Stephen Lewis is coming to inform, inspire and ignite!

It’s so hard to sit on the sidelines and feel powerless. It’s even harder to figure out how to do something. Though we live in the land of milk and honey, we are faced with our own national dilemmas. But across the ocean, the continent of Africa houses the most disadvantaged people in the world.

Because it’s complex, partly political, partly climate, partly sociological, partly religious… the problems of Africa feel too big, too remote and too chaotic to be tackled on a local level. I mean, what can we do here, about Africa?

We’ve always had a leader in Stephen Lewis. Canadian by birth, Stephen Lewis is a household name to most of us over the age of 35. We know him as a politician, a humanist, the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. We know him as the former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. We know him as a scholar-in-residence, as the deliverer of the Massey lectures, as the recipient of 24 honorary university degrees. We know him as a companion of the Order of Canada. Time Magazine recently named Stephen Lewis as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

On and on and on. Stephen Lewis’ book, Race Against Time, cleverly and thoroughly lays out the horror of life in Africa. The final lecture in the book gives us hope. Stephen Lewis’ Foundation is aimed at the heart of AIDS, at its preventability, at its sheer rape of generations of young people. The foundation exists to ease the plight of women (deaths of mothers impact entire generations), to assist orphans, to support the grandmothers who are now burying their own children and caring for their orphan grandchildren. The Foundation helps groups of people living with HIV and AIDS.

It does this with simple grass-roots programs that give power for change to the ordinary person.

Many programs. Much hope.

Five United Churches in Barrie have joined energies to bring Stephen Lewis and his message to Barrie on Sunday, October 14. At 1:30 pm he’ll walk onto the stage of the auditorium at Central Collegiate. About 1,000 people will hear him speak, from the deepest part of his soul. And none of us will ever be the same.

This Barrie movement is designed to develop a specific project right here, a project that will engage the energies and creativity of local people who want to be able to make a difference.

For years now I’ve been telling the stories of people who do make a difference… Carol Warnica (March 27, 2005) and Seamus Feeney (December 3, 2006) both direct their energies to Africa. The whole point of Stephen Lewis’ foundation is to make it possible for people to do small things, small things which grow to a groundswell of support for a continent ravaged by life.

Inform, Inspire, Ignite… the theme of Lewis’ October 14 talk, promises to do just that. Speaking to all age groups, Stephen Lewis will highlight holes and ways to fill them. While he informs, he doesn’t depress… he inspires and opens doors for change.

It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. You will have made soup from your turkey leftovers. You will have celebrated with family our remarkable good fortune in this country. And just 7 days later, you can take the next step.

Tickets ($30 for adults, $15 for students) go on sale to the public tomorrow and next Saturday, September 29 from 9 am to 12 noon, at Central United Church, Ross and Toronto streets. Phone 737-3612. This is a life-changing opportunity for us… and for Africa.

See you there.

Thanks, to all the United Churches for putting this together.