Feature

The Word to Hurting Women

An HIV+ Ministry in the Congo

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God showed up at our first meeting and we had not even invited Him. So how can we refuse a Bible study once a month?”

This is what Mireille (a national church colleague) and I heard from Lucie, one of the four leaders of the Association des Femmes Solidaires (Association of Women in Solidarity; AFS), an organization of HIV positive (HIV+) women in the Republic of the Congo. When we went to the meeting last year to ask permission to do a regular Bible study with the members, Mireille and I were unaware that this was the local chapter’s first gathering. The leaders considered it significant that we had come on that exact day to ask for the privilege of presenting a Bible portion once a month.

The AFS was started by an older woman named Claire. When a member of her family was dying of an AIDS-related illness, Claire witnessed the discrimination in the village and the difficulty this person had in joining in normal family life. Claire met HIV+ women through contacts with doctors who wanted someone to help inform women of their condition, and she began holding meetings in her home.

I had contacted AFS because I had met a young HIV+ couple when I taught English at the beginning of my Congo ministry in 2003. I long for local churches in both Congo and the United States to engage in this area of ministry and wanted to set an example for the Body of Christ. When I went to the National Organization for AIDS to ask for a contact among those working with HIV+ women, the person at the front desk was Lucie (who, unknown to me, was one of the four AFS leaders). She did not tell me it was her own phone number she gave me. What a surprise when she greeted us at the first AFS meeting.

Lucie was instrumental in giving us access to AFS—and the most enthusiastic and insistent that we be allowed to present a Bible study. We go to the meetings on the second Tuesday of each month with a simple Scripture portion typed in French and Lingala (a regional Bantu language). At every study, we give the women information on how to know Christ personally.

Initially, one of the leaders was against us. “We do not exist to preach or teach God’s Word nor proclaim a religion,” she said. We assured her we would simply share a biblical passage and then offer an explanation of the text along with application to the women’s lives. Recently, when a meeting had to be cancelled because of roadblocks, the woman who had opposed us actually called and wanted to be sure that we would reschedule for the third Tuesday.

‘Not Who You Are’

Mireille and I know of five women thus far who have received Christ through the ministry. One is Honorine, 36. Her mother died when she was three, and her father brought another woman into the household who resented Honorine’s presence. The little girl went to live with an elderly grandmother who cared for her and showed her affection. When the grandmother died, Honorine had to return to her father’s house. Feeling unloved, she led a promiscuous life, and when she became pregnant, her father threw her out.

Honorine then began going from one man to another—whoever was willing to take her and her son into his living quarters. Between men, she visited nightclubs nearly every night, where she met more young women doing the same thing. Six of them formed a group to take turns watching one another’s children while the rest went from one nightclub to another looking for partners who would give them money.

In 2000 one of Honorine’s daughters died, and she herself became gravely ill. During that time she discovered she was HIV+. She began treatment, and ironically, it was through her destructive lifestyle that she was able to obtain the money needed for regular blood tests. Though she expected death, she continued to give birth to more children.

The year she discovered she was HIV+, she began attending a nearby church and found much comfort in the messages and worship times. Although she continued to go to clubs at night, Honorine knew that the Lord had guarded her—not one of the other five girlfriends in her clique was still living. She cried out to God again and again. Coming out of a club one night, she heard an inner voice say, This is not who you are! In 2009 she met one of the leaders of the AFS. Honorine went immediately to the headquarters and found women in exactly the same state she was in.

Praying for Courage

There are 80 to 90 women in this association, which is now officially recognized by the government. In the Republic of the Congo, AIDS treatment is free, so all the women at AFS had been receiving the daily antiretroviral drugs and other medicines they need. However, many took their medications in secret because only one or two family members in their home knew that the women are being treated for HIV. At the center they can take their medications without anyone asking what they are doing.

The AFS assists the women in telling at least one family member about their condition and helps them to discern who that should be. Of course, AFS leaders always encourage the women to inform their husbands that they are HIV+, but for the majority, this ends the marriage. When that happens, the women often try to return to their mothers and fathers. But few Congolese parents have the financial reserves to absorb a daughter and her children. When one of the women told her parents she was HIV+, they kicked her out of their home but offered her a run-down, vacant chicken house for shelter. That is where she now lives.

The HIV+ women who have lost their homes will go from friend to friend for a night’s lodging and then often begin a lifestyle of prostitution to survive. The women insist that they always use condoms during sex, but the ones who are involved in prostitution often do not use protection or inform their partners of the probable consequences of not using prophylactics (though condom use is no guarantee against HIV transmission).

Several women have asked Mireille and me to pray that they will have the courage to leave the destructive cycle of prostitution. Honorine has now made a commitment to live as the Lord desires and to fear Him and obey His Word. She has begun attending the C&MA church in the neighborhood where she lives and wants to dedicate her children to the Lord and be obedient to His command to be baptized. She gave birth two months ago and gave the baby girl four names, one of which is Barbara.

Construct a Church Training Center in an Unreached Area of the Congo

Alliance international workers and national church leaders in the Republic of the Congo have launched a strategic church-planting initiative in an unreached region. Two large ethnic groups in this area have strong traditions of occult practices and remain resistant to the gospel. Funds are needed to develop a center in the town of Ollombo to provide support and training for church planters from surrounding towns and villages.

Amount Needed: $25,000

To make a donation to the project listed above, visit The Alliance Gift Catalog page or contact: Mr. Doug Wicks, (719) 265-2006, wicksd@cmalliance.org for further information.

Past Alliance Life Issues

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