2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Devotion by Julia Shiver
“World AIDS Day takes place on 1 December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.” From www.WorldAidsDay.org.
I became aware of the plague that came to be called HIV/AIDS early on in the epidemic. The last paper I wrote in college was about the people who were dying, abandoned by their loved ones, thrown out of their homes, fired from their jobs, partly for being sick and partly for being gay. The first person that I knew who had AIDS was a young woman at church whose life had spiraled out of control until she came home to die. Elizabeth took her own life before AIDS could take hers.
I served on the AIDS Ministry Board of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church for several years, helping churches address the ever-growing needs of a desperate population. My own church had a small group that helped men whose loved ones had abandoned them, but it was a half-hearted response, at best, with limited support from the clergy.
On a cold February night in 2000, I took my maternal grandmother home from the hospital where we had just sat with her husband of 63 years while he took his last breath. I stayed with my Granny that night, not wanting her first night as a widow to be spent alone. I believe my brother called me, telling me that our dad was trying to get in touch with me. Sitting in the dark in my grandmother’s living room while she slept, my dad told me he had been diagnosed as HIV positive.
On Wednesday of this week, my father will turn 81. His HIV virus has been virtually undetectable for the last 19 ½ years. We were very fortunate that what came to be called the AIDS cocktail came out about that time. I have been acutely aware of the great gift of time over these years. It is time I never thought we would have. Time for my father to see his grandchildren grow up, time to visit parts of the world he had always wanted to explore, time to write and publish his first book, a book of essays on the history of his beloved Florida, time to love a wonderful man named Lee.
In those years, I have had to leave two churches when they simply couldn’t support me in loving my dad. How very, very grateful I am for the community I have found at Pilgrimage UCC. Every year, I can get up and announce my dad’s birthday while reminding everyone that HIV/AIDS is still out there, still taking lives. The problem is sometimes far removed from our life in Cobb County. The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Communities make the difference." The community at Pilgrimage has made all the difference in my life.
Thank you for the individuals, communities, governments, and organizations across the globe that work to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We ask for your great gift of hope, and the courage and strength to fight on. Amen.