HIV/AIDS: Engaging the Church in the Pandemic

This month we look at what role we, as the Body of Christ, can have in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Nearly forty million people are infected with HIV; fifteen thousand people die every day from complications of AIDS. That is equivalent to losing the population of an entire city every day. The catastrophe is so great and so non-ending that sometimes, admittedly, I wonder if we don’t become weary by the enormity of the issue.

Yet, Christians are working to halt the spread of AIDS. Many of our brothers and sisters—perhaps even you—are working relentlessly in the face of this crisis. In this month’s issue we hear from leaders on the frontlines of the HIV/AIDS battle and together we learn about what is making a difference. I honor these living, breathing expressions of Christ’s love in the midst of difficult circumstances.

There is no good “spin” we can place on this pandemic. It forces us to confront death. In the West, we avoid both aging and death with increasing neurosis. We worship the “cult” of youth. But to try to avoid the acute reality of death, whether by disease, accident, war, genocide or other means, is what we call “smoke and mirrors.” Death is a reality, and for many, AIDS is the grim reaper of our era.

May the Spirit of God blast through all our defenses, all our fatigue, until we all cry out, “What can we do, Lord?” We can pray, we can give, we can go, we can touch, we can heal. We can speak of the One who promised a future world without AIDS. We can commend the living Christ to those beyond healing in this world. That is what the Spirit calls us to do. That is how we can reach out to people with HIV/AIDS—in our backyard and with our neighbors around the world. Even those not primarily called to minister to people with AIDS full-time can do something (see Evvy Campbell’s article in this issue).

I recently ran the Chicago Marathon (Chicago, Illinois, USA) along with five hundred others as part of Team World Vision. We all raised money to help fight the AIDS pandemic. I finished the race and will continue to wear the shirt we all received as a reminder of the enemy we face. The shirt reads: “I run because I care.” May we as the Body of Christ all find ways such as these to face AIDS and work toward its defeat.

I appeal to a surprising source to conclude this memo—the playwright and actor, Woody Allen, who once wrote, “Twenty percent of life is just showing up, the rest is hanging in there.” Good counsel for kingdom workers as we engage this enemy.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.