I have just returned from Strength for the Journey Retreat for people living with HIV/AIDS. I serve as the spiritual team leader for the camp and was privileged to have served with a wonderful staff who provided leadership for the camp. The camp was started 18 years ago, as a way of providing unconditional love and care for all those seeking strength for their journey. Some are open to talking about God, some already belong to a faith community, some are looking for a home to live out their faith, and others are not sure if they can trust God. I was able to lead worship with the other Spiritual team members, talk one on one with those seeking for direction for their faith, provide workshops on theology and lead a small group.
I am always so humbled by the stories of the campers and staff who have struggled to live with this horrible disease. They teach me so much every year, I feel so blessed honored that they would open their hearts and pour out what questions they have about God.I am troubled by the stories of how when their place of worship found out about their diagnosis, withdrew any support or care. The stigma of having HIV/AIDS is alive and well, even after all this time. I feel so angry, so depressed, so startled by this shunning, I am reminded of how lepers were treated, how those who are different are treated with suspicion and hatred. This is not an attitude unique to the issue of HIV/AIDS, in many ways those who are different than what is considered the norm are often ridiculed, excluded, abused, and even killed. I believe God sheds an abundance of tears for any part of creation that is disrespected, abused, and violently neglected. I also believe we can make a difference to those who are hurting, to a world that is in chaos. God's power can overcome abuse, neglect, war, hatred, stigma, if only we turn to God for guidance and wisdom. I also believe since we are all God's creation, all are loved by God, with no exceptions. So if we could treat one another as God does, as precious, I wonder what the world would look like?
Thanks to all the campers and staff of Strength for the Journey 2010! You are my hero's and heroines!