Back when I wanted to be White House Chief of Staff, I could turn on the news most days and see an image of what I want to be when I grew up. Before that, I wanted to be a prosecutor. Law and Order fit that bill for communing with my future. As a child, I either wanted to be a policeman or a paleontologist both of which are not hard to find on children’s television. However, as a young, would-be pastor with an interest in public health and fighting HIV and AIDS in Africa, my list of opportunities to see people doing what I feel called to do are fairly slim. They haven’t even managed to turn it into a reality show yet. Although, if I wanted to have 19 children, open an Italian bakery, build motorcycles, cars, cupcakes, large cakes, fish tanks, or ice sculptures, fish for tuna, crab, or swordfish, pawn things, auctions things, hunt for things, or get trapped in a house with strangers, they have me covered.
All of this is an oblique way of saying that I finally got a chance to see my future career path in action. While here in Lumuru, we are in the middle of a high level conference between faith-based organization fighting HIV and AIDS in East Africa and government health officials. I got to attend panels where various faith-based organizations presented their work in fighting HIV and AIDS and listened to the feedback from others doing the same thing. I attended a dinner where a representative from the Kenya Ministry of Health and Sanitation gave a presentation on the status of the epidemic in Kenya and talked about ways that faith communities can partner with the government. At lunch, I ate with a leading Catholic Priest from Rwanda and a representative from Uganda’s Ministry of Health. We talked about the progress that Uganda had made and how churches and faith-based organizations fit into that. This is a chance to be exactly where I want to be and do exactly what I want to do. This doesn’t come along often and is really eye opening. These are people who do what I feel called to do. To be honest, it is a little intimidating like someone playing AA baseball watching the 1927 Yankees or a Division 2 college player watching the 1972 Dolphins (yes, I had to check Wikipedia to make sure I had these dates right).
Despite my intimidation, it is interesting to see the mixture of hope and frustration. There is a tangible sense here that we are making progress in the war on HIV and AIDS. The percentage of the Kenya population has fallen by 50% in the past 10 years and now holds steady at 7%. However, there is no denying that everyone sees how high the hill is that must still be climbed. They talk boldly of an AIDS free generation in our lifetime. I hope and pray that I can be a part of it.
In monkey related news, a monkey stole food today from warming tray at the buffet line, and I’m pretty sure that there is one outside my door right now. However, I am told that it is not smart to invite them. (Insert bad monkey related pun here.)
Thank you all for your comments and views. Home feels a world away, and it is nice to feel supported and connected.