As 2016 comes to a close, we wanted to share these words that HIV&AIDS Initiative Founder Kay Warren shared with our church for World AIDS Day - they paint a picture of the impact Saddleback Church, and churches around the world, are making in the fight to end AIDS:
Hi Saddleback. Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to World AIDS Day weekend. As you may know, HIV and AIDS is a Signature Issue of our church. Our HIV&AIDS Initiative is committed to offering compassion, community and real solutions for people affected by and living with HIV and AIDS, and teaching other churches to do the same. World AIDS Day weekend is the time each year when we pause to remember those who have lost their lives and stand with the rest of the world in affirming our commitment to end AIDS.
Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal about HIV?” It’s not something we hear about often in the US. And some of that is good news – medical advances now make it possible for people who are living with HIV to live long, full lives when taking medication regularly.
The bad news is that of the 37 million people living with HIV worldwide, less than half are able to access live saving treatment. AIDS is still the leading cause of death worldwide for women of reproductive age, and continues to be the reason millions of children in Africa are growing up without a mom or dad. And, despite the fact that we know how to prevent and treat HIV, today almost 6000 people will newly acquire the virus – many of them youth ages 13 to 24.
That’s why as a church our goal is to get to zero: zero new
infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero stigma, zero babies born with HIV,
and zero children living in orphanages in Rwanda. And because of the role of
local churches can play in this fight, it’s possible!
A great example of the role the church can play is our
Saddleback Manila campus, which started their campus’s HIV ministry this year
during the Miracle of Mercy campaign.
They are reaching people living with HIV who have never
before had a church family to call home, including families caring for children
living with HIV, many of whom were orphaned by the disease.
In Rwanda, teams of ordinary Saddleback members are helping
equip local churches with training to form HIV ministries and support groups.
Churches are a linkage to care in areas where healthcare access is limited.
Entire orphanages have closed as members of local Rwandan
churches selflessly adopt children with support and training from our
Saddleback PEACE trip teams, and Rwanda is on its way to becoming the first
nation in Africa without orphanages.
Ordinary Saddleback members are pushing back the darkness
everyday as they come alongside people living with HIV here in our communities,
fighting against the isolation and stigma that so often surround this disease
as they reach out in love with a call, a meal, and simple acts of friendship.
None of these milestones took extraordinary medical
knowledge or professional skill – ordinary members of our church are getting to
zero by showing up and caring for the sick like Jesus did. They are
demonstrating the love of our savior in practical, tangible ways. And you can
There are simple ways you can make an impact by becoming a
part of the HIV/AIDS Initiative right here at Saddleback. We’ll train you and offer simple things you
and your small group can do with very little time that will make a difference
in the life of someone living with HIV.
When we reach out in love, we remind the world that it’s not
a sin to be sick – your illness is not your identity. If you are living with
HIV, know that you are welcomed and loved by your church. There’s a place for
If you are unsure of your HIV status, I encourage you to get
tested. It’s quick and painless, and we’re here to support you.
Today, let’s join together as a church family in prayer for
people living with HIV and their loved ones.
And find out ways you can play a role in Getting to Zero by
visiting HIVandtheChurch.com or emailing AIDS@saddleback.com.
Saddleback, this thanksgiving weekend, I’m so grateful for
you as a church and the way that you hold out the love of Jesus to a world so
in need hope. Together, we can get to zero and end AIDS.