"One of the worst crises in the history of humanity is happening right now, right under our noses, and most people don't know about it," said the Rev. Tom Schaeffer, pastor of 10:35.
That's why he and the Rev. Roger Miller of St. Paul's Lutheran Church are leading a team of volunteers today, the 20th annual World AIDS Day, assembling 240 "caregiver kits" for people in Africa living with HIV or AIDS.
The kits cost $28 apiece and contain such practical items as washcloths, latex gloves, cotton balls, acetaminophen, and antibacterial soap, along with a personally written note of encouragement.
"Each kit is given to a person in a village who is taking care of people with AIDS, and each kit has enough items to care for five people," said Mr. Schaeffer, whose 10:35 church meets on Sunday mornings at 10:35 in the Maumee Indoor Theater.
He said he was inspired to get involved in helping HIV and AIDS patients after hearing Bono, the rock star and social activist, speak about the pandemic in 2006.
"When I had to opportunity to hear Bono speak at the Leadership Summit [presented by Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago] it really moved me, just the numbers that he shared about what a pandemic this is," Mr. Schaeffer said.
According to World Vision, the global Christian relief agency that organized the caregiver kits project nationwide, more than 15 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents as a result of AIDS and 3 million people die from AIDS every year.
"Three million people dying every year is the equivalent of a tsunami every month - 250,000 lives lost - mostly in sub-Saharan Africa," Mr. Miller said.
Anne Duffy, a Washington-based spokesman for World Vision, said a survey released Thursday found that 25 years after AIDS was first diagnosed, one in three people in the world's wealthiest nations "know little or nothing" about the global AIDS crisis.
World Vision organized a global vigil this week, starting in Toronto and moving around the world each hour to a major city in a different time zone, to remember the 6,000 people orphaned every day because of AIDS, Ms. Duffy said.
About 33 million people around the world have HIV/AIDS, with 95 percent of them living in the Third World. More than 1 million Americans have the disease and approximately 40,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the United States.
While the numbers can be overwhelming, Mr. Miller said he and a group from St. Paul's Lutheran have been inspired by studying the book What Can One Person Do? Faith to Heal a Broken World by Sabina Alkire.
"When you actually crunch the numbers, it doesn't take much money to provide the world with hope," he said.
If each person in the world's developed countries made an effort to "live for one person in need," it would make a significant impact, he said.
When a person buys a latte, for example, he or she could contribute an amount equal to the price of the beverage toward helping someone living in poverty or desperate circumstances.
St. Paul's is starting a new project to help a village of 25,000 people in Guatemala by sending medical mission teams as well as financial help.
"It's a simple answer, but not an easy answer," Mr. Miller said. "I'm convinced God has called us to such as a time as this. This is how the church needs to respond, especially in these end times when life is going to be so rough. We are moving forward and the Holy Spirit is telling us it's time for us to act."
The Rev. Lawrence Cameron, pastor of Pilgrim Church in West Toledo, said the global AIDS crisis will be the focus of prayers at the church's monthly prayer breakfast this morning.
"We won't put our heads in the sand and just hope it doesn't affect us. We will help bring awareness about HIV/AIDS to the forefront of our thinking and prayers," he said in a letter to his congregation.
Pilgrim will host the Watoto Children's Choir, featuring Ugandan AIDS orphans, at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the church, 1375 West Sylvania Ave.
The Rev. Chris Scholl, pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church in West Toledo, also is among the local pastors encouraging his congregation to get involved in AIDS programs.
"I think it's something where those of us with a heart for Christ want to help make a difference in the world. Everybody is affected by AIDS, whether they know someone with the disease or not," Mr. Scholl said.
He said Rick Warren's efforts to combat the AIDS crisis have helped inspire other ministers and churches to take action.
Mr. Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, and his wife, Kay, are hosts of the third annual Global AIDS Summit at Saddleback Valley Community Church in southern California, this week.
Mr. Warren said the main goal of the summit is to help pastors of local congregations enact "a practical plan of care, treatment, and prevention to use in their own communities and pass on to other pastors overseas."
The first World AIDS Day was held Dec. 1, 1988, organized by UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on AIDS/HIV. The annual event is now overseen by the World AIDs Campaign with the goal of raising funds to support AIDS programs as well as raising awareness of the pandemic, fighting prejudice, and improving education.