Saving Africa from Its Deadliest Disease

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BUNDIBUGYO, Uganda - AIDS is the leading cause of death in many African countries, and in Uganda, more than 1 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease.

Now, a young girl's battle against the virus is making waves across the continent. It's called Kande's Story -- the real-life account of a 12-year-old African girl who lost both parents to AIDS and is left to fend for herself and five siblings.

The 45-page book is published by Wycliffe Bible Translators, the world's largest Bible translating organization. Since 2004, Wycliffe has translated the story into 90 languages in 12 African nations.

A Face for AIDS

CBN News traveled to the remote Ugandan city of Bundibugyo, where Kande's Story is making a clear difference. There, 35-year-old Asimu Kilolo and 13-year-old Maureen Kirihona shared their intimate knowledge of the book.

"I just cried when I heard her story," HIV patient Kilolo said.

When asked if he's afraid of dying, Kilolo replied, "No, but I am worried about my family. Just like in Kande's Story when the father died, the family suffered."

Kilolo was diagnosed with HIV five years ago. He said he feels okay today, but instead of worrying about the future, he spends his time telling others about Kande's Story.

"I've given out over 200 copies of this book, along with 100 copies of the book of Mark," Kilolo said. "I'm trying to save people's lives because Kande's Story is more than just about AIDS. It's about how the community, and especially the church, can love and care for people affected by AIDS."

Knowledge for the People

In Bundibugyo, Wycliffe personnel use Kande's Story as a tool in HIV-AIDS workshops.

Maureen has been attending the sessions. When she's not in class, she's tending to daily chores at home and looking after her mother who is dying of AIDS. Her father passed away several years ago after contracting the virus.

"I'm not ready for this role. I'm the one struggling to look after my mother and three siblings," Maureen said. "I turn to page 13 of Kande's Story and see my life in the book."

"My mom is too weak to move around so she holds on to me," she continued. "But at least she's alive because she is giving me advice and preparing me for the time when she won't be around anymore."

"I know they are going to be orphans, but I am telling them to trust in the Lord," Maureen's mother added. "I know that He will take care of them."

She is especially proud of Maureen who is learning to read and write, thanks to Wycliffe's literacy programs.

"This brings me so much joy, especially knowing that she is learning to read parts of the Bible in our language," she said.

A Tedious Process

Translating the Bible into the Bwisi language has not been easy. Those living in the village have never had a written language.

"It was years and years of just working out the orthography... and getting consensus and inclusion from many denominations was a huge, huge effort," explained Scott Myhre with World Harvest, a Wycliffe partner. "But it has really borne fruit."

As of this year, Wycliffe has translated more that 60 percent of the New Testament into Bwisi. Verifying scriptural accuracy is key to the process of Bible translation, which is why Wycliffe translators take a very long time making sure that what they are translating is accurate.

But Bible translation is only part of the solution.

"They see so many people who have quality of life here and now, not only because of the translation of the Scriptures, but because of the access to information and education and that includes health information, like HIV-AIDS education, malaria education, clean water," Wycliffe USA President Bob Cresson said. "All of those things, we have this privileged of translating materials so that people have a better understanding of the need for taking care of those kinds of issues."

Eyes to the Future

Back at the workshop, Maureen and Kilolo are trying to take it all in. A group of men and women performed a musical skit about staying pure before marriage and staying faithful to your spouse. They also discuss how to avoid getting AIDS or spreading it to others.

"Our people need this information. I'm going to take what I learn here and share it with others," Kilolo said. "I love people and I have a responsibility to help my fellow men stay alive and be healthy."

"If I ever get the chance to go to college, I want to become a nurse or teacher," Maureen said. "I want to educate people about this disease. That's what Kande did when she grew up. She told others about God and how to stay safe."

*Originally published April 16, 2010.

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