We arranged a meeting for our partner churches who are caring for people with HIV. The idea was to encourage them. We ended up being encouraged too - and how!
After rousing worship, Bro Cecil Clements touched hearts with the message that God is there to care for the care-givers. "Do you love me" is the key question each one of us has to answer, before we do any 'work for God'. Its a personal and intimate question - but how we answer is vital to how we reach out to others. Our vertical relationship is the one from which we can give love, help and care to others. But if we do not love Him...
We then spent time looking at the blessings that different churches experienced while reaching out to people with HIV - and the challenges that fellowships face. What an amazing time to hear story after story of God using ordinary people to make a huge impact on families with HIV.
So much is happening - though most of it small in the eyes of those around - and often largely hidden because of the fear that people have of HIV. It was amazing to hear what some of the churches have been able to do - and iron sharpened iron as different groups were challenged by how other fellowships are being used by God to bless people with HIV/AIDS.
Just under 4 years ago two pastors came to us and said that they had had 4 members of their congregation die of AIDS. "We cast out the demons, but they died of TB" was what they said at that time - "what can we do for others with HIV?" they asked.
These pastors and their church members came regularly for the 4 session training course we arranged. And the pastors have continued touching people with HIV. One of them has now been involved with over 100 people with HIV over these subsequent years. The impact of one leader, of one fellowship that really takes ownership is immense.
After thanking God and praising Him for what He has done through these local fellowships, we also had a time when we heard about some of the challenges that many of the folks face: indifference from church members, fear of HIV, heart-breaks after pouring so much into a family, the loss that is felt when a person dies... These are real issues, and ones that show how hard - and even at times bitter - the road is to reaching out with the love of Christ in a broken world. Surprisingly most of the barriers were actually still within the church - a coldness of heart, a lack of time, an indifference that is so different from the caring heart of Christ. The good news is that all of these areas can be changed. And as we broke up into pairs to pray about these things, we know that God is already changing the hearts of His people.
Sheba shared about Biblical Health Care - drawing on some of the things she was recently exposed to in Delhi - and shared how different things are when we do things the way God wants us to reach out to broken people. Sheba stressed that all care has to be Christ-centered. Without Him there is no point moving forward. She also showed how human beings are 'imagers' of God - we show who God is through who we are - and are also very precious since we carry His very likeness all over us. This means that no matter how broken a person is - she or he is very special - and worthy of care and redemption and help. Health care from a Biblical perspective is all about Shalom - peace in the fullest sense of the word with right-relationships-all-around. Our job - in HIV care or health care in general is to bring this Shalom into being. This can only be done through Agape love - the love that does not ask in return. Sheba showed that all of this can only through God's love working in us.
Before we knew it, the time was up. Over a fellowship lunch all of us - JSK staff and church leaders and partners alike were unanimous in this - we had been encouraged by each other - and are so grateful to what God has done - and is doing!