In Awe. This would be the way I would describe my reaction to my recent experience of attending a center launch in Kenya. You see, many of the new clients who showed up to the program launch didn’t know what to expect. Most had been cast out from their families and their communities and were now turning to the church for hope. This was their first step toward hope for a future and the look on their faces will be forever one of my favorite memories from my trip.
We attended the center launch in the community of Sinai, most famous for a tragic community wide fire caused by an oil spill in 2011. When I learned this was on our itinerary, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to meet our clients on their first day of the program. With African worship music filling the air, the clients filed through the open doors into the sanctuary. Some came alone and some came in groups, but regardless of how they arrived our staff welcomed them with so much love. Although the program was held in the client’s native tongue, I was able to follow along merely by witnessing the reactions from the audience. I also had the joy of holding one of the new client’s infants during the session and I could see the surprise and disbelief in her eyes when I offered to help. This is when it became a reality for me - these people have been doing life alone, without the love of their families, communities, and many without the love of their heavenly father.
It was such a privilege to see the CARE for AIDS team interact with these new clients and begin to give them their dignity back. The hope and joy that filled their eyes by the end of the day was so encouraging. The loving spirit of Jesus and unwavering support of the CARE for AIDS staff was so beautifully shown during this time together. I was so inspired by the staff and so thankful that they work every day to be the Lord’s hands and feet for our clients from start to finish by sharing the gospel, walking beside, and empowering them to live longer and stronger to raise their children.
The CARE for AIDS staff, partner churches, and these communities walk beside these HIV+ parents from launch to graduation just as Jesus walks with us from start to finish. Frederick Buchner writes, “The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I believe this to be true and I am thankful that my deepest gladness is in seeing the first glimpse of hope in these parents who are the most marginalized in this society - parents living with HIV.