HIV/AIDS

Families for Life: Reconciling Relationships in India

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“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

It’s estimated that more than 2.1 million people in India live with HIV. Focusing on a key cause of HIV/AIDS – broken relationships – World Relief in India works with local churches to prevent the disease from spreading while also protecting and strengthening marriages. In India, pastors are challenging couples in their churches to be more than just two people who pass through life together, but to be partners in ministry to the most vulnerable in their communities.

Pastor Abraham in India
Pastor Abraham in India

“A family ministry – by a family to families is important and strategic”, said Pastor R.D. Abraham. He had taught the Families for Life course to a small group that included four married couples. He had prayed for a meeting like this to take place in his area for a long time when it finally began. During his training, Pastor Abraham was challenged to partner with his wife as he ministered to the people in his church through prayer, house visits, and sharing the gospel.

“We do not involve our wives as we should. The Lord said ‘when two of us agree together on the earth and pray, He is going to hear and answer our prayers’. But we ignore this. Two are better than one and we need to pray together and do the ministry as husband and wife together. Then we will see changes happening and fruits coming in,” Pastor Abraham said. He encourages husbands and wives to attend the meetings together, and those who come alone often decide to bring their spouse to the next meeting.

One couple traveled a long distance to attend the trainings, and now they are hoping to host similar meetings for pastors who live in his area. The lessons of the importance of teamwork in marriage are spreading through the church in India, and families are strengthened for the future.

Empower a Hero: Emily in Kenya

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Emily Seteyio is dedicated to reducing the high infant mortality rate in Kenya, and she’s going the distance to make it happen. She used to regularly walk six miles to protect just one baby from HIV. More than 1.6 million Kenyans are living with HIV, but pregnant women and their babies are especially vulnerable to the disease. Prenatal care and hospital births reduce the chances of mother-to-child transmission. But neither of those are common practice for women living in remote areas.

Because doctors and nurses are out of reach, rural women often turn to traditional birth attendants to assist them during labor. Unfortunately, many attendants don’t have the proper equipment or training to prevent HIV transmission between the mothers and infants under their care.

Emily in Kenya
Emily in Kenya

So Emily stands with the vulnerable women of Kajiado, Kenya. She empowers them with the resources they need to have safe deliveries and healthy babies – even when the mothers are HIV positive. Since 2012, she’s served as a community health worker after training from World Relief Kenya. Emily volunteered for the role because she was concerned about the mothers in remote areas who were without access to quality care.

Emily visits mothers in their homes and counsels them about the benefits of giving birth in health centers. “In the hospital, there are gloves and equipment that prevent the spread of HIV from the health caregivers to the mother and child,” Emily said.

Pastors often serve as vital links between community health workers and vulnerable mothers. Through collaboration with a local pastor, Emily was able to make sure one high-risk woman had transportation to the health facility for the birth.

But during her pregnancy, Emily would regularly walk six miles from the health facility to the woman’s remote village. Since she was HIV positive, Emily encouraged her to give birth in a health center so her baby could live free from the virus.

Eventually, the woman delivered a healthy baby boy in the health facility, despite her high-risk pregnancy. This wouldn’t have been possible without Emily’s dedication – and the support of the local church.

Check back each week in January to meet more heroes like Emily – women and men standing for justice in the most vulnerable places around the world. Join the movement at EmpowerAHero.org today!

'Tis the Season of Giving

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Every day injustice pours out of news headlines, and we’re inundated with figures that tell a story of a broken world. These statistics of war, modern-day slavery, disease and persecution can seem overwhelming. And we wonder where to even begin to address these issues. But since the Church stands on the powerful hope of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to be overwhelmed. We can take a step back and realize that those overcoming these hardships are like us, broken people created by God with purpose and potential, and then we start to understand that we can unite with them to change the world.

In this, Pastor Andy Stanley reminds us that we have the ability to, “Do for one what we wish we could do for everyone.” Building relationships that last over time and difficulty, growing fruit of lasting transformation and doing justice together are all a part of this “doing for one” love that doesn’t wear out.

When the Deeper Life Bible Church in Malawi joined the fight against HIV/AIDS, the country had one of the highest HIV rates. But they didn’t aim to develop a cure. Instead, the ministry team made a plan based on their gifts: they gave their time and their resources to care for neighbors isolated by HIV. That’s where they met Consolata, a woman suffering from both the social and physical side-effects of the disease.

