Incarnation

This week is our last week of waiting and watching during the Advent season. We want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas season! We hope each of you can fully celebrate and be restored by the coming of our Lord this Christmas. We look forward to praying and working alongside you in the new year! 

Scripture: “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). “ When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18–25

Quote for contemplation: “The incarnation means that for whatever reason God chose to let us fall into a condition of being limited, to suffer, to be subject to sorrows and death—he has nonetheless had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine…. He himself has gone through the whole of human experience—from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death…. He was born in poverty and suffered infinite pain—all for us—and thought it well worth his while.” Dorothy Sayers


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Finding the Sacred

In the spirit of advent, we have a brief scripture reading and prayer for you to contemplate this week as we watch and wait for the coming of the Lord. Today's prayer urges us to invite God into the mundane, everyday activities we do throughout the week. Advent is the perfect opportunity to slow down and take the time to find the sacred in everyday life. 

Scripture: "In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth." Psalm 71:1–5

Prayer: “Lord grant me the grace to do one thing at a time today, without rushing or hurrying. Help me to savor the sacred in all I do, be it large or small. By the power of the Holy Spirit, empower me to pause today as I move from one activity to the next. Unclutter my heart, O God, until I am quiet enough to hear you speak out of the silence. Forgive me for running my life without you sometimes. Help me to be still, to surrender to your will, and to rest in your loving arms. Amen.” Pete Scazzero


For daily prayer and scripture resources during the advent season, we recommend this daily office guide from New Life Fellowship Church. 

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Advent

The season of advent has officially begun, so each Friday for the next few weeks we will be posting quotes and prayers on the blog as a resource for our readers. We value advent so much as a spiritual season because its a season of intentional, expectant waiting. Observing advent is  a particularly counter-cultural practice in America, as most often Christmas day sneaks up on us in the wake of a season of frantic planning, shopping, and tying up loose ends at work. As Christians, we are called to practice waiting and contemplation in the middle of this chaotic season. Waiting and hoping for Christ's arrival is the central theme of this spiritual season, and we are excited to practice waiting and hoping alongside you over the next few weeks. 

“Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it His way and in His time.” Eugene Peterson


If you would like a resource to help you in prayer and contemplation throughout this season, we recommend this daily office guide from New Life Fellowship. 

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Anne

This morning's post comes to us from one of the newest CARE for AIDS team members, Casey Markham. Casey and her husband Aaron moved to Kenya with CARE for AIDS in September 2017. 


Anne is a graduate of Waithaka center from 2016. Six months after graduation, her class had a follow-up meeting at the center. To close the meeting, Anne stood before the entire class and gave this inspiring testimony. Waithaka center is led by Dorcas Mwende, the Health Counselor, and Dan, the Spiritual Counselor, both of whom Anne references in her story.

“One day, Mwende came and found me at my house. At that time my CD4 count was 202*. I felt like I was dying. On the day Mwende came, I had bought 4 packets of rat poison. It was enough that I could take and kill myself. Mwende brought me here to the church. After some time, I told her I needed to hurry up and leave. I wanted to get back home before the kids got back from school. I wanted to the take the poison and die before the kids got home. But Mwende went back home with me. She stayed until 4 pm, after the kids had already returned home. So I didn’t take the poison. This is how God lifted and preserved my life.

From that day on, there was a word from God that I couldn’t get out of my mind. ‘Why should you die? You have a lot of work that I want you to do for me still.’ And that’s why when I talk to others who are also HIV positive, I tell them, 'There is still life ahead of you even after you realize your status.'

When I found out that I had tested positive, I thought that everything was gone. I thought I was the only one in the whole world in this state. But then Mwende brought me to this church. Can you imagine someone who intended to take rat poison is where I am now? I wanted to kill myself but now I stand here today and I’ve even brought another life into this world**. 

All I can say is that CFA truly brought from the ground all the way up. From this program I’ve learned how to make soap and I’m proud to sell it. I also have learned how to do tie and dye; you may have even seen me wearing some of the work I have done. But what’s best about this program isn’t the skills or the food we receive, but that the word of God is taught.

You know, I never used to smile, but now you see that I can smile. Dan used to call me and I would tell him to stop calling because I was in the company of others and I didn’t want them to overhear. But now, I can pick up the phone and respond anywhere. You can even look at me and see that I am fat now***. This is a group that will raise you from the ground up. From zero to hero. 

I’m grateful to Jesus because he gave me these people to walk with me. I’m proud of each of you for being here. Be thankful for this opportunity. God bless you.”

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* A normal range for CD4 cells is about 500-1,500. When the CD4 count drops below 200 due to advanced HIV disease, a person is diagnosed with AIDS. (https://www.hiv.va.gov/patient/diagnosis/labs-CD4-count.asp)

** Anne has a 2-month-old baby boy.

*** Being “fat” means that she is healthier, that she has been able to eat well and gain weight. That she isn’t sickly like she was before.

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.


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