Saturday, Mar 12, 2005
Galt should be proud of its warmth
I attended the Galtwide church service at Galt High School on
Sunday morning. I was invited by one of the ministers whom I
consider a good friend.
The turnout was amazing. There were very few empty seats. The
program was handled in a very positive manner, considering that
the main topic was the HIV-AIDS epidemic in Africa.
I am not a Christian. I'm Jewish, but I felt very comfortable
there. I am enormously proud of Galt and the 10 churches that
Usually, Galt is thought of as a fairly conservative town.
Dealing with AIDS in a place on the other side of the world does
not seem like something that this community would take on. The
response of the people said that is not true.
There were several tables with sign-up cards to sponsor a child
in Africa at the ongoing cost of $30 per month. We were told
that there were cards for 600 children there. All of them are
black, again, not something that is common in Galt. It looked
like all of the children represented by the cards would have a
I find it comforting to know that Galt and its churches can come
through like this. Again, a job well done.
Reuven E. Epstein
Gathering begins the healing from home
screams By Rachael Roberts
Hundreds of Galt faithfuls filled the Galt High
School Warrior Gym on Sunday morning; only they
weren’t gathered to cheer
on any sports team.
Instead, the many hundreds had gathered to fight –
to join together as one church, one voice, and one
power – to fight HIV/AIDS, one child, one community
at a time.
The Gathering, as it was dubbed, was intended to
bring the worshipping community of Galt together for
an international outreach into a tiny African town.
In the end, the Gathering brought together the moral
core of a local community and began the healing
process at home.
Ten churches joined together on Sunday, bringing
together nearly 200
Galt faithfuls for a Sunday
worship service with a purpose, to fight
spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide.
“We’re here to praise the Lord and come together as
one church,” said Horizon Community Church Senior
Pastor Tim Stevenson. “It is amazing the Lord could
use HIV/AIDS to bring us all together. To bring us
together over a disease that can be stopped in a
generation with the proper education, nutrition and
health care needs.”
The climax of a journey that began a month ago with
seven local pastors on a 10-day trip to Lesotho,
Africa, Sunday’s ecumenical Sunday service served
two purposes, one international and one very local.
Locally, the pastoral association of Galt has been
pondering the issue of community unity and disparity
for months. Seeking a divine way to bring the many
compassionate and generous people of Galt together,
the association found direction through a World
Vision presentation on the HIV/AIDS crisis
“I was compelled, encouraged and inspired by Steve
Haas of World Vision,” said Stevenson, who inspired
the initial local inquiry into becoming a World
Vision church community.
It was Haas, the vice president of World Vision,
who served as speaker and preacher on Sunday, and it
was Haas who delivered the international plea to the
people of Galt to hear the cries of the suffering
and make personal the impact the spread of HIV/AIDS
is having, and will continue to have on the entire
“I wonder what God thinks when he looks on something
like this,” said Haas. “This is the church of Galt.
Something for which we lend our voices, minds,
hearts and talents.”
With 250,000 people dying each year from
AIDS-related illnesses, one every five minutes, Haas
characterized the disease as the ‘greatest
humanitarian crisis’ and said the deaths were one
crisis, the resulting 14 million orphans left behind
Haas shared the story of a boy who fails to realize
the heater on his fish tank has been turned all the
way up and when he wakes in the morning all of the
fish are dead.
“If only I had heard the fish screaming,” shared
Haas. “If I had heard them screaming, I could have
done something. For many years, the AIDS epidemic
has been like fish screams. The stigma and prejudice
– I don’t hear real well around HIV/AIDS.”
The fish are screaming. Known only as ‘the slims’ in
African villages that suffer a 33 percent infection
rate on average, the stigma of having HIV/AIDS even
in communities plagued by the disease is paramount
to social leprosy, according to Haas.
“What if 365 days a year, a 747 with 424 people on
board went down,” said Haas. “How would we react to
that? We lose more than twice that number each day
to this disease.”
With 28 million already dead, and the average life
expectancy in some African towns at a mere 35,
officials expect to see 25 million orphans stranded
“Some say the underbelly of Al Qaida is now in
Africa,” said Haas. “The disaffected youth there
have to have someone to follow, someone to believe.”
So how do small town citizens tackle such an ominous
foe? According to Haas, by personalizing it and
reducing it to people with faces, you can see the
lives you can touch.
“The numbers are too much. If you don’t
individualize it, you lose track of it,” said Haas.
