Bearing the Burden

Loving in word and deed brings hope to AIDS victims


“Will I die the way my mother died?”

Thirteen-year-old Chav Sie Lin and her younger sister lived together in an old, small house their mother left for them in Battambang, Cambodia. The path of HIV transmission to Sie Lin is unclear, but she was HIV positive when I met her in October 2003 as a member of the Alliance home care team. She was only ten years old, and her health was good.

Through visits from the home care team, Sie Lin’s mother became a Christian and began attending Jerusalem Church (C&MA). Her mother and I talked about the Lord in their home, and she studied about knowing God more deeply. All the while, Sie Lin was listening.

In 2004, her mother died of AIDS, leaving Sie Lin and her sister orphaned—their father had died from AIDS three years earlier. Within several years the virus took hold of Sie Lin’s life, and she became desperate after her mother passed away. She wondered if she would die too.

Team Effort

Sie Lin and her sister live with their grandparents, both nearly 70 years old. Although we provided care for the entire family, the girls also received help from Jerusalem Church’s Orphan Support Program.

The home care ministry for HIV/AIDS patients is an outreach of the C&MA’s Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA) and the Khmer Evangelical Church (C&MA church in Cambodia). During the last three years, this ministry has provided care and support to 60–65 PLHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) and their families. Each month, this church-based ministry helps 20–25 adults and children. Approximately 20 participants in the program have died, and 15 of those had received Christ.

The ministry has been involved not only in helping PLHA but also in educating church members about the disease and ways they can respond to the crisis. At the end of June 2006, there were two teams providing HIV/AIDS home-based care. In July, the ministry extended to three more churches. Now, 12 trained church volunteers from six churches in the Battambang area are involved in this ministry.

The younger people of the church tend to respond to and care for PLHA. God has allowed them to experience His power and love through their lives. Some have been bold in sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. Others have developed their interpersonal skills by becoming advocates for PLHA with the government health sector.

Most of all, the team was encouraged to study more about God’s Word in order to build His Kingdom in the hearts of PLHA. It is not easy, but the love of Christ allows them to go the extra mile to tell others about God’s love and salvation.

Jesus Loves Her

Although the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia has decreased from 3.3 percent in 1999 to 1.9 percent in 2005, we need to care and support those victims of the disease—people like Sie Lin. She is one of the patients who has felt God’s love and care.

Sie Lin dropped out of school in third grade because her body was too weak from AIDS for her to attend classes. She was in and out of the children’s ward in the referral hospital. The home care team from church went to visit and help her during the times that were too hard for Sie Lin’s grandparents to bear.

She is quiet, yet her understanding is clear. She was hurt when her aunts and uncles gave up hope and began waiting for her to die. But the church team never gave up and continued to explain to Sie Lin that Jesus hears her cry and her hopes for life.

When we reach out with love and compassion to touch another life, our contact makes the burden a little lighter and the pain a little more bearable. Sie Lin accepted Jesus in her heart. It is a great joy to see a child find comfort in knowing Jesus’ love.

The ART of Living

Although CAMA’s HIV/AIDS ministry is church based, the teams are trained to use the services and facilities in the government health system. The government referral hospital has an HIV/AIDS clinic that screens those who can become recipients of antiretroviral treatment (ART), which became available for HIV/AIDS patients in Cambodia in 2004. Fifteen people from our program are currently receiving ART, which prolongs life (but does not cure AIDS). The HIV/AIDS pediatric clinic opened in September 2005, and it has been a blessing that children under our care can now also begin to use ART.

After some difficult days, God has allowed Sie Lin’s life to be much better. The home care team helped her travel to the Children’s Hospital in Siem Riep Province to begin treatment (at the time, the Battambang hospital near her home did not give ART to children). She overcame the side effects and was able to return to school last year.

The human touch delivers encouragement to the discouraged and hope to the hopeless. By reaching out and touching someone through deed and word, we provide the extra push that person needs to carry on, rather than give up. A compassionate heart can make a big difference.

Sie Lin is a symbol of a child’s strength in facing difficult circumstances. She knows and believes that she gets her help and strength from God. She no longer asks, “Will I die the way my mother died?” She knows for sure that she will meet her mother in God’s time.

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