This story was originally published November 28, 2016, by Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA).
For the last 13 years, every other week, church volunteers in Cambodia visit patients living with HIV/AIDS. But did you know that many of those patients have come to faith in Jesus? (Read “Our First AIDS Patient” to learn about an Alliance worker in the North and Central Asia Region who overcame her fear of contracting this deadly virus to share Christ’s hope with a dying man.)
At one point, more than 80 percent of the patients had made a profession of faith. That’s something CAMA is celebrating with our Alliance Cambodian church family this World AIDS Day, December 1.
Loving Your Neighbor
HIV/AIDS was first detected in Cambodia in 1991. By 1998, HIV prevalence in Cambodia was at 2.8 percent. Today, because of the work of their government, partner organizations, and Provincial Health Departments, the rate is closer to 0.7 percent!
Still, those living with HIV/AIDS face extreme economic, social, and physiological hardships. They often exhaust resources paying for treatment. Additionally, health problems affect job performance and the ability to work.1
In 2003, when AIDS patients were literally dying every week, a CAMA nurse from the Philippines and the Cambodian Alliance national church, Khmer Evangelical Church (KEC), knew God was calling them to reach out to families left vulnerable from HIV. The KEC and CAMA recruited church volunteers who received health and homecare visitation training from CAMA staff. As the volunteers began serving and experiencing the joy of loving your neighbor, they also quickly became advocates for those living with HIV/AIDS.
The Homecare Team also began “peer support events” held three times each year at local churches called “New Life in Christ.” Not only has the program affected the sick and dying, but it has also changed the climate of congregations as patients are no longer stigmatized as they were before the program started.
“The volunteers want to see this continue,” the KEC leadership expressed. “They see it as a source of hope for the patients to receive the gospel and as having value for the church and the community. A lot of people don’t want work like this, but the volunteers really value their role in the project. Sometimes they feel like they can’t do much, but they can do this work. They see it as their way to serve God.”
Currently, these volunteers are making home visits to 60 patients: 16 men, 28 women, and 16 children, 9 of whom are orphans.
For the physical well-being of patients, volunteers focus on:
- Home and hospital visitation for PLHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS)
- Health education, specifically the importance of hygiene and sanitation
- Providing monthly rice, groceries, moringa powder, soap, and other supplies
- Providing money for patients to travel to get medicine and join World AIDS Day and Candle Light Day gatherings
- Checking and monitoring adherence of the antiretroviral medication
- Annual provision of school uniforms and supplies for orphans
For spiritual well-being, volunteers focus on:
- Counseling patients and their family members
- Praying for their needs and teaching the good news every two weeks
- Leading a time of prayer and praise with the families
- Using the book New Life in Christ to disciple new believers
- Coming alongside families with prayer and support when there is a death
This past August, they held another New Life in Christ program at Bethlehem Church. Patients, orphans, children, team workers, elders, pastors—80 people altogether—came together for a time of fellowship. What a picture of community!
Thirteen years ago, God gave CAMA and the KEC a vision, and church members raised their hand to volunteer. Today, because of that vision and willingness to serve, there are now men and women in God’s presence completely healed of their disease! Through this project, communities in Cambodia are being restored in Christ.