Category Archives: HIV/AIDS

Pastor’s training

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I am slack. No doubt about it. However, I now also have a lot to report from the last three weeks, so there will be plenty of new posts to add here in the next couple of days.

First things first – three weeks ago we had three days of Pastor’s/Church Leader’s training on HIV/AIDS at a campsite just outside of Pretoria. Glen, another OMer, and I did the line-up, and then the teaching during the three days. As usual, things didn’t exactly go to plan…

I’ve gotten used to people in Africa saying “Yes” when they really mean “No”. So, two days before the Pastor’s training, I made a point of telephoning all 12 of them who had expressed an interest to check that they were still coming. Everyone was in agreement; they would be there. I knew it wouldn’t work that way, but never mind. It was when people were still telling me over the phone on the actual day the training started that they would be there, and yet didn’t end up turning up, that I started to get a bit frustrated….

But, as usual, God is sovereign. Not one of those 12 who I though were coming actually ended up attending. Instead, we had three people we didn’t expect, but really enjoyed getting to know – A elderly Roman Catholic man, who understood very little English, an outspoken, honest middle-aged lady, and another sweet, young lady. It’s amazing what God did with those three people. Their views about HIV/AIDS have been challenged by the teaching sessions, but I think the most “heart change” happened over the meal tables. With only 5 of us, including us two OMers, we were able to have some really deep conversations, not just about HIV/AIDS, but also faith.

My favourite discussion occurred when we were chatting about treatments for HIV. Thomas, the Roman Catholic, commented that he had heard of a medicine that could cure people completely of HIV/AIDS. In fact, these scientists were also in the process of creating a treatment to help people live forever (Africa is full of claims about these “cure alls” for different illnesses, especially HIV. So many poor, uneducated people, are duped of whatever little money they have)!

“Imagine that!” he cried. “We can live forever!”

We weren’t able to convince him that such a medicine was impossible, until I asked him what the Bible said about living forever. He gave me a blank look. I explained that because of sin, the Bible is clear that “man is destined to die once, and then to face judgement,” (Hebrews 9:27). The only way to live forever is in eternity with Jesus Christ.

He was shattered at first; I think, old as he was, he had been hanging onto some vain hope of living forever. But he became especially interested in whenever we looked at what the Bible had to say about different things over the next couple of days. Maybe this was the first time he had been really challenged to look for answers in the Bible.

All three of those people we spent time with have gone home encouraged to be more involved in HIV/AIDS work in their own communities. We will be visiting them soon to help them begin to initiate the practical responses to the needs in their communities that they have begun to plan. But I pray mostly that God will continue to impress His Truth in their hearts, and that they would be able to experience Him in a meaningful way. Please pray wth us!

Tears from Heaven

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The rains had come to Mpumalanga.

Just the day before, the dry, red dust had tickled our throats as we stamped across the thirsty earth, distributing food parcels to needy AIDS home-based care patients. Today, the dust was washed away in thick streaming rivulets from the backie (ute) we travelled in, and the rain collected in puddles on the dirt road. It was sobering weather for a sober day.

We had collected Martha from her home earlier that afternoon. A patient with advanced AIDS related tuberculosis, Martha had been cared for by her fourteen-year-old son Kenny in their home, but he could no longer look after her by himself. We had agreed to take her to a nearby Christian hospice, where she could be treated medically. Little Mpho, Martha’s youngest child, cried when the “white people” attempted to give her a cuddle, and Kenny tried to be helpful, watching his Mum being carried out to the car, and smiling shyly when we talked to him.

In the backie, Martha leaned against me and coughed violently into a piece of gauze she held against her mouth. There was no comparison between the now thin, sickly woman who sat beside me, and the healthy-cheeked woman on her ID card that the home-based care worker showed me. I held her hand, and she stroked my fingers, and I told her a story about Jesus, the king of kings, who sits on a throne, but also wants to live in our hearts. She nodded a little, and then shifted her gaze away. I wish now that I had said more.

When we arrived at the hospice, little Mpho was still sobbing, and now being held in the arms of her aunt. Martha gave a forlorn glance back at her child, and whispered pointedly “Thula, Mpho” (Quiet, Mpho), before she was taken in a wheelchair into the hospice.

I did a lot of praying for Martha, Kenny and Mpho that evening. Three individuals, all affected by this deadly disease, all deeply cared for by the Father. What part must we play in this violent battle against HIV/AIDS? I do not believe we can simply sit on the sidelines and watch as people die, missing out on the opportunity to be a part of the family of God; or, to put it another way, I do not believe we can sit and watch as the Father mourns for the children who he will not be able to embrace in eternity.

The next morning I received an SMS from the home-based care worker. “Martha, that we took to the hospice yesterday, that had 2 year old daughter and son Kenny, has just died”.

The rains had come to Mpumalanga, and Jesus was crying for his children.