Sight for the Blind

I’m very happy right now. Through CFA, I am seeing a lot of change for the first time in many years.
— David, Current CARE for AIDS Client

When David came to the CARE for AIDS program in January he was completely blind. His morale was low and as a result his health was waning rapidly. He’s 47 years old and he barely weighed 100 pounds when he joined the program. In addition to his sight loss and overall declining health, he was experiencing kidney failure. David has known his HIV+ status since 2012. His family has long since abandoned him. With no one to take care of him and without being able to see, he felt completely helpless and hopeless. This wasn’t the first time David had felt this way in the last few years, but this time, CARE for AIDS was there to intervene.

 

 
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Back in 2013, election-related violence in Kenya was rampant. Tension was especially high in the slum regions where armed criminal gangs were fighting. David remembers it as a time of chaos and war in the slum where he lives. Thievery was common and David was the victim of a gang that wanted to steal from him. They severely beat him, hitting him hard over the head and damaging his legs so they could take what they wanted and he couldn’t chase after them. After about a year of healing and hospital visits, David thought he had finally made a full recovery from the beating. For 20 years, he had worked slaughtering chickens for different individuals and farms. After he recovered, he went back to doing this work again in 2014.

Unfortunately the worst was still yet to come for David. One day, on the way to work, his eyes started watering profusely. He had to leave work that day because he couldn’t see from his eyes watering so badly. Shortly after that, his eyes started swelling and his vision quickly got worse. He kept working until one day everything went completely black while he was on the job. David had become totally blind.

David spent the next two years at home unable to work, unable to pay rent, unable to buy food. His friends would occasionally show up at his house and buy him food for the week, but he didn’t like being a burden on others. He decided it would be best it he died. Twice David made an attempt to take his own life and twice God intervened so that he didn’t go through with it. During the first attempt David found a mosquito net to tie around his neck and hang himself from the ceiling banister in his home. He knelt down to pray one final time just before hanging himself and said to God, “I want to come home. I’m about to show up there, so please don’t be mad at me…”

While he was praying a friend knocked on his door. They had come buy to take him shopping for food and gave him additional money to pay rent.

Unfortunately, because of his inability to work, David quickly fell far behind on his rent. At one point his landlord tried to drive him out of his home by taking his door front door off the hinges so he would have no privacy or security. David had nowhere else to go, so he hung a blanket as a door and soon, deep in depression about his state, David devised another way to take his life. He planned to swallow termite poison before bed so he would die in his sleep. Not long after making this new plan, David's friends found him a new place to live, bought him food and paid for his first few months rent in his new home. After this intervention David decided against taking is own life and decided he wanted to keep on living. 

Soon after the move his friends took him to the hospital for the first time in two years. It was 2016 and this was the first time he had been examined by a doctor since becoming completely blind. After his examination the doctor reported that neither of David’s eyes would likely see again and that, unfortunately, Davis wasn’t a candidate for surgery. David became frustrated, angry, hopeless and suicidal yet again.

 

 

A CARE for AIDS graduate client lived nearby and knew of David’s situation. She took Rose, the Health Counselor at the center in Githurai, to meet him. Rose recruited David into the CARE for AIDS program and quickly realized he needed medical attention. His face was swollen and he was incontinent and malnourished. Using the funds from the Medical Endowment Fund, Rose arranged for Geoffrey, the male champion in Githurai, to accompany David to the hospital.

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The doctor drained fluids from David’s head and face to reduce his swelling and immediately  prescribed medicine to treat David's kidney failure. He also began treatment for David’s eyes and, after doing a chest x-ray, he also prescribed medicine for pneumonia. Blood work was drawn and David’s viral load was over 2 million copies. It became clear that David had defaulted on his medication and his strain of HIV was now resistant to the ARV medication he had been taking. The doctor prescribed a new regimen of ARV medication for David to begin taking immediately to get the HIV virus under control and boost his immune system. 

Thankfully, after being on treatment for over 2 months now, David is seeing great improvement. His weight is up to 135 pounds and he has regained control of his bladder. His stress has decreased and it is likely that his viral load has decreased, though it has yet to be tested again. Wanjiku, a neighbor who often helps to take care of David, makes sure that the food he gets from CARE for AIDS is prepared for him and she ensures that he takes his medicine daily. 

