Week 16: India & AIDS

April 16, 2009. Chennai, India.

I was on an “around the world” trip with my good friend that would last for over nine months. In Chennai, we were spending some time with local ministries and organizations, including one that helped local Indians who suffered from AIDS (children and adults). On this specific day, we went to visit an Indian couple in their home, and I had an experience I’ve never forgotten.

Their home was very small, really no more than a hut with a dirt floor, probably no bigger than my bedroom; it was sparsely furnished. I was told their story. The man had once been a driver. On one trip, he was returning and fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in a horrible accident. He received a blood transfusion at the hospital; tragically, he contracted AIDS from the procedure, and unknowingly passed it on to his wife.

Now, he is blind because of the virus and the poor care he received at the hospital. His injured arm has only partially mended and remains very impaired, some bones still being separated. His wife is now pregnant and they’re soon expecting their first child. She can no longer work because of her pregnancy, and of course, neither can he due to his physical condition. Their neighbors and family don’t know they have AIDS, otherwise they would (probably) be rejected due to the social stigma, which is a sad and terrible reality.     

We talked to them, asking questions and trying to encourage them. We even had a visit from their landlord, who was curious about us. Eventually, we prayed for the couple, and I felt such great compassion and love for them. They have a quiet joy despite their difficult circumstances; a presence of peace fills their humble home. I love that…

It’s always far too easy to find something (or many things) to complain about; to feel anxious about; to fear. I can always find a reason to be ungrateful, discontent, unthankful. And then (if I’m lucky), I remember a story like this. A poor Indian couple who, on the surface, had nothing to be thankful for, with every justifiable reason to live as defeated ones, as victims of harsh, undeserved circumstances. But I will never forget the joy I felt in their presence, and the peace I saw on their gentle faces. I think they knew something we often forget–that faith, trust, and hope are in a promise we may not yet see. They were not defeated victims. They belonged, and they were loved–whatever happened, or didn’t happen; whatever they did have, or didn’t have.

It’s as if those who suffer know they are part of a story greater than what they can see, for in their lowliness there is no earthly wealth that can replace their true treasure.

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