Instruments of Peace

A recent graduate from the CARE for AIDS program told a staff member that he now counts his HIV status as more valuable than gold, because its through this disease that he found community again. What he saw once as a curse and a death sentence he now counts as blessing.

We have been meditating on this recently as a staff-- its incredible that someone can come to be thankful for the very thing that destroyed their life, and in meditating on this phenomenon, we have come to believe that it is Biblical.

In the second chapter of the book of Isaiah, the prophet describes the people of God as a people who “beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”.  At first pass on this scripture, I am tempted to assume that these people who beat their swords into ploughshares are a people who have lived in peace for so long that they decided to be practical and take what had essentially become useless (swords) and make them into something they could use on their farms.

Upon further consideration, and in the face of seeing how an AIDS can be transformed from a curse to an invaluable blessing, I think this scripture is telling us something more profound. What if the people of God are called to take active instruments of death and work them, slowly and faithfully, into instruments that cultivate life?

At CARE for AIDS, this means taking HIV/AIDS, the most notorious instrument of death in Sub-Saharan Africa, and working into something that can cultivate life and community. After all, that's exactly what Jesus modeled to us on the cross— the most notorious instrument of death in Rome is now the most notorious symbol of abundant life. The story arc of God has always bent from death to life, and we are all part of that story on a daily basis.

So we urge you to continue to pray for peace in your life and in the world, but we also challenge you to grab hold of an instrument of destruction and, through the grace of God, beat it into an instrument of peace that cultivates life.


Incredible Privilege

This morning's blog is from summer intern, Anna Wilke.

Recently, I came across a quote by Charles Spurgeon that stopped me in my tracks, it says, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  Wow, let that sink in for a minute. At first glance I thought this seemed harsh, but after thinking and praying about it for a while I came to realize that it was not harsh at all, in fact it is an incredible privilege.  As we take a look at the Bible we see that it is not just a self-help book or a collection of stories.  It is one cohesive story, which is incredible considering it was written by over 40 authors and over a span of more than 1000 years. In this story the one unified theme is God’s glory spread among the nations. The Biblical basis for missions begins in Genesis when God tells both Adam and Noah to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” and continues through Revelation which promises “… a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” John Piper says, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” We are called to go out into the world so that God will get all of the glory He deserves from the people He created.

Three of the most prominent representations of this mandate for missions are God’s promise to Abraham, Jesus’ ministry, and the Great Commission. In Genesis 22, God promises Abraham that all the nations, meaning every tribe, tongue, and people group, on Earth will be blessed through his descendants. Jesus’ ministry is another example of God’s heart for the nations because Jesus was sent for both Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus, the sinful world’s single greatest blessing, was from King David’s bloodline, and thus Abraham’s as well, fulfilling the promise God made to him hundreds of years before. Time and time again Jesus reminded His disciples that God’s plan is to bless all peoples, and His life modeled that perfectly, and He commanded us to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19-20).

We have been invited in to the story of proclaiming God’s glory throughout all peoples of the earth. As Christians, we have been blessed with the knowledge of Christ’s love and the salvation He offers us, and because of that redemption we are called to spread His blessing to all peoples of the earth. To do any different would be to disobey the commands God has given us in the Bible. Mission looks different for each and every person. Many are called to go to the nations, near and far, and there are just as many called to send and support those who are going. No matter the role,  we are all called to be a blessing to the nations, and there is no greater blessing than knowing Jesus Christ. Our Father has not only allowed us to witness His changing and redeeming of lives, He has invited us to be a part of it with Him. What a beautiful and incredible privilege that is.


10,000 Reasons

It's been 10 years since we launched CARE for AIDS, and in those 10 years the Lord has done some truly incredible work through the program. To date, we have graduated more than 10,000 HIV+ clients from CARE for AIDS centers, and those clients represent over 32,000 dependent children! We are taking some time this month to celebrate those 10,000 victories. Here's to the next 10,000! 


Meet Aaron & Casey

This morning we want to introduce you to our two newsest team members in Kenya, Aaron and Casey Markham! 

We left Columbia, SC on the afternoon of Friday, September 1st with a one-way ticket bound for Nairobi, Kenya. We’ve officially been living in Kenya for over a month now, and what a month it has been! We hit the ground running with two back-to-back Impact Trips from the U.S., followed by a week of administrative staff meetings held at our house. It has been a month of transition filled with hosting and learning simultaneously.

In the last 30 days, we’ve participated in 2 Impact Trips, been on 4 flights, visited 10 different CFA centers, celebrated 2 graduations, hosted 24 overnight house guests and 30 other visitors, celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary, and consumed countless cups of Kenyan tea.

During home visits in Kisumu, we visited Grace, a current CARE for AIDS client. Grace had been kicked out of her home because of her HIV+ status and was living with her sister and all of their children. One of Grace's son's, Phillip, is 20 years old and disabled. Because of his disability, Phillip has never been able to speak or to walk. Grace cares for him full time and uses a wheelchair to help him get around. Phillip sat with us as Grace told us her story of living with HIV and he exuded such joy at having visitors, clapping his hands and grinning nonstop. As we left their home, I couldn't help but be reminded that I should never be so dependent upon or consumed by material and physical circumstances that lack thereof could steal my joy. Grace's biggest prayer request was that she could find a job to be able to pay for a home of her own where she could continue to raise Phillip and her other children. Would you join us in praying for God's provision of work for her? 


