Strength from Weakness

Today’s article is from CARE for AIDS Intern, Anna Wilke.

Recently I had an assignment in one of my classes that required me to think and write about the stereotypical interview question, “describe your strengths and your weaknesses.” I don’t know about you, but I dread this question because it requires me to look at the parts of myself I wish I could change. As a very type A person, one of my biggest weaknesses is that I resist change and am uncomfortable with the unknown and what I can’t plan. What I’ve been learning recently though is that, as cliché as it sounds, God’s strength can be shown even more through our weaknesses. When we step into our weaknesses God can make His power, sovereignty, and love known even more.

One of the most tangible ways I have seen God made known in weakness and in the unknown is the lives of the clients that CARE for AIDS serves. These men and women are among the most marginalized people in the world because of their HIV diagnosis. They, more than most, do not know what the future will hold for them which can be terrifying. Time and time again, despite the fear and unknown that come with an HIV diagnosis, I have seen our clients own their physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual weaknesses and it allows for amazing transformations. Accepting their weaknesses allows them beautifully embrace the good change the CARE for AIDS program brings. It is a beautiful and tangible metaphor for the way God can work in our own weaknesses and it inspires me, personally, to be vulnerable in my weakness.

A few weeks ago I heard my pastor say “True strength is the presence of weakness and the acknowledgement of God.” Our weaknesses can be used to glorify our Heavenly Father because it is so obvious we can not do it on our own. I have started to look at my weaknesses as a way to show God’s strength and a way to remind myself to continuously rely on Him. This truth has given me so much peace because it takes my weaknesses out of my own hands. I believe we can all draw encouragement from Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12 to “boast all the more gladly” in our weakness, so our Father’s strength can be made known.

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Open Eyes

“This program has opened my eyes in more ways than one.”

– Millicent, graduate from Kiambiu center

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Millicent is a single mother of two boys. Her husband died when the children were still very young and she’s been their sole provider ever since. Millicent’s husband died of complications from Tuberculosis and less than a year after he passed, she began getting sick also. At the hospital, Millicent tested positive for HIV, which led her to assume that her husband had been positive as well.

In 2003, Millicent was involved in a car accident that caused trauma to her head. She went to the hospital for treatment, but didn’t have the money to pay for the necessary tests and prescriptions. At the time, she was working in Naivasha picking flowers for a flower farm, but she started suffering from severe headaches.

Eventually, she had to quit her job and move back to Homa Bay in western Kenya. While in Home Bay, Millicent struggled to find ways to make money to send her kids to school. She decided to move again, this time to Nairobi, to work in a new job as a house manager. She was open with the family she worked for about being HIV-positive. Unfortunately, whenever the children who lived in this home got any type of sickness, the parents would blame Millicent and her HIV status for their illness. She was let go after 6 months.

Millicent started getting desperate. She no longer had a salary to pay school fees or rent, so she moved in with her cousin’s family and began doing whatever daily work she could find. Her eyes and head were bothering her more and more; often leaving her completely debilitated. Her cousin noticed the severity of Millicent’s pain and that she often wasn’t able to sleep, so she took Millicent to the hospital for a consultation. The doctor affirmed that her injury from years ago was likely the culprit of the pain she was experiencing, but he also prescribed glasses for her, noting that her poor vision was also contributing to her headaches. Unfortunately, Millicent didn’t have the money to pay for the glasses.

Not long after this, Millicent decided to start a small business selling fruits and vegetables in a stand by the roadside. She slowly began making enough to support herself again and was able to rent a home of her own. While she was working at her stand one morning, she met Anne and Jacob, the CARE for AIDS counselors at Kiambiu center. After hearing about what they do, she confided in them that she was HIV-positive and she was invited to join the CARE for AIDS program.

Grateful for all she was learning and the counseling she was receiving from Jacob and Anne, Millicent kept quiet about her pain and eye problems. She did not want to be a burden to the people who were already helping her. Over time, however, Jacob and Anne caught on to Millicent’s terrible headaches and poor eye sight. They approached her about it and she decided to show them the papers from her hospital visit from almost a year ago. After reading the doctor’s notes, Jacob and Anne were able to send Millicent back to the doctor for another consultation. They used the medical endowment fund to purchase prescription glasses for Millicent.

Her improvement was immediate. Millicent says the CARE for AIDS program has opened her eyes in more ways than one. She learned not to be ashamed or embarrassed of her medical issues and that there are people willing to help you find the care you need. She just graduated from the program in Kiambiu and is very grateful for everything she has learned.

A total of $48 was spent on Millicent’s care. When you give to CARE for AIDS you can help support simple medical interventions like this! Learn more about how you can support our work here.

