Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.
I will take away sickness from among you,
That is a strange verse if you are in a country where the faucet water is riddled with "amoebas" and outbreaks of leptospirosis are commonplace.
There is this house next to our hub in HdY. Sometimes from the roof I wave and say "hi" to the people, but I never really visited their home or got to know them. Their daughter in law and son came to church some. Mostly the daughter in law. Their granddaughter recently entered our nutrition center.
In October, a team from First Christian Church of Fort Myers was here. One of our cooks asked if I would go pray because the son was very sick and staying there with them. So, I went with Pastor Elido and one of the team members to pray for him. I went more to comfort the family of a sick person rather than anything. As we sat there, Elido conversing with the father, the sick man came out and sat with us. He was terribly thin and had a strange look in his eye. I was uncomfortable with the look and tried not to make eye contact for too long. I mostly sat and listened to the conversation. In doing so I learned that the man had Aids and his organs were beginning to fail. They talked about healing, heaven, fear and faith.
I left with the feeling that there was nothing to do, and the understanding that this story was all too common.
According to dr1, an online newspaper, an estimated 88,000 people in the Dominican Republic are infected with HIV/AIDS. The article reads "There are currently 23,000 adult women between the ages of 15 and 49 with HIV/AIDS." Since there are so many single parent homes in the DR an estimated 58,000 children have been orphaned or are at risk of being orphaned because of the disease. I recently read a paper that was done in 2009 about prostitution in the DR. Apparently even with the grotesque sex tourism, it is locals that make up over 80% of the customers.
The point of me spewing these numbers out is to show that the conversation I had with the widow and her friends after our neighbor died is a common tale... common beliefs... a common problem.
After I heard that the man had died I went to both homes. First I went to the home of the father of the man who died. They all seemed tired, but somehow relieved. They said that he had suffered greatly and was scared and were glad that it was finally over. I can understand that.
Then I went to the man's home where his wife was sitting outside with some friends. She seemed ... scared.
Her friend was very talkative about HIV and how men who have it aren't careful and don't seem to care about who they spread it too. She said that people don't take the medication because they feel fine for a long time and so don't bother. She said that sometimes people don't believe they have it because they don't have anything wrong at first and so they don't tell their partners.
When the widow finally chimed in she said that her husband had been very promiscuous before he settled down with her. She has HIV, but took the medicine when she had her kids and they have been negative so far.
They said that when you have the disease you become a sort of outcast, so most people pretend they don't have it. But TB doesn't lie. Tuberculosis is an opportunistic disease and here almost anyone who has an extremely weakened immune system can get it, especially people with HIV. The ladies told me that if you have a horrible cough people will start to think that you have TB and if you have TB they automatically think you have HIV and then they won't associate with you.
The thing that struck me most is something the widow said. She said that her doctor told her that the disease was so common that pretty soon every one on earth will die from AIDS. So pretty much he was saying that there is nothing we can do and its not a big deal. But it is a big deal.
A couple of years ago, when I started to look into adoption, I researched what it would look like if I adopted a child with HIV. I researched, read, even emailed and called doctors who were experts in the area. According to them, HIV is very livable and if we all took precautions and proper medication, HIV could be wiped from the face of the earth.
Well, that remains to be seen. Meanwhile in our little barrio of 26,000 people we are just getting started. Our enemy isn't HIV. Our enemy isn't promiscuity, adultery or fornication. Our enemy isn't the absent father or the neglectful mother.
Our enemy is the one who desires to steal, kill and destroy
The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy;
I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure.
This is Jesus speaking. "The thief" refers to Satan whose weapons are the vises that we cling to, as we try to fill our lives.
But Jesus is speaking. "I have come so that they may have life...". So there is a counter attack. We are not left defenseless. We have truth.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
We fight by welcoming as many people as will come to be part of our church body. We visit the sick, disciple through sports leagues, teach young people of their own worth in Christs eyes through studies and clubs. We love the struggling parents and help them provide for their children where we can.
Jesus said "I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure."
When people look at a little place like Hato del Yaque. They see the poverty, lack of education, drugs, prostitution, malnutrition and disease.
Jesus did what he did because he saw something else. He sees love, hope, abundance, joy, peace and wisdom. He sees eternity in their eyes. He believes they are worth every fight and he is sending you and me into battle for them.
As Paul said during his days of battle...
"As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
2 Corinthians 6:6-10
Ok, I have never been beaten or imprisoned, but I can relate to pretty much everything else. And I too have been given a great grace. Every plate of food, every princess study, each time I translate a vbs, it is for the sole purpose of bestowing even just a smidgen of it.
Again I resonate with Paul when I say to you...
"... to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus"
1 Corinthians 1:2b-4
Reference: http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/global?page=cr02-dr-00, http://dr1.com/articles/hiv.shtml