Good News From Maua Methodist Hospital, Kenya
by Jerri and Bill Savuto
Over 2.5 million people die of AIDS every year, and often, their deaths seem to go unnoticed throughout the world. Yet the tsunami that is AIDS continues to strike the shores of all continents. So I was happy by what I experienced on April 22nd, when I attended the HIV Positive Teens Support Group Day sponsored by the Maua Methodist Hospital here in Kenya.
I had been told that there were two children aged 10 or 11 who would be attending, but that the rest would all be teenagers. The criterion for being a part of this group is that the child or teen has to know their diagnosis. When I arrived, the teens, their guardians or mothers, and the staff were snacking on tea and cake. Everyone seemed so joyous. I was surprised that some of the attendees looked like very young children of about 7 years of age.
I asked a staff member who these young children were. She smiled and told me that those "children" were teenagers, except for two. Due to the disease, she said, their growth had been stunted. As I scanned their faces, I felt a deep sadness. They looked so young and innocent, and yet I realized they deal with the ramifications of their disease everyday. But I saw no anger in them, only joy.
The youth led a worship service with songs, which was followed by a sermon led by one of the chaplains. I was interested to hear what she would say to this group. She talked first about how many babies, children, and youth die of diseases, road accidents, war, & famine. Then she read in 2nd Corinthians that God gives us comfort so we can comfort others. She spoke about the need for them to give the same comfort to each other that God gives to them.
She also spoke about malaria, and of the many people who die of it. She said she had been praying for years that God would get rid of the mosquitoes that carry malaria. However, while nothing has happened to the mosquito, she has observed that God, through man, is continually improving the management and treatment of persons suffering from it.
Later, everyone was split into groups so that Claudia, one of the missionaries, could demonstrate how to create animal figures out of balloons. As I participated in the fun, I thought how wonderful it was that these teenagers didn't have to think about their disease, its stigma, and their problems.
Before leaving, each teen received a watch, which none of them had previously owned. Since they take their medications 2 to 3 times a day at specific times, you can imagine their happiness at receiving this gift. As always, the day ended with prayer.
As I walked home, I felt great joy that Maua Methodist Hospital has such an amazing Palliative Care Program, which includes this ministry to our HIV Positive teenagers. To my knowledge, this is the only teen group in the country.
One thing that came out of this experience for me was the urgency to pray for a cure for HIV/AIDS. I can't stop thinking about all the children around the world that are living with and dying of AIDS. I am hopeful that you will all join me in praying. Along with praying for a cure, I am praying that each of them will feel God's comfort and love in their lives and indeed be able to share it with others. You and I can make a difference where ever we are, doing whatever we are called to do. When we work with God, we can change the world.
Jerri and Bill Savuto are missionaries of Global Ministries assigned to Kenya.
Date posted: May 29, 2007