bit of romance (what story is complete without one or the other?). First however, it's important to understand that throughout the book many would have said that missions were for trained missionaries - people of the word, who had devoted lots of time and study to becoming a missionary. Missions are not a new concept - they are biblically based. Mark 16:15 reads "He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation". The thing YWAM did differently was to focus on youth doing missions.


The centerpoint of YWAM and this book is most definitely the vision Loren had in 1956. "I was looking at a map of the world, only the map was alive and moving!" ... "I could see all the continents, and waves were crashing onto their shores." ... "The waves became young people - kids my age and even younger - covering all the continents of the globe" ... "preaching the Gospel".

This book title stems from that vision. Loren had to ask if that was from God or if he imagined it and in my opinion to do less would be foolish. What I've been learning this week is that there will be times when you just don't know if something comes from God. Sometimes you need to step out and try it. This is where God lead and Loren followed.

Smooth Sailing

Summarising this book into a report isn't as easy as I'd like - despite the book being a rather easy read. I was planning on going through some of the details of the book, the progression, etc. but that would make for a very, very long blog post, so instead I want to talk about the difficulties encountered and leave you to read the rest of the book yourself. I'm taking this approach because I believe that too often we stand up and preach about all the good things that happen, but don't give any time to the mistakes. This creates a false impression that Christians make no mistakes and that if you do, you're the odd one out.

The story of YWAM is not all plain sailing (pun intended, but we'll get to that). Early on YWAM rubbed the Assembly of God the wrong way by recruiting youth from all denominations. Until this, YWAM had sat under the umbrella of AOG, but the choice was to stay and be AOG or leave and be all-denominational. Thankfully for me (since lifeswitch is Brethren, even though I don't consider myself to have a denomination) YWAM became it's own entity.

The lesson from this is that sometimes you may be called to go against the leadership of the day - just like Jesus had to. I truly believe Jesus must have made a lot of churches very uncomfortable and angry - if we're called to follow him we could end up doing the same. This can mean giving up our reputation, position, standing and stature in an organisation that we genuinely like for the sake of doing what we're called to do.

The other thing I want to talk about is the Maori. The Maori was a ship YWAM wanted to purchase for use as a mercy ship. She would sail to places that needed help with supplies and support - a very admirable (expensive) endeavour. However money was not the problem - a deposit was raised and final payment due in a month. Focus was the problem.

We can easily fall into this trap, in fact I have a few times. If we lose sight of the fact that what we are doing is to glorify Jesus then we shoot ourselves in the foot. For YWAM it was how they put so much value in the ship itself, not the provider of the ship. For me it's how I would turn up to lead a bible study without having prayed before hand, relying on just my knowledge of the material.

The hard thing YWAM had to do was let go of this thing they'd placed so much value in and suffer the embarassment of telling the world "God will give us this ship" only to have it sold for scrap to another company. This cost them money, but earned them humility. So was the ship a mistake? Did God not lead them down that road? I think that if God didn't want YWAM to have a ship he would have blocked their second attempt too. This didn't happen and a few years later YWAM ended up with the Anastasis.

YWAM is present in 1,100 locations in 170 countries with 30,000 volunteers and 200,000 short term missionaries worldwide across cultural and language barriers. It's easy to look at something as big as this and assume it always existed. One thing I will give away from the book is that Loren's heart was touched by an 8 year old Arab girl in Israel, pleading 'Baksheesh', asking for money. Loren didn't even see this girl, his father saw her and shared her story in their local church.

I wonder if that's the position I'll be in when I return to New Zealand. I'll have 6 months of time to describe - the experiences, highs and lows and I have little doubt that 50 years on from this part of the book there is still lots to be done. The times and tools have changed, but the need has not.

Assignment 1 - Human Trafficking

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Image by aclu.socal via Flickr

Human Trafficking is the practice of people being tricked, lured, coerced or otherwise removed from their home or country, and then forced to work with no or low payment or on terms which are highly exploitative.[1] These people are usually forced into prostitution or labour, with only enough 'pay' to keep themselves alive. This is not people smuggling, those people voluntarily try to move countries.

People who are trafficked have no say in what they do. They are kept under control by a series of tactics ranging from physical threats/abuse to having a debt to a trafficker that they can't repay with their 'income'. Many of these people are women and many are forced into prostitution in other countries. The course I've been doing at YWAM Kona is the PhotogenX Discipleship Training School. Previous students of this course went on to create the Sex+Money project, which focusses on women being trafficked within and into America. While my New Zealand readers won't necessarily be able to relate to this I think these guys and girls deserve a lot of credit for looking in their own back yard. This isn't an over-there issue for them.

In my research I found words like 'epidemic' cropping up. I also found a 2009 news article basically saying "it could be happening in New Zealand, but we don't know". This is not to scare monger and make out New Zealand has a large problem, because we don't. This however is not a reason to think we are immune, it's a call to be vigilant. When the swine flu epidemic hit everyone was aware - you'd see news stories every night on the status of the flu. Vigilance meant less deaths.

In our group times we have been praying for this situation. One thing we keep coming back to is praying for the people doing this. I'm ashamed to say it's mostly men. Maybe it's because we're more physically able, less emotional or because we have strong sex drives, but whatever it is, it's not acceptable. It's also not just something limited to back alleys in dodgy neighbourhoods either. There is an accusation that Steven Seagal has trafficked women in the media right now. The validity of the claims will be decided in court - if it proves to be unfounded it will still have a big impact on his reputation, if accurate he will be looking at jail time. Now, ask yourself, if it's possible for it to happen at that kind of a level ... and if that challenges your mindset of what a trafficker is.

