SONGKHLA, THAILAND (May 25, 2010) – Just three years ago, a man we will call “W” was suffering from full-blown AIDS. He bought his coffin and waited for death.
Dying mattered little to W because he had seemingly even less reason to live – no livelihood, no community, and no family.
Earlier this month, he was one of more than 200 people from seven provinces who gathered at the Center for HIV/AIDS-affected Communities (CHAC) to worship for two days and witness the baptism of 84 new believers. To view a video of the gathering and baptism, click here.
The Sustainable Development Research Foundation (SDRF), directed by Evangelical Covenant Church missionary Jim Gustafson, operates the center. The gathering on May 15-16 also included fellowship and the Lord’s Supper. The accompanying photos were taken during the baptismal service with Gustafson officiating.
W began to hope and recover after being befriended and witnessed to by Christians. Today, Covenant Missionary Bob Shim says, W “not only has physical health, but a spiritual joy that many would envy.”
Many of the people at the worship service were there because of W’s ministry. He and his wife, S, have provided leadership to nearly 500 HIV-positive people in eight regions. “And the group is growing with many more waiting to be baptized,” Shim says.
“Whenever I am with this group, I am most struck by how much joy, hope, and even health are exhibited on everyone’s faces and attitudes,” says Shim. “You would think that being a part of one of the most poor, marginalized, and outcast people groups in Thailand would make you angry and hopeless.”
Instead, Shim adds, “This is a community full of life and full of joy.”
The ministry to people with AIDS began when a woman named Srinuan, who was infected by the virus and covered with sores, was touched by Nujon Singpila, president of SDRF. This unexpected act of love and the continued compassion shown to Srinuan, as she also cared for a friend dying of AIDS, led her to open her heart to Christ.
Following the death of her friend, Srinuan decided to continue a ministry of compassion to people impacted by HIV/AIDS in the area. As she met with people in one community, she would be invited to other communities as well.
The Department of World Mission has helped support SDRF, including through a Friends of World Mission Offering.