The Merry Family

Merry Mission Journal

November 11, 2004

The Video Launch

Sub-Saharan Africa has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Estimates are that between 15 and 30 percent of the population here in Malawi has been infected. I talked to a PC(USA) nurse from Mulanje Mission Hospital recently and she told me that she sees hundreds of patients of all ages, babies through senior citizens, that are infected with the deadly virus.

When AIDS was first diagnosed in Africa in the early 1980s, the dictator in Malawi refused to admit that it was a problem here, so it was not treated and spread like wildfire. Morals here are quite different than they are in the West, and it is not uncommon for married men to have affairs. Therefore, thousands of people, especially young adults, are infected with and dying from the disease today. There are almost a million AIDS orphans in Malawi.

The government has now launched massive campaigns and education programs throughout the country. Even grade school children are taught about the deadly disease. The CCAP has stepped up their efforts as well. They have had AIDS education seminars for youth groups for years, but now they have hired a person to coordinate all of the AIDS programs. They also have produced a video that deals with the topic in a candid manner. Dan and I attended the “Video Launch”yesterday. As part of his duties here, Dan had sent out invitations to the event, and I wrote up a press release for the local papers afterwards.

It was a festive occasion attended by about 175 pastors, youth leaders and interested individuals. The Limbe CCAP was the site of the launch, and two choirs from the church sang at the event. The Rev. Juma, General Secretary of the Harare Synod, CCAP was the Master of Ceremonies. (Every big event here has a Master of Ceremonies.)

The 10:00 a.m. event started promptly at 10:45 a.m. after a bus of folks from the Blantyre Synod arrived. The producers had an LCD projector and video tape player, plus speakers set up in the front of the fellowship hall. They had covered the windows with black plastic. In the States, an event like this would be held at night, but because of travel considerations and safety issues, all events are scheduled for the daytime here. Dan and I arrived early and helped them work out a few bugs in the sound system.

The launch started off with prayer. Rev. Juma explained that the video was produced by Christian Audio Visual Action (CAVA) in Zimbabwe. It was funded by a grant from the Oikonomos Foundation in the Netherlands. The title of the film, which is in the indigenous language of Chichewa, is “Tonthola Usalire”or “No More Tears.”

One of the producers explained the philosophy behind the video, “Christians must teach people to live in faithfulness according to Biblical principles.”He also told us that, “the author of the booklet and the scriptwriter is Cecile Perold, who has been a Christian youth counselor in Zimbabwe for 30 years. Her encounter with the HIV/AIDS pandemic prompted her to write this story from a Christian Perspective. It was produced to give hope to those living with AIDS and those living with them.”

Another producer read the Scripture lesson, which was Revelation 21:1-4. This is where Perold got the idea for the title of the video, “No More Tears.”

At about 11 a.m., we began watching the video on a large screen (actually it was a sheet hung on the wall) at the front of the hall. The Mvano (women’s guild) served us soft drinks and muffins while we watched. The story is about a Christian couple that finds out that they are both HIV positive. They go to their pastor for advice. The video deals frankly with the issues and dangers of drinking, extramarital affairs, and pregnancy with HIV.

At this point in the morning, a huge storm unleashed its fury on us and the pounding rain resonated on the tin roof of the fellowship hall. The producers turned up the volume. When we had seen about ¾ of the film, the power went out. That was the end of the viewing! (Dan and I just had to laugh - only in Malawi could this happen!) The MC asked the choir to sing again, and we waited to see if the electricity would come back on, but it didn’t. So the Rev. Daniel Gunya, General Secretary of Blantyre Synod, got up and said how he hoped that all the churches would use the film to teach their congregations about HIV prevention and how to treat people afflicted with AIDS in a Christian manner.

At this point the producers gave up all hope of the power coming back on, and asked Dan to say the benediction. He called the video a tool in our arsenal against HIV/AIDS.

After the program ended, boxes of the videos were brought out and sold for about $8 each. Booklets with the story were $.50. Sales were brisk. We also chatted with PC(USA) missionary, Dr. Sue Makin from Mulanje Mission Hospital where much of the video was filmed. In fact, her living and dining rooms were used as sets. She brought some of the actors (who are really health care workers at the hospital) along with her. They donated their services, and were given a free video as a thank you present.

Synod officials are thrilled that the film was produced in Chichewa, because so many people who need to hear this message of hope in Southern Malawi, only speak that language. The video is also available in English, Shone (for Zimbabwe), Zulu (spoken in South Africa), and Portuguese (for Mozambique and Angola). It will soon be produced in even more African languages.

Although Dan and I agreed that if the launch would have taken place in America, it would have been slicker and smoother, we were thrilled to attend and to see that the CCAP is actively fighting the pandemic on a variety of fronts.

Beth Merry

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