There are an estimated 34 million people infected with AID’s globally. That’s roughly about the population of a small country, like Iraq or Uganda. South Africa alone is home to 5.6 million men, women, and children infected by HIV, with many of the cases stemming out of poverty.
Shocked by the statistics
It is this reality that rocked mercy-motivated pastor of King of Kings Baptist Church in Fishoek, John Thomas. “In November 1999 I heard a statistic that irrevocably changed my and our church’s life. I was told that 44% of the people in Masiphumelele were HIV positive (the figure was incorrect, but the impact remained). That shook me and I determined before God to do something about the plight of HIV and AIDS suffers in our immediate area.
Trusting God for the impossible
We began with our little faith in our great big God and in the year 2000, we launched and established Living Hope, a ministry to people with HIV and AIDS.
At that time, people with AIDS had little access to anti-retroviral drugs and they died gruesome deaths. Neglected by even their loved ones, we determined to step in and show them how much God loved and cared for them and to seek to point them to Jesus before they died.
Daring to risk for God is a part of my makeup and, with the full support of our church I took a number of what some might describe as “risky” steps as we established Living Hope. I prefer to call them “leaps of faith”. Our church purchased properties with no money and trusted God for the funds and for the abilities which our people did not have at that time. God came through for us fantastically every time.”
Offering living hope to the lost
In 2000, the church launched Living Hope, a ministry providing holistic care for the community (through four subsidiary ministries) – from spreading the Gospel to assisting in the prevention, treatment and support of people suffering with HIV/AIDS and chronic illnesses. They also assist with community development via education, social and health related programmes.
Living Hope has now grown to 180 full time staff serving in seven different geographic regions with a new branch being started in East London as well as opportunities which are being explored in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Over 36 000 visits are done by Living Hope Home Based Carers each year. The ministry has received world -wide recognition for its efforts.
“In 2007, our church was honoured to receive the first Courageous Leadership Award given by the Willow Creek Association and World Vision. I was humbled and surprised at the same time when, Willow Creek Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, in presenting the award described me as “a courageous leader, who is bringing it in the fight against AIDS.” I just felt this was something I had to do and as a church we were simply seeking to carry out our Biblical responsibilities to people in our area. We had no intentions or desires to get recognised.”
John also had the privilege of meeting with then president George Bush, and received funding from his administration. This year, Michael W. Smith hosted a benefit concert for Living Hope ministries.
Showing His love to others
For John, Avril and their team, it is ultimately about extending the love of Christ, and showing people Jesus in action. Upon reflection John says that, “there are two Scriptures about God’s purposes that challenge me and compel me to minister to the poor and the sick. They are Isaiah 58:6-7 and Matthew 25:31.”
“We must do all we can to break the oppression of poverty and, by our actions and preaching, show people how much Jesus loves them and how He can meet their needs.”
In a suffering world, JOY! salutes Christians who are tirelessly serving and loving their fellow man.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Living Care serves people with chronic illnesses including HIV/AIDS by offering Palliative Care in its 22 bed facility as well as through Home Based Care in 6 different communities.
Health care centre
The Living Care Health Centre is a place where patients find Christian compassion and care. Anti-Retroviral drugs, nutrition education, chronic illness lifestyle management are all part of our treatment. More than 80% of the 200 in-patients served every year leave our centre physically well and spiritually nourished, able to return home and resume a full and active life. For the other frail 20% the centre becomes a haven where they can pass on peacefully surrounded by love.
The Community Based Care programme provides an outpatient service with more than 36 000 in-home visits annually. Carers nurse the sick, dress wounds, monitor patient health and offer advice on healthier eating and lifestyle changes. They also offer support to the families of patients and give medical and social referrals as required.
Living Grace seeks to transform the shattered lives of the homeless and destitute in the areas as well as reaching out to substance abusers through rehabilitation programmes.
The Homeless ministry provides practical help in the form of daily meals, locker storage, shower, laundry and a clothing shop to people. Spiritual help is a significant focus. Clients also receive access to social services, medical care, opportunities for employment and accommodation.
A major issue in driving poverty and AIDS is Substance Abuse. The Substance Abuse program offers outpatient rehabilitation to clients in all the areas we serve. The programme is based on a “road to recovery” model.
Living Way works to empower people from the under resourced communities in the areas we serve with economic and job skills. This is done by equipping people with the tools to live productive lives, empowering and training business owners to be sustainable and increasing employment through access to training in skills like agriculture, baking and computing.
These strategies are based on Biblical principles and ensure that people have meaningful opportunities for income generation while realizing the dignity that God has in mind for every human being.
Living Right seeks to prevent the spread of chronic illnesses including HIV and AIDS using short and long term strategies among the communities in which it works. We do this through reaching out to pregnant moms, parents, primary school children, teens and adults as we do all we can to build an AIDS free generation. Living Right is made up of Support Group Facilitators, Health Counsellors and Life Skills Educators.
Support Groups meet weekly in homes and community venues. The Support Groups create community and offer support to people in 3 main areas namely: HIV and AIDS, Chronic Disease Lifestyle and Mother Care. Support is offered by means of the structure of the group and includes Bible study and prayer times. Currently there are 18 Support Group Facilitators and 63 groups.
Health Counsellors provide HIV testing and counselling as well as educating clients on how to live a healthy sexual lifestyle based on Biblical principles. They encourage everyone to know their status, provide pre- and post-test counselling, and Counsellors also prepare HIV positive clients for a lifelong commitment to ARV treatment.
“Its better to build a whole child than try to mend a broken man” – Avril Thomas. The Life Skills Educational program reaches thousands of students every year. This is done through after school and holiday clubs for children and teenagers that are held in local crèches, schools and colleges. Here students receive value-based education on sexual abstinence and other lifestyle topics. The program also includes parenting classes extending Living Hope’s influence into the home.
Compiled by Erin Georgiou