By Pastor Bill Mugford
Part 1 • A Personal Encounter in a God-Moment Can Change Your Life, Forever!
Some days you never forget, and those days have the power to change you and your life forever!
My life as a Christian and Pastor changed forever when I answered a knock at our church’s front doors.
Because my College Pastor’s office was a former broom closet on the landing halfway up the stairs in the lobby just outside the church sanctuary, I often became the de facto, first-responder to every crisis at the front doors. I was a willing “mark” for the resident street-population in search of a meal; far-from-home traveler seeking a gas coupon to get him/her back to family and friends; family who needed a hotel voucher for the night; or distraught neighbor who just wanted a quiet retreat from trauma to pray.
Yet, this day, over 30 years ago, would be different, for standing on the other side of the plate glass was a very ordinary-looking young man my age who appeared to be in extraordinary crisis. I opened the door fast enough to be baptized in the torrent of emotion and pain that gushed from him, all over both of us.
“I’m so sick,” he lamented, “And I don’t know what it is! I just want to die!”
Opening the church door that morning became the portal through which I would willingly engage a desperate young man and unwittingly an unknown killer who perniciously stalked him and an unsuspecting population who privately hid their habits and passed through the doors of most churches anonymously. The secret slayer – soon to be identified a pandemic world-wide mass-murderer – was HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), and its unsuspecting victims in my environment were mostly younger people simply seeking love, acceptance, belonging and security at, or just beyond, the edges of the practices of majority cultural tradition. The next-largest group of people also affected and infected in my corner of the globe would be hemophiliacs and surgery patients needing blood transfusions.
That young man at the church door and I met twice afterwards. He was already deathly ill that day, and he passed only a few weeks later BUT not without knowing that someone cared for his earthly life and his eternal soul. We connected that day because I believed then as I do now:
• Jesus teaches that families, friends, Christians, Pastors and their congregations can do no less than, “Love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, AND love our neighbors – at, inside and beyond the front doors of our churches – as ourselves,” Luke 10:25-28.
• Christ calls us to mercifully minister to all neighbors he providentially puts in our paths, like my dying friend and the Good Samaritan’s “half-dead” neighbor, Luke 10:25-37, and…
• Our LORD’s vision for His church engages everyone, specifically “be[ing] witnesses (martyrs) to people like us, people a little unlike us, people who are outcasts and who we have previously hated, and people we can’t even imagine,” a legitimately interpretive meaning of Acts 1:8.
In today’s blog, I want you to experience the beginnings of the story of how I became a life-long advocate and pastor for people with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends. There is much more to the story, but I want you to know that, if we let it, a simple encounter with a person we are called to love in an everyday God-moment can change our lives, forever.
I have also written today’s blog to begin a series, which asks a crucial question in the practical application of our faith, “Why don’t we churches start HIV&AIDS ministries?” HIV&AIDS has been, is and will continue to be perhaps the greatest threat to human existence we experience and one of the greatest opportunities for Christians to care in church history.
Over the next few weeks, I invite you to join me, exposing five strategic insights about denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance we need to explore, embrace and employ before we can even S.T.A.R.T.* ministering to people living with HIV&AIDS and their families and friends.
* Visit: http://hivaidsinitiative.com/takeaction/startaministry/