Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's on the AIDS wing

It was the smell that lingered long after I had arrived home. Nothing else about the hospital visit on New Year’s Day seemed noxious but the smell, well, it was not pleasant. But I could not seem to shake it. My beloved friend had been diagnosed with AIDS long ago but her symptoms had not appeared until years later. And now she was in crisis and the doctors said it was the end. She was in her twenties when it all began, according to her mother. While she was sleeping, her mother informed me of the details.

She was in her fourth year of med school when she met him. He had not studied and instead had spent his time making money by selling things. Her mother didn’t elaborate on what those things might have been, but he was successful enough to throw money around in a big way. Her mother did not like this young man; in fact she loathed him. She told Julia she would not be allowed to see him, so the romance went underground. They became secretly engaged and Julia was convinced that sleeping with him would not be harmful since they would be married soon anyway.  Little did she know, her beloved was a carrier of the AIDS virus. Before she would find this out, the strangest thing happened. He had a stroke and had to be hospitalized. Julia would hurriedly return from her classes at the medical university to spend her nights caring for her lagging fiancĂ©e. She was devastated when he died of what she thought was a brain tumor.

She became depressed. Nothing seemed worth any effort but a friend of hers insisted that she start going to a nearby church. When Julia realized what Christ had gone through on her behalf, she gladly accepted Him into her life and her life took a turn for the better. Joy returned and she began to realize that Jesus was her beloved, the One she was looking for to fill the void in her life. She began to fast and pray and study the Word of God with a passion. Med school became a thing of the past as she spent hours with the pastor’s wife, searching the scriptures and praying for wisdom.

When she went looking for a job is when she had the unfortunate experience of learning that she was HIV positive. She could scarcely take in the words as she read the lab report. AIDS…..the dreaded leprosy of the 21st century had taken up residency in her body. AIDS, in a country like Honduras, is especially dreaded because ignorance about the disease leads to rejection and rejection to being shunned. So this young woman made a promise to herself: No one would ever know that she had been implanted with a seed of death. She would take the medication and live as normally as possible. Her dark secret would remain just that……a dark secret.

The plan worked for some time. Years went by and Julia grew strong in the Lord. She shared His Word and was used powerfully by God. Her prophetic gift was used to encourage many, giving direction and hope when hope was gone. When the doctors told me I had incurable cancer, she was one of the people who laid hands on me and proclaimed that this was “nothing” and that it would be used for His glory.

Secrets sooner or later always come out into the light. Julia had just started traveling to minister internationally when the symptoms of her secret started to unfold in her weakening body. To keep the promise she had made to herself, she told everyone that she would be taking a sabbatical from ministry to rest and to seek the Lord. She was resting but not only from ministry. Her body was slowly shutting down.

God used a friend of hers (Miriam) who was visiting Honduras to get her to the hospital. Miriam, one of the few who knew the truth, contacted her sister Elvia and together they were able to help Julia get into the AIDS wing. This wing leaves much to be desired since it’s not a high item on the federal budget. Still the warmth from the little community that had formed out of a common need made it a bit more bearable.

When Julia woke up from her nap, we spent some time reading the Bible with her. I was encouraged because despite her very emaciated and yellowish appearance, she had not lost her sense of humor. We joked about how our roles had switched. Now it was my turn to tell her “this is nothing….just a little something for God’s glory”. God led us to Luke 7:1-10 entitled The Faith of the Centurion. This prominent man had a beloved servant and he believed that Jesus could heal him by just “saying the Word” and so Jesus was amazed by the Roman officer’s faith. As we read the last two verses, it was as if they pushed themselves deep into our hearts. “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel. Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” We knew God was speaking and that His diagnosis was different from the doctor’s. We sensed that these verses would become the foundation of our actions in the days ahead.

And so we pray, and ask you to pray, for Julia. God has promised healing and so we are believing God. For we walk by faith not by sight and faith is the assurance of things unseen.

Under His healing wings,