Alice and Ann

Alice and Ann are sisters. Together, they joined the CARE for AIDS program in Waithaka in 2015. Not long after enrollment, Ann had a stroke and had to drop out of the program; half of her body had been paralyzed. Her sister, Alice, unfortunately, wasn’t much better off. She struggled with an alcohol addiction and was drinking every day. She continued to participate in the CARE for AIDS program, but would often show up to the church drunk for her counseling sessions and group seminars. Alice was resistant to the Gospel at first, but slowly her heart softened. The teachings she heard at the CARE for AIDS program would stay with her and she would reflect on them for hours once she returned home. She would listen to the testimonies and transformational stories of others in the program and was encouraged that she, too, could change. Alice came to know Christ as her personal savior during her time in the CARE for AIDS program. She graduated as a very different woman than when she began the program nine months prior. “My life was completely transformed,” she says.

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Knowing how the testimonies of others had impacted her life, Alice began sharing her testimony. One of the people she shared her story with was her cousin Priscilla. After learning that her cousin was also HIV-positive, Alice encouraged Priscilla to join the CARE for AIDS program. When Priscilla joined the program at Waithaka last year, she was bedridden. While she was in the program, Priscilla came to know Christ as her personal savior. She also received medical and nutritional assistance and when she graduated in December of 2017 she was able to walk and dance with her fellow graduates in celebration.

Ann has slowly recovered from her stroke paralysis in 2015. She is fully mobile again and the only thing still affected is one of her hands, which keeps her from being able to grasp things like pens, utensils or cups. Having dropped out of the program in 2015, Ann re-enrolled in the program at Waithaka in March of this year. Since she’s not able to write, Alice joins her for all of the activities at the center to take notes for her. Alice is also relearning some of the skills alongside her sister. They hold one another accountable in taking their medication, saving their earnings, and practicing the skills they learn.

Isaac's Transformation

Isaac was born HIV positive. He never met his parents and he assumes they died of HIV-related causes when he was a baby. His two older brothers raised him and an uncle paid his way through most of school. Isaac is now 18 years old. He has not yet finished high school but is working as a cook and saving money so he can go back to finish his last two years. 

When Isaac joined the CARE for AIDS program in January this year, he was underweight and malnourished. Our staff soon found out that, because of the stigma he felt, Isaac had stopped taking his ARV medication. A few of the CARE for AIDS staff pitched in money to sponsor Isaac at a 2-week camp in Kijabe for young adults living with HIV/AIDS. Isaac was so weak at this point he could not even carry his own bag. Jude, one of the staff of Mathare center, carried his bags and accompanied him on the journey to Kijabe to drop him off for camp. 

Tragically, a large section of the Mathare community burned down in a fire soon after Isaac returned from camp. A stove exploded in one of the homes and quickly spread. Isaac’s home was one of the hundreds that burned completely to the ground. Overnight, Isaac was homeless.   

Isaac was one of three clients in the CARE for AIDS program in Mathare who had their homes destroyed in the fire. The center staff purchased a few weeks worth of supplies for each client. Isaac is pictured alongside the goods provided to him by CARE for AIDS when he received them in January.

After recovering from the shock of the fire and implementing some confidence skills he learned at camp, Isaac started his ARV treatment again and his health began to improve. He has attended each counseling session and empowerment workshop throughout the eight months he has been in the CARE for AIDS program and Jude does weekly check-ins to ensure he is adhering to his medicine. As you can tell from his most recent photo, he is gaining weight and strength again! His viral load is now undetectable and his immune system is healthy. Isaac looks forward to graduating from the program in October. 

 Isaac receiving supplies after the fire in January when he first joined the CARE for AIDS program

Isaac receiving supplies after the fire in January when he first joined the CARE for AIDS program

 Isaac in September after eight months in the CARE for AIDS program

Isaac in September after eight months in the CARE for AIDS program

Isaac's story is one of the thousands of client stories that show just how committed our center counselors are to the health and wellbeing of our clients. Your support allows our staff to live into their calling and change lives like Isaac's every day.  

Abdallah's First Bible

There are currently 600 Muslim clients in the CARE for AIDS program across Kenya and Tanzania. Many of these clients have never been exposed to the Gospel, and we are so honored to walk with them in their faith journies. Abdallah is one of our clients who recently graduated and is experiencing God in a new way because of the program. 

Abdallah Kazungu is a single father of three. He joined the CARE for AIDS program in Mtopanga, Mombasa after being referred there by the local clinic. As a dedicated Muslim, he was hesitant to participate in the spiritual counseling sessions, but he soon warmed up to the idea of connecting with the counselors and his classmates about spiritual growth. He even asked for a Bible that he could read at home with his children. 

Abdallah graduated from the CARE for AIDS program in August and has learned all of the skills necessary to care for himself.

"Through the program, I have been able to overcome fear and stigma and now live a happy, healthy, and peaceful life."