“As large as it is, if I don’t personalize it, I
won’t see it. We’re going to have to see people with
HIV/AIDS as an individual issue. It has to come near
if we’re going to move against the disease.”
Why the church?
“Because you’re the greatest moral agency in the
world,” said Haas. “You love when no one else loves,
and the church has always been God’s vehicle to
reach the hurting. Who will reach out and touch when
no one else will touch?”
Acknowledging years of persecution against AIDS
sufferers from ‘the church,’ Haas said, “The church
that has been preaching sin, sin, sin, found members
of their own congregations dying,” said Haas. “For
too long has HIV/AIDS been relegated to self-made
In order to take action, Haas said each one of us as
the ‘world’s greatest compassionate army’ needs to
do three simple things.
Become informed about the disease.
“The church has heard,” said Haas. “The key is to
get the church to work now. Make a commitment that
you’ll have something to say in the future about
what you did to stop the disease.
“What did you do?” said Haas. “Say, I can do one. I
can get the disease down to that level.”
And, be an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness in your
small groups, families and communities.
“That’s how you destroy a disease,” said Haas, “one
child, one community at a time. That’s how the
ripple of love and compassion goes forward.”
Pastor Rob Patterson where Galt is, he replies,
"The epicenter of God's activity in the
While pastors in Lodi might argue that point,
seven religious leaders in Galt recently returned from a small African nation
bound and determined to sponsor several hundred children to improve water
supply, sanitation and farming practices.
They have officially sponsored 10
underprivileged African children. On March 6, Galt pastors will challenge the
community to open their hearts and wallets to sponsor more
than 600 children.
Mary Sanders, pastor of Shepherd of the ValleyLutheranChurch, with a child from Lesotho she
is sponsoring for three years.
Sanders and the child are sitting in front of a Catholic school
in a Lesotho
village. (Courtesy photo) The community will hear all about it at a joint service involving nine churches
on March 6 at GaltHigh School.
At the service, religious leaders will tell about their trip to the small,
mountainous country of Lesotho, a landlocked nation
surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho has about 1.9 million
people and is slightly smaller than Maryland.
Led by Tim Stevenson, senior pastor at HorizonCommunityChurch, the excursion included
three other senior pastors -- Rob Patterson from GaltFirstBaptistChurch, Frank Mack of Family
Life Christian Church and Mary Sanders of Shepherd of the ValleyLutheranChurch. Associate Pastors
Kevin Brown and Randy Holtz from Horizon and Rick Keiser of Family Life also
went to Africa.
Joining them in the March 6 service will be churches that were unable to send
representatives to Africa -- River of Life Celebration Center, GaltUnitedMethodistChurch, New Hope Assembly of
God, St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Iglesia Rosa de
Sharon Assembly of God.
Steve Haas, vice president of World Vision,
will discuss what the Galt churches have in mind for the community.
Galt ministers toured Lesotho -- pronounced
"lay-SOO-too" -- during a 10-day trip in early February to find out
about a nation where 31 percent of the population is HIV positive, according to
the World Health Organization.
The saying in Lesotho, Keiser said, is,
"Thirty-one percent are infected, but everyone is affected."
At the joint service, the community will be asked to contribute $30 per month
for three years to sponsor a child from Lesotho.
Pastors originally thought they would ask Galt to sponsor 900 children, but
Keiser said the number of sponsors needed has been reduced to 650 because
people elsewhere have sponsored children.
Sponsoring hundreds of children "is definitely a God-sized
assignment," Patterson said. "We need the rest of Galt to step up to
A $30 monthly gift will pay expenses for a child's education and a social
worker for the child's family, which in some cases includes orphaned children
or single parents, Patterson said. Contributions will also be used to teach
farmers the basics of clean water wells, sewer systems and crop rotation, he
Patterson said he hopes the joint service will draw new Galt residents who
haven't found a church yet and people who aren't religious, but want to help.
The seven pastors left Galt on Jan. 30 for the 24-hour flight to Lesotho. That was the easy part
of the trip.
Getting to the five villages was quite an adventure for the pastors, who were
driven there by guides. The villages are on top of a mountain at about 6,000
feet, but the drive wasn't exactly like an easy drive to Donner
"I didn't know these Jeeps could travel this terrain," Patterson
said. "There were big boulders to go around. It was a surreal
Keiser said the road weaves around the side of the mountain and included one
spot where the road was washed out.
"You didn't look down, let's put it that way," Keiser said.