“No one was concerned with my life and my condition until the ministry team heard my story,” Consolata said.

Then, her neighbors began to serve through word and deed. They fed her. They clothed her. They visited her and included her in an HIV support group. Over time, Consolata’s physical condition improved – and she put her faith in Jesus Christ.

Today, as we commemorate World AIDS Day, we can report that Consolata has joined the same team that first cared so deeply for her. Now, she’ll be the one reaching out to others who are sick and neglected – passing on the gifts she received.

So, who is your “one”? And how will you begin to stand with them this Christmas season? For more information on how you can partner with World Relief and local churches throughout the world to empower the most vulnerable, visit worldrelief.org/donate.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith.” - Galatians 6:9

(India) Pastor Daniel's Story

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This is Pastor Daniel Jayachandran, a local pastor in India. He is pictured with his wife, Amutha and their three children. In 2012, he attended World Relief’s Families for Life training and was so moved by the message of healthy marriages that he appointed a new pastor over his church and moved to an unreached area to plant new churches. He disciples other pastors and trains them using the Families for Life curriculum. These pastors often go on to reach thousands of congregation members and people living with HIV. We are proud to empower pastors like Daniel who go on to change their communities with the holistic Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"This should not happen to people"

In honor of International Women's Day, our Country Director of Indonesia, Jo Ann de Belen reflects on those close to her heart and why she wants to be part of changing the world. I once knew a leper. He was close to me. Apart from his leprosy, he was just like any one of us. A creation made in the image of God. Without touching me, he taught me music, math, and how to laugh at myself. He contracted this dreaded illness when he was a child, at a time when there was no definite cure for it.

The stigma of the illness was so great, that his own family was ashamed to tell others. And so his parents kept this dark secret to themselves while they can. The teenage boy did not enjoy what others enjoyed. He was kept inside the house, not brought to big family gatherings or to be “displayed” publicly. He wore clothes that would conceal his open lesions.

Even when he was in a crowd, he felt alone. He suffered all this by himself, not understanding what it was. His parents, perhaps not knowing what to do, just pretended to the world that he did not exist. He grew up to be an adult and married and had children and tried to live a normal life. But the world wouldn’t let him. He died a lonely man, alone in a room, visited by only a handful.

As I remember this friend with leprosy and feel his isolation and pain, I remember the people we serve in the highlands of Papua. The ones infected with AIDS. What could they be feeling? Whatever it is, it couldn’t be much different from what the leper felt. Alone, isolated, shunned.

The stigma against AIDS is so strong, the oppression against people with AIDS so overpowering, that I ask…. What can we do? How can we change all this?

This should not happen to people, God’s own creatures made after His image and likeness.

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This is why I feel so strongly about God’s children learning to love those that the world has shunned, ridiculed, thrown away, isolated.

I long to see the church in Papua embrace back those who are afflicted with AIDS, to care for the children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS, and to make sure that this disease is wiped out of Papua.

I pray that God makes this happen soon. So that no one will have to suffer, and suffer alone.

So Much Happening in Twenty-Thirteen...

by Larissa Peters, World Relief Communications Liaison I don’t know about you, but I have an especially good feeling about 2013. I admit, I keep a journal, and on the first of every year, I wonder what will fill its pages. The same is true in managing this blog – what will be the stories, reflections, and prayers that fill this year?

So many things are happening at World Relief, and so many great things we get to be a part of this year as more and more stand for the vulnerable! So I thought I would share 13 of the ones that I’m personally excited about and that others could even join:

