“I really think it’s best if you don’t come back to church here anymore!” Can you imagine what it’s like to hear those words from your pastor? You may wonder what you did to deserve excommunication. Well, you are guilty of having a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is determined to take over and destroy your immune system, and when it does, you will have Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). I have lost count of the number of times I have dried the tears of a Christian who was asked to leave their church (or lessen their participation in church activities) because they had either HIV or AIDS.
Over forty million people worldwide have this virus and the numbers keep growing: one million in the United States, one million in Russia, five million in India, millions in China and on and on. Almost fifteen million children are orphaned because this deadly disease took the lives of their parents.
I’ll never forget turning to my wife one night after watching the evening news on television and saying, “I am sick and tired of hearing about AIDS.” It seemed like all we ever heard about was AIDS. However, it wasn’t long before God broke my heart and gave me a new one.
John and Joe were members of The Village Church of Irvine, California, an upper-middle-class church in what’s known as “the first completely planned community” in the United States. I knew they were best friends, had committed their lives to the Lord at the local rescue mission, gone through their “New Life” program, had gotten jobs and were growing in their faith. I was surprised when, one Sunday after church, both men asked to see me. They seemed uneasy and I wondered what problems they could possibly be having.
“You know, Pastor Bruce, how we used to use drugs together before we knew Christ?” one asked. I told them I did remember and that the Lord had forgiven them and changed their lives.
“That’s right, but Joe and I just found out that as a result of using contaminated needles during our drug days, we are both HIV-positive and we don’t know what to do,” John said.
Right then HIV and AIDS had gone from being something I saw on the news to something personal. My heart broke.
Soon we started with a weekly support group and the first night we had one pastor, two HIV-positive former junkies and one HIV-positive former homosexual. This was quite a combination of the redeemed! But God strengthened our bond and we met for prayer week after week. Soon, Tamara, a wife and mother, joined us. Tamara had been saved nine years before but thought she should be tested for AIDS after seeing a television program on the disease. She tested positive and was told not to come back to church. She cried quite a bit that first night.
Then Mike, a husband and father of three teenagers, joined us. Mike had hemophilia, a blood condition that required blood products and regular transfusions. He had twenty-two diseases, including HIV, from using blood products. However, Mike knew the Lord and had a wife who stood with him.
He Intends Victory Reaches Many around the World
It was then that He Intends Victory, http://www.heintendsvictory.com/, began. We had decided that the “lost” of this world needed to hear that Jesus offers hope to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and that the “Church” needed to learn to show the compassion of Jesus to those facing this disease. We soon established a national hotline, 1-800-HIV-HOPE, where individuals with AIDS responded to incoming calls.
Nineteen-year-old Tim from Kentucky had been raped by his uncle and just found out he was HIV-positive. Cindy, who only had sex once in her life, was infected by her boyfriend who had lied to her about being a virgin. These were only two of the people who called in to the hotline.
By 1990, John and Joe had died; however, we kept moving forward as we knew they were with Jesus. We spoke at churches, schools and seminaries. More and more Christians and churches began to open their hearts to those facing their mortality.
Mike was devoted to his family and shared Jesus at every opportunity until he went home to Jesus in 1998. Although Herb was told twice by the doctor that he only had one year to live, both times he told the doctor the same thing, “You know doc, if I die in the next year, I go to heaven. And if I don’t, I’m going to share the hope of Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen. I’m a winner either way!” He made it to 2003. Tamara, who was infected in 1980, is still frail but praising the Lord everyday for her family.
He Intends Victory has grown and is now in fourteen countries around the world. Half of the ten board members are HIV-positive. We have places to stay for men, women and children at the Mike Hylton Home in Thailand; the Terry Duffy Home in Uganda; two homes including Herb Hall Home in Malaysia; a support group in the prison and a home for former women inmates who have tested HIV-positive in Belize; and a soon-to-be He Intends Victory Children’s Center in Eldoret, Kenya. We have paid and volunteer workers in Nigeria, Burundi, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Ecuador and those countries where we have homes.
In Hanoi, Vietnam, Phat, HIV-positive himself, leads a support group of thirty former drug addicts. We work in the prisons of Vietnam and with the National AIDS Committee, the highest government agency dedicated to HIV/AIDS. In Malaysia, Lourdes, himself HIV-positive, works under the direction of Andrew and Rhena Kulasingham at HIVHope, where he helps with the first support group for Tamal speaking “former” addicts. We work closely with the Malaysian AIDS Council, a Muslim organization working with Christians who seek to share the hope of Jesus. Through He Intends Victory Uganda, Alvin Waluube offers medical and agricultural support bi-monthly to two villages ravished by HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, Tom and Hellen Malande oversee He Intends Victory Kenya. Just last year they and their team of seven volunteers shared the good news with over 100,000 children. Many of these children gave their hearts to the Lord.
In the United States, He Intends Victory continues to offer encouragement, free educational materials and support groups. We have volunteers across the country. By the generosity of God’s people, we have given away over 50,000 copies of Dan Wooding’s book, He Intends Victory, which shares the stories of Mike, Herb and many others.
Through radio, television and personal interaction, we have touched the world of HIV and AIDS. As volunteers ourselves, we are committed to furthering this Evangelical outreach. This starts with reaching out to one individual. I’ve used real names of real people because so often we see “forty million” or “fifteen million” or “sixteen thousand people worldwide die each day of HIV infections.” These often just seem to be big numbers. But when we see Herb, Tamara, Mike, Phat, Alvin and Hellen (and the list goes on) you can see that He Intends Victory is dedicated to people.
There is plenty of room in the Church for those with HIV/AIDS. There is no cure for HIV and AIDS. However, there is a cure for the hopelessness that comes with AIDS. This is the hope of Jesus Christ.