In Lesotho, husbands often spend
six months or more away from home in the diamond mines of South Africa, Patterson and Keiser
said. One reason HIV and AIDS are so prevalent, they said, is because husbands
will have affairs with South African women where the mines are, then transmit
disease to his family when he returns to Lesotho.
As in the United States, not all AIDS victims
caught it from sex, Patterson said. Sometimes, it's from family members
touching each other's blood.
To compound the problem, victims often don't seek treatment because of the
stigma attached to the disease, Patterson said. Victims are treated like
lepers, he said.
"The stigma is bigger than the sexual connotation," Patterson said.
Galt pastors were overwhelmed by the joy shown by village residents atop the
mountain despite living without running water, restrooms and sometimes no food
that day, Keiser said.
"The people of Lesotho knew how to welcome
people and how to love people," Keiser said. "They taught us how to
be content. At least they showed us their contentment.
"We are really spoiled in this country, and we forget how blessed we
are," Keiser said.
Pastors hope for a large turnout at next week's service, which will also
include music from a choir from several churches singing together and a band
from Horizon and River of Life churches.
"God's obviously doing something to bring these churches (in Galt)
together," Keiser said. "God could have picked anywhere, anytime, but
he picked here. We're going with it."
The joint service will begin at March 6 in Warriors
Gymnasium at GaltHigh School,145 N. Lincoln Way.
Nine Galt churches
together on a quest for healing
By Teresa Pearson
On Sunday, March 6 at 10 a.m., nine churches will join in faith to fight
against HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, Africa with a journey that began in Lesotho at the
first of the year and that begins in Galt with an all community assembly in the
Galt High School Auditorium. Come join the beginning of an international
outreach effort like no other.
Inspired by what Horizon Community Church Pastor
Tim Stevenson said was a call from God, seven local pastors traveled to Lesotho,
Africa on Jan. 30 to see what they could do to help those in need in the AIDS
torn African community.
Galt Pastors Frank Mack and Rick Keiser II from Family Life Christian Church,
Rob Patterson from First Baptist Church, and Mary Sanders from Shepherd of the
Valley Lutheran Church joined Horizon Youth Pastor Kevin Brown, Elder Randy
Holtz and Stevenson on the three week excursion to Africa.
Each will share of their experience in Lesotho and their vision for Galt's
assistance from so far away. Members of each church will gather together on
Sunday to learn of how a single community in America can become the salvation of
hundreds of children in a community plagued with disease and further burdened by
a lack of education, drought and an absence of material resources.
“This is about the churches of Galt coming
together as one voice to make an impact in the life of not only a child but in a
community,” said Stevenson. “We saw how 80 percent of the world lives, in
poverty with no electricity and no running water. It is a simple place. The
people have never had those things, but now it is being devastated by a drought
that impacts their agriculture and therefore nutrition but also by a disease
that is now affecting children and whole communities.”
To have a united Christian voice, nine churches, including five Galt churches
who could not send a representative to Africa, are now on the quest to help
those who need it the most, the poverty stricken and the sick.
River of Life Celebration Center, Galt First United Methodist Church, New
Hope Assembly, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Horizon Community Church, First
Baptist Church of Galt, Family Life Christian Church and Iglesia Rosa De Sharon
Assembly of God are committed to this unique ecumenical effort at world
“What started this whole thing was trying to find
a way to bring unity to our town,” said Stevenson. “It has to start with the
churches first. We have to gather the churches together as one voice and see
World Vision Vice President Steve Haas will be
speaking about the mission of World Vision around the world and their plan in
working with communities around the world to provide education on HIV and AIDS.
“In Lesotho, 30 percent of the population is affected with the virus,” said
Rick Keiser II. “Our desire is to sponsor 900 kids in our area of development
The assembly will also help the community learn more about sponsoring
children for $30 with a three-year commitment.
The sponsor will be able to write to the child and get updates from World
Vision each year with pictures and to help with the most important of needs,
water, latrines, food storage and educational programs.
The event will also be selling “I Will” wristbands with the proceeds going to
the project in Lesotho.
“Poverty in Lesotho is so different than how we imagine,” said Pastor Frank
Mack. “It’s so much worse.”
In addition to a presentation and message, there will also be a performance
of the Joint Worship Band for fellowship and a musical presentation by an
ecumenical combined choir.
“I have been having a dream and in the dream I am
waiting in a room to do something and I am frustrated because I am not able to
do anything,” said Stevenson. “But I am getting ready and I think it’s all
leading up to March 6th.”
