California Businessman Helps Ease Africa's AIDS Plight in Namibia
December 30, 2003
Laguna Beach businessman Mike Shepard went to Africa on safari in 1996. A friend, Steve Garrison, asked him to look up his friends Jos and Sylvia Holtzhausen, missionaries in Namibia. Shepard flew two hours from Johannesburg to Namibia, a country where 22 percent of adults have AIDS.Adapted from:
The Holtzhausens operated an "ark," a home for AIDS orphans. More than 67,000 Namibian children are AIDS orphans, and that number is projected to double by 2010.
After meeting the Holtzhausens and the children, Shepard returned repeatedly to Namibia and spoke enthusiastically about their work to friends, including Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chair of the House Africa subcommittee. In 2002, Shepard sold his Chrysler Jeep dealership to pursue another course in life.
During 2002, the Holtzhausens opened three more arks and wanted to build more, but the homes were not part of the mission of their employer, Youth for Christ. Last January, Jos Holtzhausen, Shepard and 11 others met in Florida to create an evangelical Christian ministry, Christ's Hope, to console HIV/AIDS patients, nurture AIDS orphans, and educate children and young adults to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Shepard now spends 20 hours or more a week coordinating the ministry's expansion, and he has contributed an undisclosed amount of money. He said Namibia and the Congo are allowing Christ's Hope teachers to present "Choose to Wait" - an abstinence and faithfulness program Sylvia Holtzhausen developed - to public-school children. Namibia recently asked the ministry to build 13 AIDS hospices and pledged 500 acres for a school for 1,000 AIDS orphans.
Royce visited Namibia and met with the Namibian health and social services minister in Washington to support Christ's Hope. "I have a great deal of respect for what Mike is doing in Namibia," Royce said.
Orange County Register
12.28.03; Jan Norman