Its a privilege for me to minister to people living with AIDS and people dying with AIDS. The words of the pastor are a breath of fresh air in a country where the stigma of AIDS still lies heavy on the land. He is one of a group of Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic, Adventist and Baptist clergy, school officials and teachers joining forces to heal people livings with HIV and AIDS. Lutheran World Relief is facilitating the birth of the unusual new community alliance in Kisii, Kenya.
The pastor, an Adventist, tells of a young woman who contracted HIV in the big city and came back to her village to die of AIDS. She had asked him if God would forgive her. His assurance of Gods love and grace had helped her find peace despite her illness. She even found courage to do what few like her in western Kenya had done before. She would let the community know of her disease.
She agreed that her true story be told at her funeral and even helped the pastor write the sermon he would give on that day.
The response of those who gathered was overwhelming, said Kathryn Wolford, president of LWR, after a visit to Kisii this month. A woman who came home to die as an outcast, had opened the hearts of her community instead.
Her family had already accepted her and her condition. Now community attitudes began to change as well. The orphans she left behind were not kicked out.
Other pastors really began to understand what had happened too, Wolford said. The group of pastors, principals and teachers are now working more and more effectively with their congregations and schools to overcome the stigma of AIDS and to offer community care for people ill with AIDS and for AIDS orphans too.
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