Spirit moves Galt churches to fight AIDS in South Africa
By Diana Lambert -- Sacramento Bee Columnist Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, January 30, 2005
Galt, heal thyself: The Rev. Tim Stevenson of
Horizon Community Church didn't like the vibe in Galt. "There was a spirit of
bad competition in this town," Tim said, "from school boards to the City
He and fellow Galt pastors gathered to pray on it. The answer, they decided, was
in Africa. "If people will see there is a greater calling, a greater good, we
will end up helping ourselves," the pastor say. That Sunday, a man walked up to
Tim and handed him a check for $10,000. "He didn't know why or for what," Tim
Since then, the congregations have raised $27,000 and have promises for $4,000
more. That will more than pay for seven pastors to travel to Lesotho, South
Africa, to observe the HIV/AIDS projects of World Vision.
On March 6, all eight congregations will have a joint service at Galt High
School. The pastors will reveal which project they selected for a three-year
commitment, and congregants will have the chance to sponsor a child for $30 a
month. The children are mostly orphans of AIDS, as Lesotho has a 28.9 percent
HIV prevalence rate. The pastors leave for Africa at 10:30 tonight.
They will post a daily blog at horizonweb.org. "There's nothing like serving
other people to heal yourself," Tim said.
10 days in a
they can do.
Galt pastors: from left,
Tim Stevenson, Mary Sanders
discuss their upcoming trip as
part of a delegation heading to
Africa to assist with AIDS
education and prevention in the
small South African Country of
Through the efforts of Patterson
and other pastors,
representatives from a Lutheran,
North American Baptist, Southern
Baptist and non-denominational
church will head to Africa.
Pastors from Methodist,
Episcopal, Foursquare and
Assembly of God churches have
also helped finance the trip.
The trip is being coordinated by
Tim Stevenson, pastor of Horizon
Community Church, who said he
wanted the whole religious
community involved, not just his
"I called every pastor in town,"
Stevenson said. "I said, 'Guys I
need you to pray about
After explaining the idea, he
said, "Let's make this happen."
Six pastors will accompany
Stevenson on Jan. 30 to Lesotho,
a landlocked country surrounded
by South Africa, where 31
percent of the population has
AIDS, he said. With 1.9 million
people, Lesotho is slightly
smaller in area than the state
"We plan to make three-year
commitment to a township,"
Stevenson said. "We will have
children from that community up
for 'adoption' in Lesotho
Three other senior pastors will
accompany Stevenson --
Patterson, Frank Mack of Family
Life Christian Church and Mary
Sanders of Shepherd of the
Valley Lutheran Church.
Associate Pastors Kevin Brown
and Randy Holtz from Horizon and
Rick Keiser from Family Life
will make the trip as well.
"I anticipate that this trip
will be a life-changing
experience and that I will learn
and grow in ways I couldn't
begin to imagine," Sanders said.
Four other pastors were unable
to travel, but they have helped
raise money to defray expenses.
They are Craig Dale of Galt
United Methodist Church, Larry
Brand of River of Life
Celebration Center, Dave Ross
from New Hope Assembly of God
and Roger Wilkowski of St.
Luke's Episcopal Church.
The work will only begin once
the group returns. On March 6,
all eight participating churches
will cancel their regular
services and conduct a joint
service at Galt High School.
Participants will report on
their trip at the service and
discuss with their congregations
what Galt can do to help Lesotho
in its AIDS effort.
Patterson said he hopes that
even people who don't believe in
God, but want to help the AIDS
cause, will attend the March 6
Stevenson got the idea to go to
Africa after talking to Glen
Barnes, outreach pastor at
Lodi's First Baptist Church.
Barnes took his own trip to
Lesotho, a landlocked nation
surrounded by South Africa, a
year ago. Barnes was unavailable
Then Stevenson talked to leaders
at World Vision, a Christian
relief and development
organization dedicated to
helping children and their
communities worldwide reach
their potential by tackling the
causes of poverty.
Stevenson then hand-delivered
from church to church a video
and informational packets from
World Vision, specifically the
trip to Africa, Patterson said.
"I had to go because of the
personal interest on Tim
Stevenson's part," Patterson
Patterson's special goal was to
do something with a team of
pastors to bring Galt's
religious community back
"We used to meet every week for
prayer, and on the fifth Sunday,
we'd do something special,"
Patterson said. "That ceased to
For about a year, pastors became
busy trying to grow their own
churches and stopped devoting
the time to share time together,
"The (Galt) community is known
for competitiveness on a
political level, even between
the churches," Patterson said.