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Immigration Reform: From publishing the book Welcoming the Stranger in 2009 to speaking at Willow Creek Church and the G92 Summit, Jenny Yang – Vice President of Advocacy & Policy  and Matt Soerens – US Church Training Specialist are truly affecting change for the immigration system. We believe this is the year for reform. Want to keep up to date on the issue? Follow Jenny and Matt on twitter at:  @JennyYangWR and @MatthewSoerens.
  2. Peace building in the Congo: Village Peace Committees are changing their communities in the DR Congo. Conflict still abounds, but the grassroots movement of the Church is transforming lives. This is something to be a part of!  Follow updates and watch our video.
  3. Our partnership with Pure Charity: if you haven’t checked this organization out and you shop online or use a credit card (which should cover most of you), click here now. Here is a creative way to raise funds: shop and the stores you shop at will give to your charity of choice. World Relief has a few projects of their own there, and you’ll find Pure Charity at the Justice Conference. I already wish I knew about them earlier – I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to online shopping.
  4.  Fighting the battle of slavery: more and more people are taking on the cause of anti-trafficking. Currently, there are 14,500 people trafficked into the US each year (this is a low estimate). But our offices in Spokane, Tampa, High Point (and even internationally in Cambodia) are fighting to prevent that number from going up. Follow World Relief’s efforts on twitter and find out how you can promote awareness through races, workshops, or advocacy.
  5.  Church Partnership: Churches around the US have partnered with World Relief with a commitment of investing in a country or program for 3 to 5 years. Building relationships with the field and giving opportunity for long-term sustainable development, partnership is about wholistic mission. More and more churches are signing on, and we are excited about the changes it is bringing! Want your church to be part of this?
  6. Catalog of Hope: This year, our Catalog of Hope has a new section: fair trade items that benefit refugees in the US, empower women in Burundi, Rwanda, and Indonesia, and provide a monster for children in the US. A monster? Yes! See what this is all about.
  7. Stand Together Project: The premise is simple: Empowering women who are heroes in their own communities around the world. Check it out here: www.standtogetherproject.org.
  8. Savings for Life: A woman in Rwanda had never held a 5000 Franc note (worth $8 USD).  For the first time in her life this year, she saved up SIX of them because of her Savings group! How much more exciting can that get? Savings for Life is making credit available to those even the microfinance institutions can’t consider.  Watch a video on what Savings group is here: www.savings-revolution.org .
  9. Reviving and strengthening marriages in India: There is a quiet and unique program in India. One that is saving marriages, helping couples to be faithful to each other, and actually preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Check out the story on India.
  10. Volunteering with refugees in the US: more and more people are asking, “What can I do?” Our US program with refugees provides tangible volunteering. I can promise you that your 2013 will be incredibly enriched by befriending a refugee and welcoming them into your home and life.
  11. Volunteering with refugees in Indonesia: you have to check this unique opportunity out:  living in Indonesia and ministering to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Sri Lanka. You can read about some of the volunteers’ experiences here: www.worldreliefindonesia.com .

12   AND 13

Tis the season for conferences! So I’ll have to just wrap them all up into the last two: Churches and organizations are stepping out and bringing awareness to issues of injustice, educating their communities on how to respond. World Relief is privileged to be a part of these conferences with other Justice advocate hall-of-famers:

My hope is that these 13 (and then some) inspire and encourage you.  And may this year be full of all that is more than we can ask or imagine!*

*Ephesians 3:20

Preventing, Not Just Treating, HIV/AIDS Must Be Our Priority

by Joanna Mayhew “The cusp of the end of AIDS.” That was theme echoed repeatedly at the International AIDS Conference last week in Washington, DC. The enthusiasm was palpable. The 23,767 participants from 183 countries represented the best minds addressing the epidemic around the world. Optimism abounded regarding the new era of using “treatment as prevention.” And it is well founded; we have much to celebrate. Recent medical advances hold much promise. The first pill that could prevent HIV in high-risk individuals was recently approved by the FDA. There is growing evidence that starting antiretroviral therapy earlier for HIV-positive individuals not only allows them to live much longer, but also makes them much less likely to pass on the virus to others. Eight million people now have access to treatment. And people with HIV are living far longer than we—than I—could have imagined.

I have been exposed to the ugliness of AIDS for a decade now. I first came face to face with it while living in Benin in 2003. I was there volunteering and writing a series of articles on the different facets of the epidemic through the stories of people living with AIDS. At that point, treatment was not widely available in many places. These individuals were being provided simply with Bactrim, an antibiotic used to treat basic infections. It was a band aid at best, given by health workers who had no better regimens to offer. And AIDS continued to take its victims without prejudice. Within three months of my leaving the country, every beautiful individual living with AIDS that I had met had passed away.

In contrast, today in the United States, if a 25-year-old individual discovers that he has HIV, the doctor is able say that with the right treatment he will likely live an additional 50 years. This represents incredible advancements. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her speech last week, “Caring brought action, and action has made an impact.”

Amid the hustle and bustle of the conference, with the long lines for Starbucks and the neatly dressed decision makers gathering in decorated halls, I couldn’t help but contrast the developments being lauded with the harsh reality of so many of the countries in which we work.

In Papua, Indonesia, the treatment-as-prevention approach simply won’t work, because even treatment for treatment’s sake isn’t available in many areas. And in numerous other countries where treatment is available, the poor have untold barriers accessing it. People are still dying, just like my friends in Benin. Last year the number was 1.7 million.

