Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Positive thing about this training is....

What a week it's been...  enough to write a book on - if we ever get time to catch up on things!

But here is a small snapshot of one of the more remarkable trainings we have done so far:


Ever since we started working with Jeevan Sahara Kendra we have been training people.  Our desire is that God's people - simple ones who Jesus loves and has touched - will love people with HIV.  In practice.  In reality.  By visiting in their homes.  By welcoming into the church.  By being family.

Utopia?  Yes.  And possible.

Have we seen it happen?  Well, at least to a certain extent we do see some fellowships stepping forward in this.   One of the largish group of churches in Thane, for example, told us that they now have 17 people with HIV as part of their church.

Our trainings follow a 4 day curriculum which for Mumbai/Thane folks we have been conducting on alternate Saturdays.   But what about people who want to attend from other parts of the country?

Well, in 2008 we started doing 1 week courses for the Christian AIDS/HIV National Alliance (CANA).  We used the same 4 day curriculum and added 2 days of exposure visits with our staff to homes, an afternoon participating with our Positive Friends support group, as well as a day with a local church who are caring for people with HIV.

And we conducted the training entirely in Hindi - focussing on folks from the North and making a low entry bar so that church leaders and volunteers can also participate - not just social work professionals.

The response was superb.  Folks from the first batch we trained are still doing things with HIV in their areas.  The request by CANA for us to do another training for them was prompt - and in the first 3 years we did 3 annual trainings.  Then we upped it to every six months.

This was our 11th batch of trainees who have come to us through CANA!

We had 15 participants this time, plus and old friend of ours who came for the first day.

Now here is where it gets unusual....   The aim of the course is to help churches reach out to people with HIV in practical ways.  The idea is to equip folks so that they can in turn mobilise their prayer fellowships and churches to reach out and care.  So that people can understand the pain that people with HIV go through.

HIV still is an invisible disease in our country.  We have a relatively low number of people with HIV (the US has a higher percentage than we do) - but those who have HIV go through so much suffering - and there is still so much fear that and real stigma and horrible discrimination attached to having the disease.   Many people die of fear - their fear of others knowing about their condition keeping them from accessing life-saving medications.  The terrible procrastination of saying - I will do so later....

So what was different this time?  Did we have folks coming from far and near?  Yes.  check.  A big group from Delhi, a trio from Kolkotta, a guy from Gujarat and a young tribal man who is doing the work of a pastor in rural Maharashtra.   And to add to this mix,,, we had a lady from China too!

Difference was this.  For the first time, almost the majority of our participants were HIV positive themselves.

It was weird using our training that is focussed on helping church people understand what people with HIV go through - with folks who have gone through and are going through all those issues themselves.

It was exhilarating to have our HIV Positive participants visit homes - and tell their stories too.   To have people who have come through the issues share their stories with our Positive Friends here - and also for our friends who have come from afar to see what God is doing here as well.

In one of my group discussion we were talking about helping children with HIV take their ART medications.  A lovely young woman in her early 20s chipped in:  "I am HIV positive, and when I was small I did not want to take the tablets.  But my mother was wise.  She told me that I was special.  And that because I was special I needed to take these pills regularly."

On Tuesday afternoon we had our final session of the week-long training and sent our trainees on their way.  The candles were lit in the darkened training hall and we sang 'ek aag har dil mein, humko jalana hain'.   

This evening our trainees are back where they came from.  Our desire is that they will be lights themselves.

How will our HIV Positive trainees do?  We wish we had known before hand that such a large number were living with HIV.  Most of them were attending the training to be equipped themselves - and not really to mobilise their churches.   We would have refocussed some of our topics to deal more directly with their own personal experiences.

But that's the beauty of all of this.  To think that we would have 7 positive people (and a young positive boy whom one of the families have adopted) participating in our training...

God is good. He has always used the weak and small for His glory.  The little boy who gave his tiffin of small breads and fish to Jesus was used mightily.  The young girl who served as a maid in the home of the powerful Assyrian general Namaan.

How will our Positive Friends do?   We put them into the hands of our loving Lord!  It has been our joy to share with them what we know - now they are in the unique position to leverage what they have learned with sharing more openly and focussedly about their own reality of being HIV positive.

Our training programme is titled 'Love Your Neighbour... with AIDS' - we could rename the programme for this batch as 'Your neighbour with AIDS loves you!'

Soli Deo gloria

1 comment:

  1. Amen and amen. Andi and Sheba, be blessed and strengthened as you continue.