Today is World’s AIDs Day — a day set aside specifically to raise awareness and support for the 33 million people living, and dying, with it. It’s a disease that is literally tearing through the developing world at an alarming rate and it’s one that we don’t yet have an affordable, easily reproduced and highly available cure for yet. In 2007, it was reported that 5.7 million people in South Africa had HIV/AIDs; 22.4 million have it in all of sub-saharan Africa. To add, several million more are being infected yearly and more than 14 million kids are orphaned because of it.
Hopefully those stats are humbling enough to make you want to do something. Truthfully, there’s so much that needs doing; Education, medical research and care, funding and raising awareness here are just a few of the things we can play a part in. It’s not a situation that bares no hope regardless of how dire it may seem. Research is advancing — there are groups that seem to be ever closer to a vaccine and just this past May it was reported that a German group actually successfully cured AIDs in a stem cell transplant procedure; the patient has now been HIV free for 2 years. An end is in site.
And until that end — a highly available cure and/or vaccine — is fully seen, I can take some hope knowing I serve a GOD bigger than any disease, no matter how scary it may seem. One of the most moving stories of Juli and I’s time in Cape Town this past May was meeting Angela, an 18 year old woman lying on her death bed in Masi. She had AIDs and was dying of TB; hospice had sent her home, not giving her much time at all. When we first met her, she couldn’t move or doing anything for herself. We told her about a man, GOD’s son, who loved her so much and was here for her now and always. We told her about HIS kingdom and how it differs from ours (which is broken by sin and decay and death). And we cried out to GOD there with her.
It’s still amazing to me how GOD heals and comforts and restores those that come to Him. I see this throughout the Gospels especially, as Jesus walked through life. It’s not always how I expect it and it’s not always how I might want it but above all of this and my limited expectations God is now and always faithful. That hasn’t, and won’t ever, change.
Anyways, back to Angela. Many in our rather large group got to see and meet her throughout our trip. She had such a hunger for Jesus. And an amazing thing was happening — by the end of the trip she was easily talking and she could feed and bathe and clothe herself and even briefly make it out of bed. She was supposed to be getting weaker and weaker until she died and here she was getting stronger.
We left after two weeks but left her in the hands of the long term missionaries to continue discipling her. About a month after we had left, some of the long termers visited her and after hearing complaints of pain, took her to the hospital. She was tested and after some time the doctor came back and said, “I know why you are having this pain. The medication is so harsh and is treating something you don’t have and is causing it. In your x-rays and blood work you show know signs of TB! I don’t understand it but there it is.”
She and the long termers and us when the told us celebrated our GOD’s strength and compassion — He’d taken away this young woman’s disease and healed her at least of that. Several months later the doctors called her back in for another test as they just couldn’t believe the results. They showed the same thing — no TB. She was baptized rejoicing the day, knowing hope that sees Jesus’ kingdom breaking through here and now and knowing how it changed her (not just the healing) and how it can change others.
It will be a wonderful day when we all have vaccines and cures and successful treatments for blights such as AIDs. But more than that though I have hope knowing that there is kingdom where none of these blights even exist and it breaks through occasionally into our broken kingdom and it is bringing with it hope and change through the redemptive power of Jesus.