"Would you serve as our main Bible teacher at our family Bible camp for HIV positive friends?" asked my friend. He and his wife lead a faith based care center for people living with HIV/AIDS.
I wanted to speak at their camp but felt overwhelmed by the request. What do I know about the experience of families living with HIV in low-income neighborhoods; the brokenness, the stigma, the shame, the poverty, the fear of increasing illness, the certainty of death?
"How about I attend your camp as a friend and a learner," I suggested. My friend agreed. On the first day of camp, I walked into a small brick chapel full of families living with HIV. They were followers of Jesus or interested in the Lord's good news, and they were singing praises to God.
We began each morning by meeting in what we called "family prayer groups." I was assigned to a group made up of two couples and their children. I asked open questions and listened. One of the fathers shared his story.
"God used HIV in my life to draw me close to him," the father said. "I was introduced to the Bible in school and wasn't interested. After I got sick with HIV and came to the Christian care center, I began reading God's Word and realized my wrong path." He thanks God for bringing him to Jesus by getting sick with HIV.
Another young man living with HIV bursts with passion to share the good news of Jesus. "When I tested HIV positive, I knew I was dying without a savior," he said. "Now I want to tell everyone I can about the good news of Jesus while I'm still alive." Even on the train ride to the camp, he questioned the young men sitting around him about their gods and told them the salvation story of Jesus.
We concluded the Bible camp with the Lord's Supper. We read a Psalm, and I shared about God's loving kindness to us in our creation, redemption, and new creation. A shared cup was passed to remember the blood of Jesus that purifies us from all sin and is a pledge for a future heaven and earth in which there will be no more sickness or death. I felt scared to drink from the same cup as my brothers and sisters living with HIV. So I watched my friend, who has worked with people living and dying with HIV for more than ten years. He shared their cup. And then I did too.
-Written by a missionary in South Asia