Head of Supporter Relations Alan Kember reflects on a recent visit to Mozambique – and the Psalm that gives voice to an HIV positive woman’s cry.
Mozambique: a land of beautiful beaches and laid-back culture, according to the travel guides. But more than half of the 24 million people living here are poor. The country is overwhelmingly Christian but there are pockets of ethnic tension. And it has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.
My visit took me to Maputo, Mozambique’s capital and most densely populated city, and to a small Assemblies of God church. The pastor greeted me with a broad smile and a big hug, and introduced me to 12 women who had come to meet me. We began by singing songs of praise to God – the ladies in the local Xichangana language and me following along as best I could! It was a joy to worship alongside these women and I wondered if this was a picture of heaven, with people from every tribe, nation and language standing before God.
A preventable tragedy
But I soon learned of the sorrow behind this happy scene. All 12 women I met had HIV, passed on to them by their husbands. Most of the women were also widows; their husbands had died from AIDS-related illnesses.
The great tragedy was that this was preventable. The virus was passed on through ignorance, and the stigma prevented people from seeking treatment. It’s a downward spiral that I heard about in communities across Mozambique.
The good news is that your support has helped to bring a unique programme of ours to this church – and things are changing.
The pastor began running the Good Samaritan programme in their mid-week service. By acting out the Bible story, the people with HIV were able to see that they themselves were victims who should not be left ‘on the side of the road.’
Despite the stigma, men and women in the congregation began to open up about their infected status. “Our people are starting to support and care for those with HIV and vitally, people are getting the anti-retroviral drugs they need to survive.”
Seeing how the Bible has powerful and direct application to their lives has also made people eager to see what else it has to say.
The Bible gives hope
I met one lady, Nora, who told me her story. She knew she was HIV-positive after her husband died, but she only told her pastor after attending the Good Samaritan workshops. “At first I was in despair,” she said. “I thought my life had ended. But after attending the Good Samaritan programme I realised that God had not abandoned me, there was still hope for my life.”
“Now my heart has gone from despair to hope,” Nora said. “I have lost my husband but I still want to be a woman who serves the Lord. Before, I was nothing. Now I am a member of this church community.”
These days, Nora also helps to run the Good Samaritan programme in the area. I thank God for touching Nora’s life, for giving her new hope and purpose. And I thank you for your faithful, regular gifts which help to make this life-transforming work possible.
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