Today is World AIDS Day. I am not sure how many people know that. It is a topic that is not really talked about anymore. Even the news barely mentions it. You would hope it is because HIV/AIDS has been cured or that very few people have it. Surely it is because no one dies from it anymore, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the last 3 months, I have lost two friends to AIDS. Both were women, one in her thirties and one in her forties. One left behind a six year old son who is now orphaned by AIDS. His father died from it 5 years ago. These precious women had very different stories, but both had tremendous faith and courage. I have many friends living with HIV and they are truly some of the bravest people I know.
You would think the number of cases of those living with HIV has gone down since we don’t hear about it, but the number has not gone down. It continues to rise. Worldwide, there are 40 million people living with the disease. There are about 1.2 million cases in the United States. In a study done last year, Jacksonville was shown to be number three in the top 25 cities of HIV cases in the United States. Jacksonville has more cases than New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago. And these are just the known cases. There are a lot of people walking around without knowing their status.
The above information might disturb you some, but to me, what is more alarming is how the stigma has remained after all these years. People still remain very secretive about their HIV status, living in fear of who may or may not find out. People are still rejected by churches, friends and family because they are HIV positive. People would rather say they have cancer than to admit they are HIV positive.
In the last six years, I have learned so much about this disease. I have been blessed to meet modern day heroes fighting this battle, spreading awareness and more importantly the love of Jesus. A lot of them do this all while fighting the disease themselves. They know firsthand the struggles that come with the medications, the stigma and the fear. I really do feel blessed to be a part of this ministry. It can definitely be discouraging, though. I have felt much disappointment, confusion and even anger. More importantly, though, I am learning to trust. I have seen God move in amazing and beautiful ways. He is teaching me that sometimes the harder it is, the more important it is. If I invite 100 to come and only one shows up, that one matters!! I am learning to never give up. John Gardener said “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” This is how I see AIDS. It is an opportunity from God for the church to be the church, to show up when no one else will. It is quite beautiful if you think about it. As you pray, please keep the AIDS community locally and worldwide in mind. Pray for those living with it, for those searching for a cure for it and for those in ministries here and around the world. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for being a part of this ministry in one way or another. I love you all so much.
PS- Don’t forget to wear red today. Spread the word.
Bruce Sonnenberg and Dan Wooding at the World AIDS Conference in Mexico City
Well, it’s that time of the year again!
I don’t mean my birthday, I don’t mean Thanksgiving, and I sure don’t mean Christmas. No, it’s that time of the year again where people around the world take a day and think about- AIDS! Well at least they used too. December 1st is World AIDS Day and it now tends to be just a little “bump-in-the-road” of life for most Americans. But really, who cares?
Yes, there are 34 million people living with HIV and AIDS in every country of the world, most of them very poor like Annette in Uganda or Valery in the Congo DR and yes, they live on less than $1 a day which means food is scarce and resources limited, and yes, only about 16 percent receive or ever will receive the AIDS life-giving medications, but who cares? Who cares that they still cost $ 3,000 a month?
Children fending for themselves: African AIDS orphans have no parents and, no matter how young they are, they have only each other … the older children struggle to serve as “parents” and breadwinners for their younger brothers and sisters
I know that there are 16 million AIDS orphans in the world today like Mark, and Florence and Abigail and Emmanuel, but what can I do about that? And besides, really, who cares? Why doesn’t their own country take care of them? Didn’t they do this to themselves? Well no, but who cares? Isn’t this God’s judgment on all of those sinners? Of course not! Is breast cancer God’s judgment on “women” sinners and prostate cancer God’s judgment on “men” who sin? Don’t be silly but… who really, let’s be honest, who cares?
On December 1st people around the world facing HIV/AIDS, people being kicked out of their churches for being HIV+, children with no parents, will be asking “Will someone help us?” But who cares?
And so do we at He Intends Victory! We really care and have been caring since 1990 and will continue to care with YOUR help. Since World AIDS Day last year, we have cared for 68,484 people living with HIV in 20 countries around the world. So if you really care and would like to help us bless those facing HIV/AIDS around the world, contact us at: PO Box 399, Irvine, CA 92650, USA, or by phone at: 1-800-HIV-HOPE. Our website is: www.HeIntendsVictory.com where you can get a free copy of Dan Wooding’s book, “He Intends Victory.”Read More
Bruce Sonnenberg of He Intends Victory shares with you the basics to HIV/AIDS.Read More
Our trip to Fort Portal in western Uganda was long, one of many long days of bus rides as we wound our way all the way from Kenya to Uganda, almost to the border with the Congo. But we had one very exciting stop to make before we settled in for the night. We went to our new He Intends Victory offices in Ft. Portal, where Mama Lovey Kisembo is our local director. Mama Lovey and her husband Benezeri are Anglicans and Benezeri is the retired bishop of their district, Ruwenzori.
