Monday, December 01, 2008
Let It Break Your Heart
Several years ago I attended a leadership conference. Among the topics discussed was the topic of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. I was unprepared for how that information would impact me. I was a "child of the 80's," as well as a product of a conservative, evangelical church, so the mere mention of "that disease" made me not only think negatively about that particular virus, but also what I believed caused it.
I had no idea.
As I listened, my heart was softened. Horrified. Transformed.
So, I did the only thing I knew to do: I bought a book. It was a small, easy-to-read book entitled The Skeptic's Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis, by Dale Hanson Bourke. That book changed how I thought about this once "taboo" topic. Wow. Part of what drew me to that particular book was how I could relate to the author's words in her introduction:
"I am not an AIDS expert. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am an ordinary woman who had heard enough about AIDS to know it was a big problem, but not enough to worry about it. I had the good old American belief that if I really needed to know something about AIDS, I'd get an official notice in the mail or the newspapers would carry big headlines."
"...Like many people, I had become a skeptic about AIDS. The panic in the US in the early 1990's had given way to moderation and the understanding that people with AIDS were not a serious threat to me or my children. And besides, Magic Johnson was alive and well, wasn't he? Maybe it had just been a passing phase."
"But unlike most people, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa and Asia. There I was confronted with the irrefutable evidence that I- and many people like me- was missing something."
Yes, obviously I, too, had been missing something. And God, in His grace, was making sure that was no longer the case. So, I spent some days that summer- by the pool in my comfortable upper-middle-class suburb- reading that book and a couple of others that discussed this most uncomfortable topic. Finally, I felt more than just "sad" for those who are being effected by it. I felt like God was saying to me, "So? What are you going to do about it?"
To which, I replied, "What can I do? I have no medical experience, the mission trips I go on aren't primarily involved in this area. I don't have a lot of money to give. I'm just a stay-at-home, homeschooling, middle class suburban mom. What would You have me do, Lord?"
Little did I know that at that very moment, events were taking place across the world that would one day very much involve me. Me. A stay-at-home, homeschooling, middle class suburban mom. The faces of some of those children I'd seen in videos would one day become the precious face I saw just this morning at my breakfast table. It simply astounds me what God will do when we honestly say to Him, "What would You have me do?"
In the years between that summer and now, there have been (and continue to be) very real opportunities to pray and to give through organizations like Compassion International, World Vision, and the non-profit that my husband helped to start (email me if you'd like a link.) There is much to be done, and a way for all of us to be involved.
"AIDS is the leprosy of our time. Just as society shunned lepers 2,000 years ago, today we shun those with HIV/AIDS. We fear the disease and look down on those afflicted. The Church has remained silent for far too long on this issue. If we are going to call ourselves Christians, taking on the name of Christ, we must strive to be more like Him. Jesus didn't avoid lepers-- he embraced and healed them. In the same way, we must embrace and heal those with HIV/AIDS with compassionate hearts. We must educate everyone within reach, and seize the opportunity to be part of the solution." -- Dr. Wess Stafford, President, Compassion International
I truly believe that one day we as a church - the Body of Christ- will stand before the Lord and have to answer for our stewardship of the biggest public health problem the world has ever faced. I didn't want to stand before Him and simply reply that I cried once during a video and read a book by the pool.
Today is World AIDS Day. A day I once cared very little about, a topic to which I once gave only a passing nod. I am so glad I allowed God to break my heart that summer. As a result, I (and my family) will never be the same.