Jesus’ hands and feet to those affected by HIV and AIDS

International | Deborah Ngobeni, with Janet Weber

AIDS Hope - AfterschoolKatlego, a young South African, lives with HIV. Far smaller than anyone in her class, she tired easily and struggled in school. Her mother also suffered from HIV and struggled to find work. In 2014, Katlego started attending OM’s Meetse a Bophelo centre in Mamelodi Township, near Pretoria. Workers have seen many changes in Katlego over the last two years. She has gained weight, and now lights up the room with her smile and sense of humour. She has a positive attitude toward school and asks for help if she struggles with homework. 

An estimated seven million South Africans live with HIV, and over two million children have been orphaned as a result [1]. In 2005, OM began AIDS Hope which reaches out to churches, schools and communities with a preventative message about HIV and AIDS, appealing to groups to care for those affected. In 2009, Nico and Alma Leonard started Meetse a Bophelo (Fountain of Life) as a safe environment for the local community. Children affected by HIV, like Katlego, take part in afternoon programmes and are provided a balanced meal, vitamins and a nutrient-rich milkshake every day.

The children also learn about Jesus and how to share their faith. Recently, they went to the surrounding neighbourhood for a simple outreach. They split into small groups, accompanied by a teacher, and were given a list of things they could do, such as thank a police officer, pray with someone or share their faith.

One woman they met said, “I will sleep with peace in my heart tonight because I have heard the Word of God and am encouraged.” Some asked what the children wanted in return and were shocked by the response, “We don’t want anything. We love God and want you to see God’s love and love Him too.”

In April 2016, Katlego’s mother passed away. The AIDS Hope team surrounded Katlego with love and care, offering support to her family.

Restoring lost hope

According to UNAIDS, 36.7 million people worldwide are HIV positive, and HIV and AIDS affect millions more friends, relatives and children devastated by the illness or death of a loved one. AIDS Hope in South Africa is one of many OM ministries making a difference in such lives. OM partners with AIDSLink International to holistically prevent the disease, as well as restore the lives of individuals and communities.

“Jesus showed a bias towards those who were suffering—society's outcasts,” says Rosemary Hack, director of AIDSLink International, who became passionate about reaching out to those living with HIV and AIDS when she saw the huge need for people of faith to get involved. “For believers, it is a great opportunity to be Jesus to them. We can impart hope—something that people living with HIV have often lost.”

Nineteen years ago, David and Judy Schmidt’s domestic worker, Alice, became sick. A hospital confirmed she was HIV positive and in the AIDS stage of the disease. Judy spent many hours by Alice’s bedside, nursing and feeding her until she passed away. This experience led them to begin a ministry to people living with HIV, in memory of Alice.

Started in 2003, Alto Refugio in Asunción, Paraguay, became a well-respected drop-in centre for HIV patients. Now the couple ministers with OM in Ciudad del Este, a city in the tri-border area where Paraguay meets Brazil and Argentina, known for being a hub of the sex-trafficking industry.

In partnership with AIDSLink International, the Schmidts work with the local hospital’s HIV department to provide social and spiritual care for patients. “People living with HIV may be able to access medical help—though not all can—but often the hospitals tell us that they can’t give the psycho/social/spiritual help that is needed and rely on us to do that,” said Rosemary.

Recently, the director of the local hospital asked David to meet a young man just diagnosed. “I saw him crying, with his mother at his side,” said David. After being introduced, the young man told them of his dream to study psychology, “but he had given up all hope for the future,” recalled David. “We invited him to the support group meeting.”

David asked if he could pray with them. “I soon noticed that my young friend was following me in prayer, with tears running down his face,” said David. “As I Ied him in a prayer of repentance and receiving Jesus as Saviour and Lord, he repeated the prayer with conviction.”

For a while, the couple lost contact until David saw him at the hospital again. “His condition had deteriorated; he was thin and very weak, and had sores all over his face. I prayed with him for the Lord's healing touch.”

Offering rest to him and his mother in their home, Judy encouraged him to trust Jesus with his life. Not long after, he passed away.

This man’s and Katlego’s story are two in a million. Though these situation are fraught with difficulty, OM workers know that God’s ultimate plan is good, and they continue to bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ.

Deborah Ngobeni, from South Africa, has a diploma in media studies and journalism. Passionate about communications, she has served with OM for over six years and currently works in the communications department of OM in South Africa. The 27-year-old speaks five languages.

Credit: Deborah Ngobeni, with Janet Weber
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