The community outreach on World AIDS Day was covered in prayer.
AIDS is a growing epidemic in every part of Asia. An estimated 2.4 million people in India alone suffered with HIV during 2007, according to the Epidemiological Fact Sheets on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections published by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
Gospel for Asia missionaries, staff and Christian believers throughout India used World AIDS Day in December as an opportunity to share Christ’s redemptive hope and raise awareness for this challenging epidemic.
In India’s shame-driven culture, there may be little sympathy or regard for those who contract the virus—even if by no fault of their own. At a time when perhaps they need love and care the most, those suffering with HIV or AIDS find themselves ostracized by their own communities.
But GFA missionaries and leaders, along with Christian lay people, were not afraid to “touch” this delicate issue. They used rallies, pamphlets, seminars and films to help communities understand AIDS and how it can be prevented. GFA leaders also held programs with state political leaders and doctors as guests.“This [rally] was the first of its kind [in this village], and people welcomed it with open hearts.”
As the missionaries and believers gave out information about AIDS and preventative measures through specially designed materials, they also gave out the Good News of the spiritual redemption offered in Christ.
In West Bengal, the GFA AIDS awareness initiative was appropriately named Caring for the Uncared—and it was one of the most successful social services the missionaries had ever witnessed.
“The contributions of [the missionaries and believers] are occurring at many levels through the initiatves of our leaders, but this was something special,” wrote one GFA field correspondent.
December 1 was a beautiful, sunny morning in West Bengal, and around 9 a.m. the rally began with a word of prayer from GFA’s regional leader.
Children participated in the rallies, too.
A beautifully decorated vehicle led the rally, and two women carried a banner about AIDS awareness. Following them were about 200 people consisting of GFA staff members, believers, and children and staff from GFA Bridge of Hope centers. The rally received much positive response from onlookers.
In the evening, about 250 people attended a meeting that featured speakers from the medical field.
In the northern state of Sikkim, GFA missionaries and believers walked with banners and signs to create AIDS awareness. Many in the crowd stopped them with questions, saying they had never heard of AIDS and its dangers. The missionaries and believers were able to educate them and leave them with valuable literature. People in the Sikkim community expressed their heartfelt thanks to the Christians for taking the time to make them aware of this deadly disease.
In Maharashtra, GFA Compassion Services put together a rally spanning 20 villages. A member of the Legislative Assembly in Maharashtra inaugurated the campaign by lighting a traditional lamp at GFA’s state office. Church believers also visited in homes to reach out, educate and counsel people.
The team was blessed with tremendous response and support in all 20 villages.
The rallies were well-received.
In Assam, GFA leaders, missionaries, believers, and children and staff from Bridge of Hope centers held a rally of about 700 people carrying AIDS awareness posters and placards. The event received coverage from several local newspapers and two TV news channels.
“Our rally had a great impact in our town because of the large gathering of people and the peaceful way in which it was conducted,” a GFA field correspondent remarked. “We were able to display our unity and strength to the local people, who earlier did not realize that we had so many people working with us.”
In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, a field correspondent commented, “This [rally] was the first of its kind [in this village], and people welcomed it with open hearts.”