We unloaded blankets, water barrels, mosquito nets and other donations and stored them in the He Intends Victory office.
While there, we had the honor of giving away the goats that had been donated by people in the USA. The goats are a major source of financial and physical sustenance for people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s always fun hearing all the goats bleating and seeing them running around. We had a record number of goats this year, all together I believe it was around 40 or 50.
When we were in the bus on our way to Fort Portal, all I kept hearing about from my fellow travelers was how excited they were to be going to the Ruwenzori View Guest House. They had stayed there before and were very impressed. But when we arrived at the Guest House anticipating a nice meal, a shower and some rest, well, this was not to be. Somehow there was a mistake in the booking and we couldn’t stay there. Instead, we went to a poorly managed hotel where it took over 2 hours to get an unappetizing dinner. My roommate and I never got a toilet seat for the two days we were there. But we “offer it up” to the Lord and go on. This is Africa.
The next day took us on outreaches to several very rural villages in the hills of the Ruwenzori region. It is an area of unspoiled nature with villages hidden amidst the trees. There we visited Mama Lovey and Bishop Benezeri in their home and toured their new chicken coop and met their chickens. Mama Lovey will be teaching our support group members how to take care of chickens and use them for breeding instead of eating them right away. They will then be able to start businesses selling eggs.
We also toured the new Leon Holmstrom School for young children, from pre-school age to early elementary school. It is a cute log cabin school built by donations from a memorial fund for Leon Holmstrom, whose widow and son were there for the inauguration ceremony to launch the school. Marge Holmstrom is the mother of Jennifer Veary, one of our associates who is HIV positive, and the family is very supportive of AIDS causes. There were many tears as she and her son, Murry, toured the lovely little school for about 50 to 60 children that had been made possible by her husband’s memorial fund. They were thrilled to see the beautiful learning environment that these children had.
Next door to the school is an Anglican church called St. Paul’s. We were able to meet the pastor and go inside. It is a very, very humble room (see picture at right), with wooden benches, a small wooden altar table, a mud floor and tin roof. As you can see in the picture, their musical instruments were two African drums. This little church was a reminder that we can worship God anywhere and that He comes to meet us whenever and wherever we seek Him. I hope that we at Holy Spirit Anglican might decide to become a sister church with St. Paul’s in the future and maybe provide some resources for special projects and needs.
After that we completed our last outreaches of the trip where we were received with much joy.
We then went for two days of rest and recuperation and stayed at the Mweya Lodge overlooking Lake Edward in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. We were spoiled with good food, swimming, rest, some noisy “Phase 10” games and much wonderful fellowship. We had grown to be a close team and the thought of separating in just a couple of days was bittersweet.
A drive in the National Park is a great experience and we saw elephants, warthogs, African crowned cranes, a lion, eagles, and many types of deer and antelopes. It was a real feast of God’s creation. We also were able to go on a boat ride in the Kazinga Channel where we saw hippos, Cape buffalo, crocodiles, more elephants and countless varieties of water fowl. I kept marveling at the amazing creation of God.
After two days of flying, we arrived at LAX. We went through customs and after that, many ran to catch their planes or meet their loved ones. All of a sudden, we were back in the mix and everybody was scattered! What a shock! I wasn’t able to say good bye to everybody because they went in so many directions, and I hated to leave my comrades of two and a half weeks.
I called Galen the minute our plane landed and when he answered, I excitedly said, “I’m here!” He said, “What?, today?, I thought you were coming tomorrow, I’m in San Diego.” The wind went out of my sails as I realized that I wouldn’t see him when I got out of the airport. I was so anxious to see him after 17 days away. He had gotten the wrong date because he had looked at an incorrect version of our itinerary and he thought I would be gone one more day. Sigh?! So, fortunately some of our group members were taking a shuttle to OC and I was finally reunited with Galen there. It was great to be home!
I thank God for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people all over Uganda and Kenya, and for the many He Intends Victory workers and volunteers who make such a difference in people’s lives as they share the hope of Jesus. I am grateful for my church family at Holy Spirit for all their support and prayers.