While joy and excitement have been abundant, it would be dishonest to say that our first month in Kenya hasn’t had its challenges, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Moving is never easy, and it's only exacerbated when you move to an entirely new continent, country, and culture. Not only do we lack the community we so loved back in South Carolina, but even something as simple as figuring out what to do with your trash (plastic bags are no longer legal in Kenya) becomes exceedingly difficult when you're in a new and foreign place. So, we're counting every small victory as a big one, tackling what we can one day at a time and are incredibly grateful for the friends we've made who have shown us grace and patience in answering our long list of crazy questions.

A couple days ago, I was moved to tears by the lyrics of the song, “It is Well” (Bethel music). The song begins, "Grander earth has quaked before; moved by the sound of His voice. Seas that are shaken and stirred, can be calmed and broken for my regard. Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. Through it all, through it all, It is well. Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. It is well with me." The tears were probably a combination of being exhausted and needing rest, but also an acknowledgement of where that rest has to come from.

I've been doing Jennie Allen's bible study Proven since I arrived in Kenya and have been encouraged by her words about John chapter 6. She says, "nothing but Jesus can issue rest of our chaotic insides." In John 6:16-21, Jesus' disciples have gone out in a boat to cross the sea. It was dark, windy and the waters were rough. Once they were 3-4 miles off shore, they saw Jesus coming towards them, walking on the water. At first, they were even more afraid, but once they knew it was Jesus, their fears were stilled. As Jennie Allen notes in her study, Jesus "could have gotten on the boat before it left the shore, but then [the disciples] would have missed His overwhelming power over all of the chaos. We may feel crushed by the fear of real circumstances, but Jesus is above the circumstances." She goes on later to remind us that "our soul rest is not based on the absence of trouble or chaos. Our soul rest is based on the never-failing character of our good, capable, rich Father God. ... We are as secure as Jesus was on that water because we know our Father God is with us."

This couldn't be more timely encouragement for me right now and hopefully it encourages some of you as well. We’ve likely all experienced at least a season of what feels like constant hustle and complete chaos. What a sweet reminder that God is above it all and it's in Him that I can find my rest today. If you find yourself in a similar season, week, or even day, let's together remember to fix our eyes on Jesus knowing that regardless of our circumstances, we can still say "it is well with my soul."

You can learn more about Casey and Aaron and their journey with CARE for AIDS on their personal blog

Jesus is Better

This week's blog comes to us from our summer intern, Anna Wilke. 

Recently I heard a message at my church in Auburn that has stuck with me and the main point is this: Jesus is better than any other option. This message served as a wonderful reminder to many and it helped many more understand why people are so passionate about Christ.

John 6:33-40 says, “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” This passage is well known as it comes after two of Jesus’ most famous miracles: feeding the 5,000 and walking on water, but I think we often miss one of the main purposes here: Jesus is showing Himself to be far greater than any other option we have on this earth. In these few short sentences Jesus gives five things that distinguish Him from any other alternative.

1.     Jesus offers us real satisfaction- (v. 35) We all have a natural hunger in our soul for something more and any option this earth has for satisfaction, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, can not fill that desire. It may give you a moment of satisfaction but fullness that only satisfies for a moment leads to emptiness. Jesus is the only person or thing that can ever truly satisfy your soul.

2.     Jesus offers unconditional love- (v. 37) Jesus does not love us based on what we can bring to the table because He loved us before we even got to the table. The Father chose us and gave us to Jesus before we were even formed. Christ’s love is a love unlike any other because it is based solely on His character not our will and ability to be good enough.

3.     Jesus offers supernatural purpose- (v. 38) Everyone is searching for a purpose, a reason to exist and in Jesus we can find that purpose. Our life has become purposeful because we have impactful relationships and because we are called to be carriers of the message of God’s unconditional love to the world. We make Him known through our stories.

4.     Jesus offers surpassing peace- (v. 39) Fear and anxiety can be crippling and they grow as long as we try to control our own lives. Jesus says, “I shall lose none of all those he has given me.” This should come as a huge relief to us, the hands that created the universe and were nailed to a cross for us are certainly big and strong enough to handle our lives. He will not loose us, we are held in His sovereignty.

5.     Jesus offers eternal security- (v. 40) Jesus is the only one who holds the possibility for eternal life in His hands, and He is the only one who can offer it to us freely. The only way to the Father is through Jesus, it has to be Jesus.

No one and no thing in this world can offer us one of these things but Jesus is offering us all five so how could we not choose Jesus? Later on in John 6 Jesus asks the 12 disciples if they want to leave and Simon Peter answers “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (v. 68-69). Jesus undoubtedly has competition for our hearts in this world, it can be money, a career, or any number of other things but stack any of them up against Jesus and Jesus wins every time. Jesus is the bread of life and He is better than this world.

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