HIV and the Church

Saddleback PEACE teams travel to Rwanda to work with the local churches and train volunteers who become community PEACE servants and lay social workers, making a lasting impact long after PEACE teams return. This is Tim’s experience on a PEACE trip, when he visited the home of Anatas, a man who is living with HIV and serving in his local church as a community PEACE servant by providing testing and treatment for his church family and community.

The moment I entered Anatas’ home, I couldn’t help but notice the circumstances in which he lived. The damp, dirt floors were only barely visible by the light from a single bulb haphazardly hanging from the ceiling.  Rugged adobe bricks that served as the walls of the home looked weathered. A single wooden bench and a couple of plastic chairs surrounded a table in the living room.  We sat down and politely introduced ourselves. This was my first home visit in Rwanda, and I had no idea what I was in for. 

Anatas was a tall and slender man who looked to be in his mid-to-late 40’s. He was very timid when he first introduced himself.  His daughter Martha sat sheepishly beside him, occasionally whispering something in Kinyarwanda in his ear.  As he continued to share his story, his initially mild manner turned to excitement and joy.  He couldn’t help but smile when he described how God had radically changed his life.

I was moved by his testimony of perseverance and resilience.  After the genocide that decimated his homeland, he remained a soldier to provide for his family, witnessing the brutal deaths of people close to him and questioning his own survival, purpose and place in the world. In his heart, there was an emptiness he was longing to fill. 

Soon after this time of self-examination, Anatas checked out a Christian church with his wife.  His heart was captured, and since then, he has attended church regularly and is a living testament to the blessings the Lord gives him. Now a leader in his church, Anatas uses his story to bring others to Christ.

At the center of Anatas’ success is Valencia, his wife of 20 years. Together they are raising 6 beautiful children, 5 of whom are biological children.  Their eldest daughter, Ruth, is his niece and was taken in after her parents tragically lost their lives during the conflict. Though their family has been through tremendous suffering, Anatas’ and Valencia’s faith continues to thrive through a deep relationship with Christ and hope that their children will grow in strong relationships with Christ as well.

As soon as I thought I had figured him out, Anatas startlingly revealed that he is infected with HIV, a burden which exacerbates his struggle to supply food for his family.  His job as a construction worker yields meager pay.  He tells me that the Saddleback Orphan Care Sponsorship funds he receives through the local church for taking in an orphan are critical to providing for his family. Although he is HIV positive, this does not impede him from being a guiding example for others. He ministers with his church, testing for and treating others with HIV while providing hope for others through Jesus.  

What Anatas and I shared during this visit transcended every cultural and language barrier.  Our faith in God united us to be able to share our story as one family.  I concluded the home visit, praying for his health, family and that he continue to be a shining beacon of hope for those to whom he ministers.  Lastly, I prayed that other loving families, like those of Anatas, would open their homes and provide a safe haven for the neglected orphans of Rwanda.

Though Anatas comes from humble beginnings, he has the heart and generosity of a king.  His story forever remains in my heart.  

Since this visit, our team has heard more heartening testimonials of people whose lives are being transformed by God. We consoled and offered support and encouragement to those living with HIV, adoptive parents, and orphans. I was able to share, laugh, and even cry with the people of Rwanda. This experience has opened my eyes to the power of active faith and love in Jesus Christ.


You can go to Rwanda and make an impact just like Tim. If you are interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS PEACE trips, please email,

If you would like to sponsor a family in Rwanda who is adopting a child, please visit,

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