My cousin Gavin and his wife Carrie serve with Wycliffe in Papua, New Guinea. He’s a missionary pilot and, in addition to other responsibilities, she helps lead health initiatives in the region where they live. AIDS is already a serious issue there, and my sense from what Carrie has shared is that the HIV/AIDS situation in New Guinea bears many similarities to where many African nations were a little more than a decade ago, with a serious problem poised to become a true epidemic.
As stated on the Australian government’s foreign aid website. “The spread of HIV is one of the biggest development challenges facing Papua New Guinea.” It notes alongside other sharply rising indicators a “rising numbers of babies born with HIV and AIDS,” and that—as Carrie has personally observed—“drug and alcohol abuse, concurrent and multiple sexual partnerships and gender-based violence contribute to the spread of the disease.”
As always, a single story brings the reality home like nothing else. Carrie sent an email note to our family last week, and I asked if we could share it on the blog. It was meant as just a personal note, but the sorrow mingled with hopes that it contains says more than one could ever convey via numbers or abstract ideas:
I thought you would be interested in a visit I had today from the chairman of our local community health board. He frequently comes on work-related business, but today he came specifically to tell me about a little boy about [our son’s] age in Onamuna (a 2-hour walk away) whose mom just died of AIDS. His father had already died. His uncle is taking care of him but not really providing for him or sending him to school, and is making him do all the hard work of fetching water in huge containers while the other kids play. The chairman said that this little boy is just so sad, he goes to sleep on his mom’s grave. It breaks my heart. I bought him a towel, blanket, little cars, and two pairs of trousers for the chairman to take up to him. I will send more of [our son’s] clothes, too. I’m glad this work positions me to be able to help little boys who miss their mommies. 🙁
I also printed out two sheets of Bible verses about how much God loves orphans and takes their care very seriously, visiting punishment on those who refuse to provide for them or otherwise abuse them! The chairman has the position and esteem in the community now to be able to go sit down with the aunt and uncle and really exhort them to provide for this little boy as their own. He is not only the head of the health board but also a head elder in the church. He only just became aware of this little guy as his wife saw him and heard the story and was really grieved for him. PRAISE GOD for people who care in positions to be able to help! The thing that concerns me, long-term, is that there will be many more AIDS orphans around us. We really need to pray that God’s word will penetrate and change hearts so that those who are left caring for these little ones will love them as their own.