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Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Allen Temple Pastor J. Alfred Smith Jr. (far right) offered their support to the Allen Temple AIDS ministry workers who were recently released from a Zimbabwean jail.

Despite arrests, Allen Temple plans return to Zimbabwe

on October 27, 2010

Five weeks after their release from a Zimbabwean jail, the four members of Allen Temple Baptist church’s AIDS ministry team are already planning their next visit to the Southern African nation. The ministry members were arrested in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, on September 9th over what they called a “misunderstanding.” They were jailed for four days and required to stay in Zimbabwe until their September 27th court date, where they were cleared of all charges.

Home since September 29th, the ministry members are determined to continue their decade-long mission of providing HIV/AIDS treatment to Zimbabweans.

On Wednesday morning, ministry chair Gloria Cox-Crowell, Dr. Anthony Jones and nurses Greg Miller and David Greensberg came together with Allen Temple Pastor J. Alfred Smith Jr. and Congresswoman Barbara Lee during a press conference at the church to reaffirm their commitment to the work they have done in Zimbabwe. “We are not deterred by any of the incidents that have gone on during the course of our last visit last month and we intend to move forward and to go back,” said Cox- Crowell.

1.4 million Zimbabweans are currently living with HIV and Allen Temple’s faith based AIDS ministry has organized frequent visits to the AIDS- stricken country since 2000, providing medical and social services and prevention awareness education to over 1,000 people.  The organization had never run into any problems in the country before the arrest in September when the members were charged with operating a clinic without a proper license and not having a pharmacist on site while providing services.

Allen Temple officials have chalked the incident up to an unfortunate misunderstanding, stemming from a recent change in location where the rules for providing clinical services were different.

According to the ministry members, they enjoyed a strong outpouring of support from the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health, local people, and even their captors. “Whether it was the inspector that arrested us, the officers at the jail, or people on the street that saw us in the news, they thanked us. And they wanted us to continue,” said Greensberg.

The members also offered thanks to Congresswoman Lee, who worked with the State Department to advocate for their release and is part of the United Nations-led effort to establish a global commission on HIV and the law. “So many people are being helped and you are saving so many lives,” Lee told the ministry members. “Despite the bumps in the road, you’ve got to keep doing this.”

The medics have already been invited back by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Heath and Miller confirmed that they will visit again in January, 2011. “Keep praying for us, and come join us!” he said.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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