Before & After

This morning's post comes from recent impact trip participant and Family Pastor at Eastside Baptist Church, Todd Graham. 

2 Corinthians 13:11-  Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Before arriving at her home, we had spent 4 days traveling many miles from town to town visiting the churches, communities and centers that partner with CARE for AIDS, learning about all of the ways this organization was changing lives in East Africa. 

I had met people along the way to her home, either before they started the CARE for AIDS program or just after starting.  Each person we spent time with before they started, seemed weary and tired but still courageous enough to keep looking for hope.  Then we arrived at her home and I began to see the rest of the story.

Before entering her house, we exchanged formal greetings, friendly smiles, and silently agreed to work through our language barriers together.  She was a gracious host- so grateful that we would honor her with a visit, but the honor was truly from my heart as we were welcomed so warmly.

Being under her roof meant that you were now part of the family, so I was introduced to her sister and immediately put to work preparing dinner for later that day.  Within minutes, everyone was chipping in, starting fires, shredding carrots, rolling out chapati dough, and sharing stories of daily home life.  For two hours, we worked, we laughed, we got messy, and we gradually exchanged our titles ofClients, Visitors and Strangers for designation of Friends and fellow life travelers.

While sharing our dinner, she shared her story.  This was a transitional story that evolved from devastation to re-construction and from hurt to healing.  Her story was one of a life made new.  It was a story that allowed me to re-consider what it meant to be born again.  She shared how once she contracted the AIDS virus, not only did her health decline, but she was also outcast from her community.  This dinner visit was not just about learning to cook a Kenyan dinner- to her it was about having people that saw her for who she was, not the virus that she had unknowingly contracted.  Love truly is a universal language.  We came as strangers and left as friends.

Through the work of CARE for AIDS and through the love of her sister, she had experienced a literal life saving year for her body, her mind, and her soul.  She cast off the stigmatic title of someone infected with a virus and reclaimed her ability to be a sister, mother, and community member again.

There were several more conversations with others that week after they had completed the CARE for AIDS program and the Before/After difference was astounding.  These were people who were truly living life.  Their bodies were healthful, eyes bright, & smiles wide.  These were people with hope. 

There are 5 areas of transformation that CARE for AIDS facilitates- Physical, Emotional, Social, Economic, & Spiritual.  Wholeness.  By reactivating and strengthening these 5 life areas, homes are changed, lives are spared, and children are raised in their own homes by their own parents in their own communities.

Before my 10 days in Kenya, I would classify myself as a compassionate skeptic.  I wanted to help but didn’t believe deep down that anything could be done to reverse the effects of the AIDS epidemic.  After a first hand account over 10 days with CARE for AIDS, the statistical results of their work over the last 8 years is undeniable and it reminds me a whole lot of Jesus.