World AIDS Day: Love sent to Africa in buckets
Rosemary wouldn't even let her visitors help her put the sheets on her mattress. She wanted to clean her entire house before spreading such a precious gift across her bed.
The bucket and its contents were delivered to Rosemary by CARE for AIDS in Kenya, a partner organization of Baptist Global Response (BGR). As organizations recognize World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, BGR focuses on people -- like Rosemary -- who fight HIV and AIDS every day while trying to care for families.
In the past two years, BGR has sent nearly 6,000 hospice kits, as part of The Bucket Project, to African countries for distribution to sick and terminally ill people and their caregivers. The kits contain items that enhance patients' comfort and improve their caretakers' abilities to tend to them. These simple items include bed sheets, socks, petroleum jelly, vitamins and lip balm -- all packed neatly into buckets.
Duncan Kimani, Kenyan director of CARE for AIDS, said clients have loved each part of the kit, right down to its packaging.
"The bucket itself has been received very well because they use the bucket [for] storage," he said. "They store water or other food stuff, like grain … basically everything included in the buckets has been received very well."
Churches and individuals from all over the United States donate their time and money to purchase and prepare these kits for shipment. BGR then partners with organizations like the International Mission Board and CARE for AIDS to distribute the kits to people in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 24.7 million people lived with HIV in 2013, according to the World Health Organization.
In November, Baptist churches throughout the state of Kentucky delivered 1,458 pre-packed buckets to the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) Annual Meeting, held in Bowling Green, Ky.
"[It's important] to help relieve suffering of those who are at the last stages of their lives," Paul Chitwood, KBC executive director, said.
Kentucky churches donated more than 2,000 buckets to BGR earlier in the year and, this fall, Chitwood said he challenged them to pack more for the annual meeting. He set a goal for those churches to send 800 buckets to the event, but they nearly doubled that amount.
Chitwood said he saw this successful bucket drive as a way for his convention to be a part of BGR's mission.
"We are very grateful for Baptist Global Response and see just tremendous opportunity for Southern Baptists across the state conventions to be able to minister in areas of need," he said.
Lori Funderburk, director of the Bucket Project, said Baptist churches in Missouri have also undertaken a similar challenge. State leadership set a goal to produce 5,000 hospice kits in 2015.
Now, on World AIDS Day, BGR asks Southern Baptists to take a moment to pray for those around the world who live with a disease that warrants these buckets. It also asks them to thank God for the people, organizations and churches who are willing to donate, pack, ship and deliver hospice kits to patients who need them.