If You Love One Another

July 20, 2015

The stories of success in our program are as different, varied, and numerous as our clients. Our model is holistic and attempts to affect every aspect of the lives of the men and women who come into our program so they can be equipped to raise and educate their children. Some clients benefit greatly from all the aspects of our empowerment program – that’s health, psycho-social, spiritual, and economic empowerment. Some, have a greater need in one of these areas. All of our clients are doing the best they can, and we often see that with the help of the skills and empowerment we help them find, they are able to succeed in whatever area of their life in which they were feeling hopeless. When Habiba came to us in 2014, she was a single, working mother of two and was doing the best she could, but she was feeling hopeless and, in her words, “so stressed up and depressed”. Something was missing from her life.

Habiba was raised in a muslim family. At the age of 17, she was given in marriage to a muslim man in her community. Habiba gave birth to two children, her husband was good, and she felt like everything in her life was going the way it was expected to in her community. She was happy. After several years of marriage, though, Habiba’s husband started to change. She didn’t know at the time what caused it, but he started drinking, and became abusive. She started hearing rumors that he was being unfaithful to her. They fought a lot during this period, and in the heat of an argument she would ask what changed that made him start behaving like this. He would always reply,“You’ll realize when it’s too late.” Only later did she realize what this meant: he found out he was HIV-positive and knew that he had most likely infected her.

After a few years of enduring abuse and not knowing the full story, Habiba followed the advice of an elderly woman in her neighborhood and moved back in with her parents. Her mom was unhappy to see her daughter “fail” as a wife, and was verbally abusive to her. Habiba started feeling like a failure and did not know what her future looked like, and was always concerned with what her children would do. She became depressed and started to fall ill frequently. She kept visiting the elderly woman in her neighborhood and talking with her about everything. One thing stuck with her: what did it mean when her husband said, “You’ll realize when it’s too late.” The elderly woman began to guess what it meant, and encouraged Habiba to get tested for HIV.

When her test came back positive, Habiba was devastated. Knowing that her mother already saw her as a failure, she did not want to tell her about this new development. Habiba went to the elderly woman in her community to ask for advice again. The woman helped Habiba rent a room, and even gave her a mattress and some food to get her started with her children. Habiba found work as a security guard and was mostly doing ok economically. She was able to pay school fees for her children, but she would struggle to pay rent most months. Her biggest concern was an empty feeling in her. She didn’t feel loved. She felt alone, and isolated.

June 4th, 2015, Habiba graduated from the CARE for AIDS program at Nanga Baptist in Kisumu. She asked Dan and Lillian – our center staff – if she could share her story during the graduation ceremony. She wanted to share with everyone what she found in the program – Love, Hope, Faith and Redemption through a saving knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

In addition to this change in her life, Habiba was encouraged by Dan and Lillian to reconcile with her mother. During this process, she discovered that her mom was also HIV-positive. This mutual discovery has led to a more supportive relationship with her mom. Habiba found a new job at a supermarket and is feeling more stable in her finances. Habiba also recently re-married an HIV-positive man who attends church regularly with her and her two HIV-negative children.

A few weeks ago, I was able to sit down with Habiba and Geoffrey (our Regional Coordinator in Kisumu). I wanted to hear from her what happened. The following is what she shared with me:

“It seemed like everything was against me. It started with my husband. My mom was hard on me. My community rejected me. I was struggling to pay rent, and my landlord was pressuring me to have sex with him – that was something I could never do, especially knowing my status. I felt alone and depressed. No one in my community or family seemed to care what was happening to me. Then, Dan and Lillian came. They kept coming to visit me. No one ever visited me. They would pray with me and ask me how I was doing. Dan and Lillian showed me love.”

After she said this, Habiba bowed her head, and put a hand over her face. Only when I noticed her quivering shoulders did I realized she was crying. Geoffrey handed her a tissue and asked if she was OK. Habiba collected herself, wiped her eyes with the tissue, and said, “I can’t help it. I cry whenever I think about what God has done for me.”

Our model proves to be successful in many ways. The holistic approach and the partnership with churches are both powerful, but what makes our model so successful are the center staff who interact daily with our clients and show them love.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13: 34-35