I haven't even begun to talk about children being trafficked. One motto I heard in the Sex+Money Webisodes was "the younger the better". This means 11-12 years and younger. When I was 11 I still lived in England - I can remember owning a Super Soaker and having a big garden and a bike. I thank God I wasn't ever abused or exploited as a child - others can't.

So, that's how things are and I ask myself what should be done?

Some governments are sympathetic to this and have made legislation around it - well done to them. Sadly this doesn't stop it happening. In countries where prostitution is illegal it's a legal requirement for the police to arrest the prostitute. Not only does this let the pimp carry on as before it means a victim is made into a victim again. I can't imagine what it feels like to be that helpless. Law is certainly one course to addressing this, however the law always lags behind the world - it's always reactive. We don't have the luxury of waiting for the law to catch up.

The next question is "Where is God in all of this?". It's okay, you're allowed to ask that. I know the victims will. Where is God for these people? Is it different to ask 'where are we?'. We are his hands and his feet. The Bible is filled with stories of God commanding mere people like you and I to go and do ridiculous things like lead Israel out of Egypt. I wonder at length why God acts in this way - lightning is so much more impressive. Why us, with all our flaws? My musings aside, what I am sure about is that we are the ones who should be working to combat this. 

If you're reading this, then I include you in "we" - because if you made it this far I believe you care about this. Not everyone is able to just drop their work and take up a cause like this, but if you can afford the computer and internet to read this then can you afford to contribute to the work of the Sex+Money team or can you be better informed about this issue? I'm not trying to get money from you - I haven't posted a link to donate, but I think that if you feel motivated you'll find it yourself.

Day 4

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Today is a Monday and thus began class. Today was very relaxed, we just shared testimonies and were welcomed into PhotogenX. We have 50+ students and 10 or so staff so it took a while. It wasn't a full sharing session so we didn't get into heaps of detail but it was good to see where others were at and to tell others about myself.


Well, I say this after the fact, building up to sharing was a bit of a challenge, but one overcome. I also set up this blog today and did some laundry. Oh the exciting times. Tonight it's lights out by 10 since breakfast starts at 6:30 tomorrow - this routine could take some getting used to.

There aren't really any more photos from today...sorry.

Day 3

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Today was rather uneventful. I went to Living Stones church in the morning and we had a meeting with the building managers in the afternoon that went on far too long for my liking.

Living Stones is a decent church. The worship is a good volume, the songs are a bit older, but I prefer to consider them 'classic'. The message was good. What really let them down though was that nobody said hello to me and they forgot they needed to drop us back to YWAM after and had to scramble a driver for us. Pretty location though.

Living Stones

One very cool thing YWAM do here is English and Korean translations of speakers (speaker says a line or few in English, pauses, translator translates). This does however make meetings take twice as long.

I got my first gecko photo


And I got some pretty ones

pretty tree

Day 2

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Day 2 we went to Hapuna beach. It's about a 40 minute drive from the base and it's beautiful. We even drove there in a school bus, a proper yellow one.

I swam, relaxed and fell asleep on the beach. Sadly this meant I got sunburnt on the back of my knees, which meant the next 3 days were spent regretting not properly putting on sunscreen. The sun is perhaps worse than NZ here - it'll seriously get you.

Day 1

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Day 1 started with a walk from the flags to Ohana Court (Ohana means family in Hawaiian) led by the local Hawaiians.

Flags Walk

We had a lovely welcoming ceremony, which included giving our gifts to the Hawaiians. This is Christian and Sharee Fox giving the PhotogenX gifts.

Christian and Sharee giving gifts

Then we got a bunch of talks about the University, then broke out into our DTS groups + got to know each other a bit better.

In the evening was the Aloha party, including Island Breeze performing and the roll call of the nations at the University. Kat carried the flag for NZ. 

Kat with the NZ Flag

Sarah carried the flag for the UK.

Sarah with the UK flag

There are lots of photos of the Island Breeze performance on flickr.


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Well, it was an early start for me on the 8th of April (the first time, bear with me). Up at 5:30, leaving home shortly after 6 to drive to the airport. I turned up at the airport around 6:45 15 minutes before check in closed, checked in and got breakfast at Mojo. Kiwi got breakfast too. 

Kiwi ordering breakfast

After this we went to the departure gate, where I finally met Kat, another (half American) Kiwi that is also doing the DTS. The school had shared our email addresses so we could chat before DTS, but work + church drained most of my free time, so we didn't get the chance to actually meet before now. 


We flew to Auckland in different rows on the plane - my iPod provided me with Owl City for the ride. After getting to Auckland and (unnecessarily) running to catch our Honolulu flight we were quite fortunate. The cheerleader next to me wanted to trade places with Kat so she was closer to her friends, which meant we had 9 hours to get acquainted before hitting the US.

We got to Honolulu and cleared customs. Kat has a US passport thanks to her Mum. I got the annoying news that my B1 Visa was only good for 3 months, not the 6 I asked for. I started wondering how I was gonna make the outreach. Then we went to this little motel and crashed for the night, it was very hot and difficult to sleep. 

Overnight accommodation

Next morning it was breakfast + coffee (well, what Starbucks passes off as coffee to these poor Americans) at the airport then a lovely short flight to Kona.

Kona flight

We were picked up at the Kona airport and taken to the University, where we got settled in and had lunch. 


After lunch was registration, which took about an hour in a big line. I got my ID, my Work duty (IT) and a key to my room. Thankfully they were happy with my insurance plans, so all went well on that front. 


After that it was time to explore the campus.

In the evening we walked the 20-25 minutes to Wal*Mart to get some essential supplies (shampoo and laundry detergent). Derek from the room next to mine showed us the way.



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So I promised I'd do a blog. Here's a blog, freshly installed.

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