"It's an opportunity to keep our
jealousies in check."
Many church organizations --
including Patterson's own
Southern Baptist -- have their
own programs to help the needy
in foreign countries. But the
participating churches chose to
work with World Vision instead
of within their own faiths in
order to unify Galt, he said.
One day last summer, a group of
pastors prayed together at Galt
United Methodist Church. At the
next luncheon, they discussed
the idea of going to Africa.
Then the task of fundraising
started. It costs $4,000 per
person to make the trip,
One resident handed Stevenson a
$10,000 check, not knowing about
the trip to Lesotho.
"God told him to give that
amount," Stevenson said.
The donor said, "Tim, I don't
So far, $34,000 has been raised.
Some people gave up Christmas
gifts to make contributions to
the cause, Stevenson said.
"I am grateful to Pastor Tim for
doing most of the 'legwork,'
taking care of details like
flight times, which makes it
easier for the rest of us to
just hop on board," Sanders
"I am grateful to the anonymous
donors who have made it possible
for our travel costs to be more
reasonable," she added.
Stevenson said he plans to have
all seven pastors send daily
weblogs from Africa to inform
the community of their daily
"What I am really looking
forward to is our return home,
when there can be an exciting
and spirit-filled response to
this journey," Sanders said.
Anyone who wants to contribute
money to defray expenses may
contact one of the participating
Seven pastors head for Africa
to help with HIV/AIDS
International outreach program
By Teresa Pearson
- Seven Galt pastors are taking a trip to
Lesotho, South Africa to join a Vision Trip to
observe HIV/AIDS ministries in action and personally
connect with local pastors and congregations.
While in Africa, they will also establish local
connections to help provide the local people with
the donations given by parishioners of their
churches to educate, medicate and supply families
with bedding materials.
Galt Pastors will soon
off for Lesotho, South Africa to help those who
can't help themselves.
From left: pastors Rob Patterson of First
of Galt, Tim Stevenson of Horizon Community Church,
Mary Sanders of Shepherd of the Valley
Kevin Brown of Horizon Community Church,
Frank Mack and Rick Keiser of
Family Life Christian Church; not shown is Elder
Randy Holtz of Horizon Community Church.
The seven local pastors who are able to go to
Lesotho, South Africa are Kevin Brown, Randy Holtz
and Tim Stevenson from Horizon Community Church,
Frank Mack and Rick Keiser II from Family Life
Christian Church, Rob Patterson from First Baptist
Church of Galt and Mary Sanders from Shepherd of the
Valley Lutheran Church. Also helping with the trip
are pastors Craig Dale from Galt United Methodist,
Larry Brand from River of Life, Dave Ross from New
Hope Assembly of God and Roger Wilkowski from St.
Luke's Episcopal Church.
"We were praying for a way to help those in need, to
make a difference in the world," said Stevenson. "At
just the right moment, we received a video and
information on the World Vision's Hope Initiative.
We all felt it was meant for us to show our
congregations and see if they also felt the same
After receiving an overwhelming response from the
members of each congregation, the seven pastors from
several different churches decided to make the trip
and start the process of giving to those who can't
The group will leave the United States Africa-bound
immediately after the holiday season on Jan 30. The
pastors are scheduled to leave from Sacramento
Airport for a 22-hour flight to South Africa.
At a cost of thousands of dollars, the group raised
more than $28,000 through congregational donations
and support to fund the international outreach
"We have families who have given up presents for
Christmas to help with this trip," said Pastor Kevin
Brown of Horizon Community Church.
The seven pastors will be joined in Southern Africa
by 40 other pastors from all over the United States
who are on the same quest. The group will be in
Africa for 10 days and travel back home on Feb 10.
The pastors have many different goals for when they
get home. Soon after arrival, they will have an
assembly of all the church congregations involved at
the Galt High School auditorium where they will
discuss the trip and the ways the congregations can
help with sponsoring a child or donating funds to
help with the area of Africa they have adopted;
"In announcing to the congregation what was being
planned, I explained," said Pastor Frank Mack, "we
all live in this bubble; we're safe here working,
not having to worry about food or clothing. But the
children there worry about those things and need
For more information or to donate to the trip to
Africa, contact the Horizon Community Church World
Vision Trip at (209) 745-0700.