In the lead up to the event, the decision was made to do away with the usual format of PowerPoint presentations (which often cause participants much stress), but instead give time for people to simply share stories. No one was disappointed. The raw honesty of those who shared set this ‘story time’ apart.
Many participants were meeting each other for the very first time and yet in these moments, openness and vulnerability flowed in a powerful way. Stories included accounts of ministry as well as more personal sharing. There wasn’t one that didn’t address trauma, pain, discrimination, and of being the hands and feet of Jesus. There were stories of redemption and of great cost.
Listening to narratives of faith, pain and courage was both evidence of and testimony to, the safe and familial feel that being part of AIDSLink creates. It served as a powerful reminder of the need to be honest about the challenges that being involved in HIV ministry brings. Hope was transmitted. Hope was Xchanged.
Storytelling tied in beautifully with five hours of teaching on trauma and trauma counselling the group received from Natalie O’Brady (Trinidad and Tobago). It was evident that this was timely for the participants. Many face difficult situations and all are walking the road with people who are coping with the realities of living with HIV. God used these sessions to draw the group closer to Him and to each other.
On the first day the group visited local HIV projects around Kuala Lumpur. One project was an NGO reaching out to the LGBT community. Their proactive response gave us all food for thought. One participant felt their ‘safe sex kit’ would make a great tool to help educate women in her sphere of influence on the risks of HIV transmission. Following on from this visit and at other pivotal moments during the week, we all sensed that AIDSLink needs to learn more and be more proactive in ministering to this community. We discussed this at length, as the LGBT community is one of the least-reached communities.
Visiting the ALI ministry was very moving. J*, who was once living behind rubbish bins and addicted to drugs, was approached by a mission’s team on outreach. They brought him to their centre but noted his health was critical. Once at hospital he received confirmation of being HIV positive. He recalled how a Dr. saw him lying on a hospital bed, turned to the nurse and commented "what is that doing on my ward? Get that piece of rubbish out of here."
J* now runs a shelter for men living with HIV. By opening up his home, he and his family have created a safe place for those who feel rejected and abandoned. Men can remain for up to six months while they regain strength and adhere to antiretroviral treatment.
Hope transmitted. HopeXchanged.
During daily devotions participants unpacked AIDSLink International's three-fold mission: challenge assumptions, call to involvement, and work for change. Rev. Pax Tan delivered one of these and challenged the group as to which Jesus we follow. Is it the clean, sanitised Jesus of the cathedral or is it the dirty smelly Jesus of the streets, who looks more like us and those we minister to. It was powerful. Hope transmitted. HopeXchanged.
OM International** director Lawrence Tong flew in for 24 hours and led sessions on OM International. It was touching that he was also willing to share very openly about his life and leadership in an "Any Questions?" evening.
As the week drew to a close, people were given an opportunity to feedback about the impact of HopeXchange.
“I feel refreshed, encouraged to continue and restored spiritually," one participant commented.
“I learned new skills –trauma counselling, learned new information – Global update, built new friendships, and was encouraged and challenged by the stories and visits,” said another.
“I’m leaving here with a big backpack of hope ready to carry into my ministry.”
HopeXchange was a time of training, fellowship, visiting HIV ministries and sharing stories. It was a time of recommitment; to see hope restored in individuals and communities as we work together to overcome the challenges of HIV and AIDS. Those who arrived as colleagues, left as family. Hope transmitted. HopeXchanged.
**AIDSLink and OM International work in close partnership.
Published: Thursday, 18 May 2017
Credit: OM International