Despite our highest hopes, we will never be able to treat our way out of this epidemic. New infections continue to occur. Seventy percent of people living with HIV do not know their status.

In these contexts, we have to return to a single truth: that we must address the structures, attitudes and behaviors that allow HIV to flourish in the first place. We cannot hide behind the incredible medical toolbox we now have to support and care for those living with the disease. We have to address root causes head on. We must mend relationships. We must protect women. We must continue to educate. We must go to the most vulnerable.

Prevention happens at all levels. It happens by teenagers and adults opting for healthy sexual behaviors—such as delaying sex, remaining faithful to one partner, and using condoms. But it also happens at much more rudimentary levels. It happens by children feeling supported, by teenagers choosing good friends, by adults learning how to spot traffickers, and by community leaders uniting to address poverty.

These interventions are always going to be at a much lower cost than treatment.

Churches can be the key to mending brokenness, to keeping families healthy and whole, to stopping abuse, to promoting hygiene and health. The Church is well positioned. She is in every community—from the metropolis of DC to the conflict zone in Congo to the remote highlands of Papua.

Last year Clinton said of AIDS, “The worst plague of our lifetime brought out the best in humanity.” Can it also bring out the best of the church? To truly see the end of AIDS, I think that it must.

Joanna Mayhew is World Relief's Asia HIV/AIDS Programs Advisor

Papua: Health on the Margins of Indonesia

By Catherine Patterson, Maternal and Child Health Intern for World Relief Indonesia Today began as Saturdays usually do in the highlands of Papua, Indonesia: with children calling at the front gate with berries and flowers.

Most are barefoot, wear ill-fitting clothes and come from the surrounding villages. Today, a little girl came with a badly infected lip. We sent her home with a tube of ointment and a few Rupiah in exchange for a bright orange and red bouquet.

Another boy came with juicy raspberries and one foot wrapped in a plastic bag.  After examining his foot, it was clear that jungle rot had started to take over his big toe.  We gave him sandals, provided a few antibiotics, and purchased his berries.

Indonesia has made great strides in addressing some of its most pressing health problems.  Since 1990, the number of children who die before age 5 has been reduced by half, and Indonesia is on target to meet many of its Millennium Development Goals.

Despite these advances, however, Papua Province continues to experience health standards below those in other areas. About 30% of children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition. While nationally, 17% of people live in poverty, in Papua, it is estimated that at least 30% of residents are poor. HIV is reaching epidemic proportions here with a reported 3% prevalence rate, and the situation is made worse by a lack of testing and treatment facilities.

The remote nature of this beautiful, mountainous land exacerbates the problems faced by people living with limited access to essential medicines and care. Stigma and fear of HIV/AIDS frustrates efforts to provide prevention and care. All too often, outbreaks of violence and tribal warfare interrupt regularly scheduled programs aimed at improving the health of Papuans.

Since 2008, World Relief has been reaching some of the most vulnerable in Papua’s Tolikara and Jayawijaya districts. Through its Mobilizing for Life:  Protecting Papua program and in partnership with the local church, local staff provide outreach and education to youth, men, and women on HIV/AIDS and teach communities how to protect themselves and stop the spread of the disease.

But there is still much to be done. Less than half of all births are attended by a skilled health worker, and far too many women die in childbirth each year. Despite substantial investments by foreign donors and the Indonesian government, Papua Province is the only area of Indonesian where the Human Development Index is falling. Our church partners have requested help to reverse this trend, and World Relief is currently exploring how we might reach this area with additional life-saving health messages.

As I think about the realities of Papua, my heart is hopeful. Her people are strong, proud, and resilient. They are eager to learn so they may take control of their health and strengthen their communities.

I think of the flower children, with their big eyes and bigger smiles. It is easy to be discouraged that at times, all we can offer is some ointment or antibiotics. But I am filled with hope and the knowledge that God offers much more through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It has been my honor to stand with World Relief in Papua, Indonesia, as they seek to empower the local church to reach out to those who need health and healing in the highlands.

As World Health Day approaches on April 7, take a moment to stand with me for the health of people living in Papua and pray that God will bring healing and strength to all who need it in the mountains of Indonesia.

Photos from David Peth and Kirsten Pless

Catherine Patterson serve with World Relief as a volunteer. To learn more about World Relief Indonesia and the work happening there, click here.