Troy Lewis' deep, melodic voice is brimming with emotion as he talks about the people of Zambia.
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The IMB missionary's heart became burdened for sub-Saharan Africa during his college and seminary studies. He heard stories of how the Gospel was taking root and spreading through new believers and churches. However, Lewis also heard reports about the rising HIV/AIDS pandemic -- at the time, 6,000 people were dying each day in sub-Saharan Africa from the disease and 8,000 were being newly infected.
"With many Gospel-proclaiming churches, why has this march of death and new infections run unabated where abundant life should be demonstrated at its best?" Lewis asked during a presentation at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. "To unbelieving nations -- is this what a place looks like when we've 'reached' it [for Christ]?"
Lewis and his wife Tracey moved their family from Dallas, Texas, to Zambia, a country slightly larger than Texas, in 2001 to serve as missionaries to the people they had come to love.
Lewis counsels churches and their leaders to develop a Christ-like response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other problems affecting Zambia's communities, through Expanded Church Response (ECR), which he serves as executive director and a founding trustee.
"While we're getting people ready for heaven, how do we deal with each other, love each other, forgive each other, all that -- what about between now and heaven?" Lewis asked. "... Do we really look like Jesus?"
Started in 2003, ECR has trained approximately 3,000 volunteers to be home-based caregivers who get "out of the four walls of church and into the community and [are] providing care for HIV/AIDS [patients]," Lewis said. ECR now has volunteers in 24 of Zambia's 72 districts.
"I can only go and visit so many homes; I can only go and do True Love Waits [an abstinence-before-marriage program] in so many places," he said. "But right now through [ECR] we've been able to exponentially increase the impact we've been able to make through helping people discover that God has put them here for a purpose."
ECR has expanded its ministries to help people with other debilitating illnesses such as cancer, age-related conditions and strokes. Caregivers also distribute mosquito nets and teach people how to prevent malaria -- another deadly threat in Zambia.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Laura Fielding is a writer for the International Mission Board.