David's greatest improvement, though, has been in his eyesight. While he still cannot see well, his left eye is seeing shapes, figures and colors. His right eye has difficulty in the light, but can also see better than before when he is indoors. He will be returning to the doctor again soon to have his viral load tested and, with his new ARV medication taking effect, his overall immunity will improve.  This will allow his doctor to focus more closely on a plan for continued eye treatment. 

David told us that he is no longer weak. He has more strength than he’s experienced in a long time. He boasted that he is now able to walk all the way to the market without anyone even holding his hand. Wanjiku, his neighbor, says he has improved greatly and is doing really well now. David admits that he still has challenges because he can’t work and has to be given everything he needs, but he’s happy that he is making progress and has new hope.

David attended his first seminar at Githurai center this month on ARV medication adherence and HIV prevention. He sat up front so that he could see the instructor and told us in detail all the practical information he learned that day.      

Pray with us for David's continued recovery physically, mentally, and spiritually. He is on track to graduate from the CARE for AIDS program in Githurai this fall. 


So far, CARE for AIDS has spent a total of $120 on David’s medical care. A small gift to CARE for AIDS can go a very long way in the life of an HIV+ client. If you would like to donate and empower our staff to walk alongside thousands of clients like David, visit our donation page here. 

It Is Finished

This morning's post is from CARE for AIDS intern, Anna Wilke. 


During this Easter season I have been thinking a lot about a message I heard years ago at the Passion Conference. In this message Louie Giglio spoke about Jesus’ final word, “tetelestai.” Tetelestai is Greek and translated it means “it is finished,” one of the most famous and life-giving phrases in Christian culture. It is amazing to me that with just one word God has the ability to drown out all the noise of this world and help us focus on what is important. The last word Jesus spoke on Earth was the most powerful word of our lives because it was the beginning of everything we have.

“Tetelestai” is in the past perfect indicative tense, which in the language of Jesus’s day means that the progress of an action is complete and the result of that action is on-going with full effect. With Jesus’ death on the cross the work of salvation was finished and we were given a future of unimaginable freedom. Everything Jesus came to do, His purpose when He stepped out of Heaven, is now completed. Jesus paid the price for our sin to bring us to life in Him. We are now brand new people in Christ when we fully embrace what has been accomplished on our behalf. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  Jesus’ last moments on the cross set us in motion, His last breath was our first. Easter is a celebration of the life of freedom we now have, a life rooted in the cross and the final word of Jesus. What’s to stop us from celebrating and living in His extravagant gift all year?


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Freedom in Restraint

I recently returned from a trip to Kenya and, as always, the Lord used the trip to reveal to me new aspects of His character and new revelations about my. Last weekend I went to Naivasha with Ryan, Casey, and Aaron-- if you have been on an Impact Trip with CARE for AIDS over the past three years you certainly know and have been taken care of by some or all of them. As we drove across a rural stretch of the highway we saw two young sheep running full speed toward the road from an adjacent field. They each had a frayed rope tied to their hind legs- they had clearly been tethered somewhere on the property we were driving by and had just broken free. 

In their frenzied escape, they headed straight into traffic. We (luckily) just missed them with our car, but they may not have been so lucky with the cars behind us. It certainly looked like their extreme pursuit of freedom was going to end in their destruction. 

It's no coincidence that we are often compared to sheep in the New Testament. Just like these little guys, I have the tendency to rush so quickly toward what I sense as freedom that I destroy my spirit in the process. This tendency is why I love the Lenten season so much. Lent is a time when we intentionally tighten our tether to God through spiritual practices. We eat less, we pray more, and we meditate on the mysteries of our faith. Instead of breaking free and running wildly toward danger, Lent offers us the opportunity to draw closer to the Shepherd. 

As we draw toward Easter this weekend, I challenge you to make the most of your last few days of Lent before we feast throughout the Easter season. Draw close to God and seek to experience true freedom through being tightly tethered to your Shepherd. 


Looking for a resource to guide you through this season? We recommend this great resource from Biola University. 

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Equal Partners

We were sitting in a day-long meeting with the pastor and CARE for AIDS committee of one of our partner churches. Part of our partnership agreement with churches asks them to create an oversight committee to help shape the program, engage with our clients, and create a sense of ownership of the program on behalf of the whole church.

