How our NewSpring family is embracing African families living with HIV/AIDS

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The overflow of your generosity is saving lives and offering hope halfway across the world.

Our church demonstrated a kingdom mentality by giving $362,500 to CARE for AIDS in 2017. That combines $287,500 from the Overflow Offering and $75,000 from a share of NewSpring's giving to non-profit organizations, churches, and ministries advancing the kingdom.

CARE for AIDS works with 48 local churches in Kenya and Tanzania to provide hope to families with HIV/AIDS. The organization offers practical support through such things as medical care and job training and shares the Gospel of Jesus.

Shane Duffey, Pastor of Ministries, recently hosted a conversation at NewSpring with the three founders of CARE for AIDS: Executive Director Justin Miller and Country Directors Cornel Onyango and Duncan Kimani.

Press the play button to watch the Q&A or read the edited transcript of the video conversation below.

A Current Crisis

Shane Duffey: Is AIDS really still that big a deal? It feels like something that went away here in America a few years ago. We don't hear it talked about a whole lot.

Duncan Kimani: Yes it is … We are having 100,000 new infections every year in our country [Kenya], and 50,000 people are dying every year. … In Kenya and Tanzania, we have about 3 million people who are already infected .... So we are having tens of thousands of children who are orphaned by this crisis.

Not only that, but there is a lot of stigma that comes with HIV…. These people are isolated, and they're left with not much options and this pressure with the poverty and the disease and lack of community, where people are not coming around them to work with them, to support them.

... As the church every day, we're left to wonder, “Is this what it means as Jesus followers when we're watching these people as they suffer and die of a disease that can be prevented?” There's no cure for HIV, but much can be done, and especially by the church, if we continue loving and caring for those people.

A Personal Stake

Shane Duffey: Cornel, I know this is especially a personal thing for you. Tell us a little bit about why?

Cornel Onyango: Thirteen years ago, my mom called me … She had been sick for over one month, and she was very, very, tiny and skinny ... we were just counting the days or hours for her to go be with Jesus … she called me just to confess to me, “I am dying of HIV AIDS. Kindly take care of your brothers and sisters while I'm gone.”

Because my father was extremely alcoholic, my mom was taking care of us, and she's handing over this responsibility to me as the firstborn in our culture. So that was a shock to me. … I moved in quickly to help my mother, and I started helping my mother to get medication, and within a short time, started providing for her nutrition, and praying with her, and supporting her, and also helping her to start a business in the market.

My mother today, as we speak, is doing well. She's still alive 13 years later. She's doing extremely well … We still have things like opportunistic infections that we have to walk alongside her even today.

We help people overcome that feeling that this is a death sentence both physically and spiritually. — Justin Miller

Even if we have cure today, we’ll still have like 30, 40 years to still care for these people living with HIV. My brothers and sisters would have been orphaned if she died. And nobody would have been able to take care of them, so there must be a group or a team of people who are taking care of people living with HIV and AIDS.

People have moved on thinking HIV is gone. I don't think so … we still need new people to be around and help with these people because of the stigma and the desperation that is around HIV in our country.

Churches at the Forefront

Shane Duffey: Tell us a little bit about CARE For Aids and how it came about, and the vision for it?

Justin Miller: We exist for one very simple purpose, and that's to empower people to live a life beyond AIDS. And that's a physical life; that's also an eternal life. And when people contract HIV in Kenya, they believe that's the end of really a meaningful life. That comes in social isolation, rejection, unemployment, and many believe it ends in a spiritual death for them. So we believe that we needed to create an organization that could help people overcome that feeling that this is a death sentence both physically and spiritually.

So 10 years ago, we launched this organization, and we now have the opportunity to operate 48 centers in local churches throughout Kenya and Tanzania, and these churches have been transformed into a place where people with HIV can come and receive healing physically, spiritually, emotionally, economically, and socially.

This is exactly what Christ would do. — Duncan Kimani

And over the past 10 years, we've had the privilege to serve 10,000 families who have come through our program; over 2,500 of them have made first-time decisions to follow Christ, which is really what it's all about. And those families represent over 30,000 children who would have been at a very high risk of being orphaned had it not been for the local church in their community that was intervening in their parents' lives.

A People on the Margins

Shane Duffey: How have you guys been able to grow that much over the last 10 years?

Justin Miller: These guys [Cornell and Duncan] were the people working in the centers. They were providing the services. They were providing the counseling. Over the past 10 years, we've only grown because people have been generous to support us. Churches individuals have said, we have not forgotten about this issue. We believe that this is a group of people that is really near to God's heart because they're on the margins of society, and we want to be a part of reaching them.”

NewSpring was one of those partners, and you guys have had blessed us this year [2017] with an amazing gift that has really propelled our ministry forward. The amount that you gave is the equivalent of putting 250 more families through our 9-month program — representing about 750 children of those families — who now will not become orphans because of your investment in the lives of their parents.

The Role of the Church

Shane Duffey: Where did the decision come up to actually partner with churches?

Duncan Kimani: Well, let me say as a follower of Christ and people who strongly believe in the community and the call that Christ has called us into, we strongly believe this is the work that needs to be taken over by the local church and not the governmental institutions.

And therefore, we felt it upon ourselves that this is exactly what Christ would do  — what the church needs to do — and we've found no other better way of doing it apart from engaging the church into the fight against stigma, discrimination, and poverty that affects God’s people.

Through this, like Justin said, we've seen lives eternal; people who've gotten to see Christ in a different way. As we serve every day, we see people are asking questions every day like, “Why do you get to do this?” And that's when you get to point them to Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus would do, and that has been the best part of this call.

The Hope of Jesus

Cornell Onyango: Bill Hybels [Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church] once said, “A church is the hope of the world,” and that's the reason why we exist, and I'm just following up with that.

In our country, Kenya, if you say, “We are CARE for AIDS organization, and governmental, and this is our offices, come, we can we take care of you,” and they know we are all Christians as we do that, that's OK. But they will not see the reason why they should be part of my church.

They begin to have a new picture of what a church is. — Cornel Onyango

I just got from Tanzania two weeks ago ... that’s something that I love so much … so I went to visit all of the centers. We have six churches that we are partnering with in Tanzania ... Each church has eighty clans, and more than forty of them are Muslims. So these Muslims are actually coming today to access services. So they begin to have a new picture of what a church is.

So, in the church, they find love, hope, care. And, eventually, they will hear the Gospel continuously. And some of them have started converting to come to church: I should just be part of this church that is taking care of me.

And when we are partnering with a church, it is not CARE for AIDS. We are going under the minister of a local church, so that these people see the church to be in the forefront fighting, helping them.

Shane Duffey:  That's amazing. You don't want people to know about CARE for AIDS. You want people to know that the church is where they can find help ... so I want to thank you for what you do. I'm grateful that as a church we could partner with people like you guys, and you continue to help us make a difference around the world.

Dec 4, 2017

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