return to: pastorob at’sblog.htm
Pastor Rob Patterson  653 A Street  Galt, California  95632   209.745-4665

Galt Pastors address HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa

a compilation of articles from 3 regional newspapers

Click here for other materials relating to the Pastors' Vision Trip and the Gathering

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 are involved.

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 sponsor.

I find it comforting to know that Galt and its churches can come through like this. Again, a job well done.

Reuven E. Epstein

 Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The Gathering begins the healing from home
Fish screams

By Rachael Roberts
Herald Editor
 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
against the 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 worldwide.
“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 world’s population.

“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 yet another.

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 by 2010.

“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 lepers.”
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.”



Galt pastors team up to sponsor African children

By Ross Farrow
News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Saturday, February 26, 2005

When someone asks Pastor Rob Patterson where Galt is, he replies,
"The epicenter of God's activity in the 21st century."

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 Valley Lutheran Church, 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 Galt High 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
Horizon Community Church, the excursion included three other senior pastors -- Rob Patterson from Galt First Baptist Church, 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 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, Galt United Methodist Church, 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

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 the plate."

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 said.

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 Summit.

"I didn't know these Jeeps could travel this terrain," Patterson said. "There were big boulders to go around. It was a surreal experience."

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.

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
10 a.m. March 6 in Warriors Gymnasium at Galt High School,145 N. Lincoln Way.

Contact Religion Editor Ross Farrow

 Wednesday, March 2, 2005

The Gathering

Nine Galt churches together on a quest for healing
By Teresa Pearson

Staff Writer 

   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 outreach.


   “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 what happens.”


   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 project.”

   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 Council."

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 said.

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 "There's nothing like serving other people to heal yourself," Tim said.

About the writer:

Reach Diana Lambert at (916) 478-2672 or
Back columns:

Galt pastors uniting to take Africa trip to combat AIDS

Saturday, Jan 15, 2005

In the spirit of unity among Galt's religious leaders and the desire to help eradicate AIDS, seven Galt pastors will spend 10 days in a small African nation to find out just what they can do.

Rob Patterson, pastor of Galt's First Baptist Church, wanted to make a statement to the community that the city's religious leaders are unified spiritually despite some theological differences within their denominations.

Galt pastors: from left, Tim Stevenson, Mary Sanders and Rob Patterson
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 Lesotho.
(Gena Lindsay/News-Sentinel)

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 own church.

"I called every pastor in town," Stevenson said. "I said, 'Guys I need you to pray about something.'"

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 of Maryland.

"We plan to make three-year commitment to a township," Stevenson said. "We will have children from that community up for 'adoption' in Lesotho community."

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 service.

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 for comment.

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 said.

Patterson's special goal was to do something with a team of pastors to bring Galt's religious community back together.

"We used to meet every week for prayer, and on the fifth Sunday, we'd do something special," Patterson said. "That ceased to happen."

For about a year, pastors became busy trying to grow their own churches and stopped devoting the time to share time together, Patterson added.

"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, Stevenson said.

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 know why."

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 said.

"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 activities.

"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 churches.

Contact Religion Editor Ross Farrow at

December 22, 2004
Seven pastors head for Africa to help with HIV/AIDS
International outreach program

By Teresa Pearson
Staff Writer
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.

Seven Galt Pastors will soon take off for Lesotho, South Africa to help those who can't help themselves. From left: pastors Rob Patterson of First Baptist Church of Galt,
Tim Stevenson of Horizon Community Church, Mary Sanders of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church,
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 way."

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 help themselves.

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 program.

"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; Lesotho.

"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 those things."

For more information or to donate to the trip to Africa, contact the Horizon Community Church World Vision Trip at (209) 745-0700.

Click here for other materials relating to the Pastors' Vision Trip and the Gathering

Galt Pastors address HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa
a compilation of articles from 3 regional newspapers

return to: pastorob at’sblog.htm
Pastor Rob Patterson  653 A Street  Galt, California  95632   209.745-4665