Deborah Dortzbach is World Relief's International Director for HIV/AIDS programs. She provides strategic leadership to World Relief's Mobilizing for Life AIDS programs in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Through the programs, she mobilizes and equips the local church to promote and provide AIDS awareness, sexual education for youth, orphan support and much more. Debbie and her husband Karl first served as missionaries in Eritrea where she was abducted by the Eritrean Liberation Front in 1973. The story is chronicled in their book Kidnapped.
1. NSR - What is your background & what led you to relief work?
The Lord placed many people and events in my life to shape a desire to help others. My twin brother has persevered with cerebral palsy, my father often brought homeless families or drunk men to our home to get help, and I was the oldest of my eight siblings. Moving into development and relief work later in life was simply an extension of the wonderful upbringing I was privileged to have. I chose nursing as a career to deepen my skills to serve and I chose the platform of public health to navigate into our needy world.
2. NSR - Talk about the founding of World Relief & its mission.
World Relief started more than 60 years ago as an extension of evangelical churches in America in response to a growing refugee crisis in Asia. Among others, we welcomed many of Vietnam’s boat people to new homes in America. The ministry grew as churches responded out of Christ’s love and today we continue welcoming and settling refugees, respond with relief to disasters, engage actively in AIDS prevention and care, help communities support their children through vulnerable years of childhood illnesses and death, and provide micro-credit to the poor. Our mission is to work with, for, and from the church to relieve suffering in Christ’s name.
3. NSR - What authors have influenced your spiritual life?
John Stott, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Sinclair Fergusen, John Piper, Elizabeth Elliot, Timothy Keller
4. NSR - What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned as World Relief’s International Director for HIV/AIDS programs?
That God has his people in every corner of our world and He works through them in this dire crisis to bring His grace.
5. NSR - If you could get one thing across to the reader in your book, The AIDS Crisis, what would it be?
That Christ is Lord over our relationships and we must follow His example of purity, compassion, and sacrifice as we examine our own behaviors and respond with dedication and commitment to the many millions in our world so devastated by this crisis.
6. NSR - How could The AIDS Crisis be used within the Church?
There are many practical suggestions of how to get involved, and many case studies of how the church is making a difference. It has to begin with a conviction that the AIDS problem is the church’s problem and that it challenges every age group, every profession, and every walk of life in every country. Our youth need honest, open communication about sex, our marriages need enrichment and sparkle, our attitudes need adjustments when it comes to the stigma we wear concerning AIDS, homosexuality, and getting involved. We must give of ourselves and never stop giving until every orphan in our community is cared for and every family affected by AIDS in our world has support. This ministry of care, education, and family nurture is the church’s responsibility all over the world. Because AIDS is so big, we must join hands together, creating movements of God’s people reaching into the crisis to turn it around.
7. NSR - Would it be profitable for pastors & leaders to make a trip to AIDS inflicted areas to see the situation for themselves?
You can expect a life change with such a journey. It is important to be exposed to reality outside oneself (global need and pain) and the reality inside oneself (our own fear, stigma, and sin). There are many ways to get exposed. Some should go on trips outside their country, some should get involved in their own city or county, all should take a fresh look at their marriages, relationships, and heart motives. Delving into The AIDS Crisis will take you on that journey. Who knows where God will have you end up!
8. NSR - What do you see as a crucial topic facing the evangelical church at large today?
Our reluctance to sacrifice for Christ.
9. NSR - In the last chapter of your book, you ask, “What dangers are inherent in discussing the moral & ethical dimensions of personal & structural evil that nurture the spread of HIV infection? What dangers are inherent in avoiding that question?” How would you answer those?
The dangers are coming face to face with the consequences of sin, grappling with it in our life, recognizing our own vulnerabilities and facing our own reluctance to submit to Christ and serve others in His name. The dangers are facing structures that we want to change but can not, yearning for behavior change that takes years to form or change, and struggling to provide help to an overwhelming number that need it. The danger lies in being informed and deeply affected, wanting to fix things and being limited in being able to do so. The danger in avoiding the question is to slide into eternity unaffected by our world’s needs, our own sin, and give answer to our Savior for our indifference.
10. NSR - What is one thing that every person can do to help in the fight against the AIDS pandemic?
Every person is an advocate: in our own lives and families for sexual purity, in our country and world for caring about others affected by AIDS too weak to defend themselves, too neglected, too poor, too marginalized and stigmatized to change their crisis. Those people may be closer than you think. Find them and sacrifice for them.