On Hallowed Ground | By David Miller
Timothy Ray Brown came to Saddleback this World AIDS Day. Timothy, the only person ever confirmed to be cured of HIV infection after 40 years of this plague. Tim Brown, known to every person with AIDS, every doctor around the world fighting this miserable plague, as the “Berlin Patient” after one of the most daring medical procedures in history, a procedure which cured him of HIV after being diagnosed with an AIDS related cancer that was threatening his life.
I’d been to Saddleback right before World AIDS Day, right before I saw Tim speak, talked for hours with people here about AIDS ministries, about the current course of the epidemic. The work being done here is a model for other churches, no matter their size, their budget, to engage in this work to save the lives and spare suffering and humiliation of people with HIV, their families, friends.
Kay Warren told Tim and everyone at Saddleback what a miracle his cure represented. I saw Timothy take the stage, the same stage I had spoken from a half dozen times since I had first come to Saddleback Church in what felt like a lifetime ago, before I had even considered that Jesus Christ would make His presence known to people with HIV through the Church.
Timothy told his story, the same way he had done so many times before. But at Saddleback, it was different. People who didn’t spend their every waking hour fighting HIV wept, Kay who knows what this epidemic means to us all wept, and I came away from two days of seeing hope emanate through the congregation, from people who’d come to see the first person cured of HIV believe that God’s purpose for their lives had been made manifest.
It’s taken me a few days to put it all into context.
The “Holiday” Season, from Thanksgiving to New Years always includes World AIDS Day, the most somber, most exhausting and most regrettable of occasions. Tim’s testimony at Saddleback made World AIDS Day a message of hope for the first time.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Living Savior, the promise of redemption and salvation and everlasting life, and our reconciliation with God through the sacrifice of His only Son. I never understood why we give each other gifts on Christmas when it’s HIS birthday. On World AIDS Day, watching Timothy Ray Brown speak, I learned at Saddleback what to give Jesus on His birthday this year…a renewed dedication to ending the AIDS crisis.
David Miller is an AIDS treatment activist, living in the South Bronx. David is a member of the Cornell Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group Community Advisory Board, The Development Director of the World AIDS Institute and writes for A&U magazine, www.HIVHAVEN.com and blogs for the HIV&AIDS Initiative. David is a long term survivor and a veteran of ACT UP NY.