One of the goals of our meeting was to discuss how to further engage the committee and to co-create with them ideas of how to increase a sense of partnership and ownership of the program within the church. Toward the end of the meeting, Linet, who was facilitating, asked a question that made me pause from taking notes and look up in surprise. She asked the committee, “What are some ways we can better appreciate you?”

I wondered why she was asking this... I felt like it was a perfect set-up for the pastor and the committee to ask us for money or for the committee members to ask us to pay them a sitting fee or to present to us their plans for a bigger building -- or for some other project that had nothing to do with our mission. I actually thought, “What is the point of asking this when we know exactly what they are going to say?”

I girded myself with cynicism and prepared to dismiss their ideas with inner eye rolls. I crossed my arms to make it obvious that I was NOT taking notes about what they were going to say.

What followed humbled me greatly.

After some silence, the pastor cleared his throat. He said, hesitantly, “I’m not sure how to say what I want to say, because I realize it is a big request.”

Just say it, because I already know what you’re going to ask, I thought.

“Go ahead, we want to hear what you’re thinking”, said Linet.

The pastor stood up, and quietly said, “The people in the program -- you call them clients, but we like to call them members -- become a part of our family. We have had a few cases in the past where members have died -- maybe two or three. We have taken the responsibility as their family and their church to pay for their funerals. My request would be, if we lose someone in the future, that you will help us with part of the funeral costs.”

He sat down. The cynicism in me was replaced by admiration and compassion for him and shame for my assumptions. I began taking notes.

Next to speak was Mama Naressa, the oldest member of the committee. As she stood up to speak, my cynicism returned slightly in preparation for what she might ask. She said only, “As a committee, we are in constant prayer for our members, and we have regular prayer meetings for them. We request that you pray with us, and maybe one time you can come to one of our prayer meetings.” She sat down.

My shame increased, as did my respect and admiration for this group of people.

The other two committee members had no requests; they only expressed gratitude for what our partnership has done for their church and to the community they serve.

I was reminded during this meeting that one of the greatest assets of our program is our partner churches. I was reminded again that the way we have set up our church partnerships sits us at the table equally, and for me to think of them as being in a position of receiving our help or our charity is wrong. Yes, they couldn’t have the level of impact they are having without us, but we also couldn’t have the same level of impact without them. It’s a true partnership. 

I was so embarrassed by how I reacted in that meeting. I found myself trying to justify it, thinking it was based on experience. After honestly reflecting about it, though, I think it comes down to assumptions I was making based on my perception of our relationship.

It’s natural when someone is perceived as needing our help to expect less of them. It’s easy to see them as helpless or desperate recipients of our gracious generosity. When this is happening, we risk having our attitude toward them come from a place a place of begrudging superiority. So, how do we change our perception of someone? I believe it looks like what happened during that meeting -- it starts with sitting as equals at the table, and asking questions -- even if we think we might already know the answers.


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Not Forgotten

This morning's post comes to us from CARE for AIDS intern Anna Wilke.


As we read in last week’s blog, Lent is a season where we pause to remember who we are, who our God is and what He has done for us. The book of Exodus, the story of God rescuing the Israelites and delivering them to the Promised Land, offers us a metaphorical picture of what waiting and relying on the Lord for our salvation looks like. The entire story of Exodus rests on God’s promise to His people, a promise He always remembered even when it felt to them like He had forgotten, and it points to how Jesus would later save us. The Lenten season is about waiting on our Heavenly Father and remembering what He has done for us.

All too often we don’t listen to the people around us. We zone out, we start forming our response while they are talking, and we forget the needs of those around us. Because we do this, we presume our God does the same. We assume He is either not listening to or doesn’t remember our prayers, and I imagine that after hundreds of years in captivity, the Israelites felt the same way.  Through years upon years of oppression the Israelites endured hardships and cried out to God. They assumed, just like we do sometimes, that like humans, their God hadn’t heard or had forgotten their prayers. They felt unseen, unloved, and forgotten.

Thank goodness our God is not human. Our God listens to us, hears and remembers all our prayers, and offers freedom. The same God that gives freedom also gives perseverance, purpose, and peace while we are waiting. God’s ultimate will for His people was for them to be rescued and to see His promise to them fulfilled. His promise to the Israelites is His promise to us, “I will take you as my people and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7).  He is always active, always attentive, always remembering and always moving on behalf of His people. He hears and remembers. He is coming soon.

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