The AIDS 2012 Conference is quickly approaching, and as I prepare to travel to Washington, DC, I can’t help but reflect on how this issue has impacted the past two decades of my life in ministry. As early as 1997, we opened a homeless shelter for women and children. Our very first resident was infected with AIDS, and shortly thereafter I attended her funeral. It grieved me to see her life cut short, as she tried to regain stability for her small children but circumstances left them shattered.
This epidemic ravages lives as close to home as my own Humboldt Park and as far away as our missions to Burkina Faso, Africa. I have visited long-standing members in the hospital at both locations. I have buried more than one dear friend. Many times, when I came for the final hospital visit, I was warned to take protective measures – but I refused. That’s because I understand the importance of personal contact, of human touch, to validate and empower an individual in life. Every person deserves to live… and die, with dignity. Personally, it grieves me to see how few ministries are standing in the gap as a source of comfort and healing on this critical issue.
I refuse to stand by the sidelines and watch as young and old, though mostly poor, individuals die to this devastating disease. Even worse, they often die alone and ostracized because of social ignorance. It is time for us to take action, to speak up as one voice, to lay a concrete plan of action to conquer AIDS. No longer should we be bound by societal fears when we should be collaborating for a cure. Christians must arise as Christ himself did, to touch the lives of those that others would label as “unclean lepers.” It is imperative that the Church administers healing in any way possible. Therefore, I myself have made it a priority to attend this year’s conference – to become an advocate for the Church’s stance of solidarity on this issue. I look forward to seeing you there!
Senior Pastor Rev. Wilfredo De Jesús is Senior Pastor of New Life Covenant Ministries, one of the fastest growing churches in Chicago. New Life is a vibrant and caring church that is reaching out to the community. Wilfredo De Jesús received a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Trinity University and a Master’s degree in Christian Ministries from North Park Theological Seminary.