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Divinity students R.G. Lyons, Chris Furr, Lottie Sneed and Ryan Starr upon arrival in South Africa, where they spent two months as ministry interns.

JOHNNY

When many inner-city churches left for the suburbs, Methodist City Mission in Pretoria made a commitment to alleviating the suffering of the city, which was in large part due to an influx of people seeking work after apartheid ended.

This diverse congregation offers services in English, Xhoso and Sotho. Mahube, which means “the dawn" is a non-profit facility located on the church grounds that offers support groups for HIV/AIDS patients, their caretakers, and other concerned and supportive people. In addition to Mahube and the clinic, the church has also built several affordable apartments on the grounds and provides a day care center that serves 40 young children.

I met Johnny in a support group for persons living and dying with HIV/AIDS. He was thin as a rail. He was cold. Winter had come and he was dressed in a thin shirt, with no undershirt, and a light coat. He trembled as he spoke. He was obviously not well. He was living in the shelter operating over capacity; he had no bed and was sleeping on the cold floor.

Johnny was scheduled to begin taking antiretroviral medication for AIDS because his immune system was so weakened. A “buddy" was required to make sure that he took his medications. Prior to coming to the church, Johnny ventured to his rural home seeking a buddy to assist with his medications. He was told that if he stayed, he would be taken out to the woods, tied to a tree and left to die. He slipped away during the night.

How could anyone be so cruel? I thought of Christ and the lepers, of his knowing the healing power of touch and acceptance. As a group, we were able to offer Johnny love and understanding, and the gift of touch.

Before I left South Africa, Johnny was admitted to the on-grounds 24-hour clinic, which means that he does have a partner. That's the good news. The bad news is that admission to the clinic is reserved for those with “full blown AIDS." I was told that when Johnny was admitted to the clinic, he was most excited about attending church services, and that he slept for days. At least he was in a warm clean bed.

-Lottie Sneed D'06

ALFINA

Alfina lives in Ivory Park, an informal settlement that is part of Thembisa township. Her home is a small oneroom shack made of tin and cardboard. She is dying with AIDS and has sores all over her body, and, in some places, the flesh has rotted away to the bone. Her only daughter tries to care for her.

Alfina cannot afford AIDS medication, and there are long waiting lists for free medicine from the government. She has no pain killers. Every moment for her is torture. After my visit, I was angry. There is medicine that can control AIDS, and there is medicine that could ease her pain. But she has no transportation, and she is too weak to walk to a clinic for help.

I began to ask why some people are denied access to the very necessities of life. I became angry with the policies of my own government that prohibits generic drugs being made available to the poor. I became angry at the incredible disparities between rich and poor in the world.

Story Continues >>

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Winter 2006 Volume 5 Number 2 Duke Divinity School