September 4, 2012

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” – 1 Peter 2: 15-16

This verse has stuck in my mind since I ran across it last week.  The idea of positive action triumphing over ignorance carries a great deal of hope, and it’s a message that I need to hear.  Working with the issue of HIV/AIDS isn’t easy – there is a great deal of ignorance involved at all levels of what we do.  In Kenya, ordinary people don’t understand how HIV is transmitted, and we try to teach as many people as possible how they can love, instead of reject, the victims who are infected with the virus.

Perhaps more personally difficult for me, though, is the ignorance I experience in America.  As I’ve written about before, HIV/AIDS is a completely different issue in Africa than it is in America.  Despite this, I constantly encounter people who connect it exclusively with homosexuality, with irresponsible decisions, or with the embrace of sinful activities.  They don’t know or choose to ignore the innocent wives and children, the victims of abuse and archaic healthcare, that actually form the face of the AIDS crisis in Kenya.

I know these people by name, and it’s incredibly hurtful when Americans dismissively write off the victims of the AIDS crisis as sinners, fools, or rampant fornicators who are just getting what they deserve.  Some people here will come right out and say those things to us, and others show their bias through their actions.  I’m frustrated when people won’t give because we advise an HIV+ husband to use a condom to protect his wife from infection, or because HIV/AIDS is an issue with too much social and political baggage.

That’s why this verse gives me hope, though.  I believe in the transformation and the eternal results of our work in Kenya, and I can hold fast to the promise that this “good” will eventually win out over the ignorance that we experience.  We all face the challenge of evaluating value not by the reactions of other people, but by the calling of God, and I’m encouraged in this by Peter’s words.

Especially now, as I prepare to get on a flight for 3 weeks in Kenya, I’m excited about the chance to help more people understand what the AIDS crisis really means.  Over the next few weeks, I have the privilege of introducing 20 Americans to our work in Kenya firsthand, and I know that they will never be the same.  It’s exciting to look forward to their return to the US as ambassadors for the innocent, advocates for the broken and poor.  Please pray for me and each of these teams over the next few weeks – pray that the “good” we do will bring a bit more truth to both sides of the Atlantic!