Lessons from Project Hope 01/11/2011
By Sarah Kincaid
A few weeks ago I had the honor of visiting an HIV/AIDS project in Russia called Project Hope. This summer campers at Central Bible Leadership Institute raised over $6,000.00, with an additional $5,000.00 contributed by THQ, to support this Love In Action Project. Project Hope is managed by the St. Petersburg Corps to help support HIV+ mothers and families. Formula, food, clothing and moral and spiritual support are provided to these individuals, who come from unique and diverse backgrounds, as they are coming to terms with their HIV+ status. This visit was an important venture for our Sponsorship Program, allowing us to gather and share accurate information with our sponsors and donors.
On a personal level, I had an unexpected learning experience emerge from my time in Russia as God taught me three significant lessons.
Our money makes an impact
I've always trusted in The Salvation Army, and as I shadowed the staff of Project Hope on their home visitations, food distributions, and clinic visits I was filled with joy knowing that lives are being impacted by the donations made back in the USA. Nina, the director of Project Hope, is a quiet, humble, unassuming woman. Her life is an inspiring story of courage which involved ministry to Chechen refugee children and six months living as a hostage in a 6 foot by 6 foot pit. Considered to be an expert and the go-to person regarding HIV/AIDS within the Salvation Army in Russia, Nina is a resource to other agencies involved in HIV/AIDS support as well. Even with a permanent limp, a daily reminder of her time being held hostage, Nina carries on unconditionally loving Project Hope recipients and providing practical support to them.
HIV/AIDS is misunderstood
Though I am an individual who holds a college degree and attempts to pursue justice and love in all parts of my life, I was stunned to discover how unaware I truly was of what HIV/AIDS is and how it is perceived. I knew of the variety of ways one can become infected with HIV, but interactions with the Project Hope individuals made this disease real, gave it emotions, made it human. As I observed the Project Hope recipients (such as the family pictured above) I quickly discovered that HIV/AIDS can affect people from all walks of life. I didn't expect to see a young healthy-looking father running into the office on his lunch break to quickly talk to Nina, grab formula and rush back to work. I didn't think the little boy playing around the outside of the clinic smiling and wearing a Salvation Army hat, who happened to remind me of my perfectly healthy nephew, would be HIV+. Maybe the agencies that advertise and market to donors with pictures of HIV+ toddlers with bloated bellies and adults confined to beds are doing us a disservice. Should we only be compelled to give when the hurt is visible, or will we give and love in faith, with our eyes closed? The individuals I met all had different experiences, different stories of betrayal, innocence, mistakes, inexperience and pain.
God desires for us to love one another
Time should not be wasted with concern about how individuals contracted HIV or what these individuals look like. Our concern should be to show mercy and love to all, with our eyes closed and with our hearts open. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." Pursue restoration in God's name, and look for the lessons God has for you!