A few years ago, in South Asia, a group of people living with HIV began to gather every month for encouragement and fellowship. Though not all were following Jesus, they were drawn to Him and to those who were demonstrating Jesus’ love for them. A while later a care-centre was opened where people living with HIV could stay whilst accessing treatment at the hospital. People came from all over the country as everyone who is diagnosed HIV positive has to register at the central hospital and will often have to return there if there are complications with their treatment or health. News of God’s love spread throughout the land as demonstrated by this small team of people, most of whom were living with HIV themselves.
The team knows the reality of God’s love having had it shown to them. As part of their work, they meet and counsel new clients at the hospital, guiding them as to where to go, how to understand test results and how to live with HOPE; drying their tears and helping them understand that an HIV diagnosis is not the end. The ministry leader said that it is getting difficult as they are not supposed to talk about Jesus at the hospital but sometimes it is impossible not to, “It just bubbles up and comes out of me,” he said guiltily.
Two new support groups have started in distant regions. On a recent visit the team drove seven hours over breathtakingly beautiful mountain passes to a distant town. About 15 people travelled up to three hours to meet them there. Sitting on the floor in one person’s house, the group ate, sang, prayed and shared together from their lives. They listened with rapt attention to the story of the woman at the well. So contextually appropriate, according to an OMer, in a place where they use wells, and so many of the women have had bad marriages thrust on them without choice, but are still blamed for the negative outcomes, much like the Samaritan woman was then and still is today.
There were Hindus, a Muslim lady, Buddhists and a few freshly minted Christians, but all were either Jesus followers or on the road to being one – and a vibrant, relevant community. Some missiologists would say that this shouldn’t happen, reaching out to such a diverse group, culturally, religiously and linguistically. But all of them had a couple of things in common – they were living with HIV and had seen Christ embodied in the people who had helped them.
A sixteen year old girl translated the message for an OM team member. Going through the passage together beforehand, her eyes nearly jumped out of her head when she heard how Jesus broke all the rules for this Samaritan lady–rules of gender, rules of religion and rules of mixing with outcasts–remembered the OMer. She was so excited!
Surely if Jesus were walking the streets of this town, this is the house He would choose to visit. In reality, this is the house that He is visiting, in the form of His servants who bring His vibrant love to those in need and help them to flourish and grow into the people that Christ intends them to be.