Silvia is a young women from Kenya Africa. In 1995 her husband died, leaving her alone with her three children. For the longest time she didn’t know why he died. Three months passed before she found out through the hospital that he died of AIDS. She fainted immediately, broke down and lost it. AIDS was the “sinners” disease, no Christian would ever get it, much less die from it. But now, her Christian husband is dead, and AIDS was his killer. He was gone. Just her and her three kids. Alone. She perceived that if he had it, she might have it too and went to get tested. Sure enough, she was HIV positive.
Silvia was going to a Catholic parish at the time. When she confided in the priest about her husband and how she was HIV positive also, the priest said she was no longer welcome in his parish and asked her to never return. Shunned, she went to another church, hoping to find acceptance, healing and hope. They shunned her as well. Unclean. An outcast. Surely a sinner condemned by God with this disease. Two strikes and Silvia was done. Knowing that she couldn’t turn to the church for hope, her only hope as an unwanted church-outcast was in God, and God alone. Even her friends and family shunned her because of this “sinners” disease. She had no hope but hope in God.
Silvia began to read and study more about AIDS. What caused it? How was it transmitted? What were some medicines that helped slow and control it? As she found answers, she began going to the slums in Nairobi Kenya (one in particular was called Mentumba, which means second-hand, so literally, the second-hand slum) where other outcasts banded together in community. With no support from others, and being driven by her hope in God, she began to talk with them. Befriend them. Feed them. Tell them what she was learning. Share the hope she had in God. And she found that as she did these things, they too found hope. She learned that they would die if they did not have hope. She saw that they too began to live, because of hope.
Meanwhile, in another church, a pastor by the name of Edward began asking people in the congregation if they knew anyone with AIDS. Someone happened to know Silvia and introduced her to Pastor Edward. She brought him to the slums to feel and experience life as a “sinful” AIDS outcast. AIDS support groups began to emerge, meeting once a week. Once a month these support groups, made up of about 40 women and 5 men, would meet together for worship and encouragement. More recently, the church opened up an AIDS clinic to provide counseling and HIV testing. In addition, people in the church were now being trained to become counselors for the clinic. Some of the women infected with AIDS said, “I have AIDS, but that doesn’t bother me––I don’t worry about that––because I have hope in God. I have people and a support group that loves me and encourages me.”
This story expresses well, why I hate and love the church.
Source: Emergent Village Podcast, Reflections from Amahoro Africa. Worth the listen.