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Sankofa Way Partners with Kenyan Ministry
by Amy Wooten

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Pro-LGBT spiritual organization Sankofa Way has announced that it will be the fiscal sponsor for Cornerstone Ministries, which has its primary office in Eldoret, Kenya.

Bishop Julius Atsango—who is seeking to build an orphanage for HIV/AIDS-affected children—is the founder of the ministry and, during a recent visit to Chicago, he gave Windy City Times an idea of how dire the situation in his country is. 'Two out of every 10 people you meet are HIV-positive,' he said. 'Everyone you meet is either infected or affected. [ Many ] have had [ relatives ] die from HIV.' Atsango himself has been affected; his siblings and in-laws have passed away, leaving him and his wife to raise 15 children, including the couple's own four.

'There are those who, because of stigma, cannot talk about [ HIV/AIDS ] ,' Atsango continued. 'People don't want to help those who are sick, or help their children. There are so many orphans in my country—about half a million. These are the children we are reaching out to, and we want to make sure they get health care and food. Sometimes children run away from home, and there's no food for them to eat. ... We have not only a spiritual responsibility, but a social responsibility. ... That's why I'm in this country—to see that I get connected to people who can support me to not only build an orphanage, but to make a difference in the life of a child.'

The bishop almost did not come to Chicago. Earlier this year, he visited the suburb of Harvey ( area Pentecostal churches brought him in ) and said that he was welcomed with open arms by the town's mayor and aldermen; unfortunately, things did not turn out like Atsango hoped. Atsango added that his reputation in the area has been negatively affected, since nothing resulted from the previous visit. 'He's back, and he used his own money to come,' Sankofa Way Executive Director Rev. Deborah Lake said. ( Others raised funds for Atsango's first visit, where he encountered Lake. ) 'That says a lot about his faith and his commitment to help people.'

Atsango said that he did not want to 'contain my ministry to pulpit activities. I wanted to reach out to society. [ What's ] affecting the people affects their spirituality. If people have nothing to eat, you can't preach to them.'

Lake said that she's also looking to meld the LGBT and heterosexual communities. 'This is not a job,' she said, referring to what Atsango is doing. 'This is his life, and I'm looking into a future where we can do some historic work together.' Lake also mentioned a possible exchange program between African-Americans in Chicago and Kenyans that would start off with letters and progress to trips.

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