At what point do I realize I’m being judgmental? And if I
know I struggle with being judgemental, what would it take to shift my
perspective? For Doree, that tipping point was when a young man living with HIV
hugged her and called her mom.
Doree Arzadon is a college biology teacher. She has a PhD in
agriculture and plant pathology, with viruses as her specialty. It is easy to
see how this background would offer a unique perspective to Doree's teaching,
but she never dreamed it would play such an important role in transforming how
she saw people.
Doree serves faithfully in the prayer ministry and as a
Class 201 assistant at Saddleback Church in South Manila. While she has been a
Christian since her own days in university, Doree has silently struggled in
certain areas of her faith. For a long time, Doree has looked down on those
living with HIV & AIDS, feeling as though they may deserve this disease as
a result of their own moral irresponsibility.
The Miracle of Mercy turned those perceptions upside down.
This year every Saddleback campus participated in the Miracle of Mercy. The
in-depth study showed participants what the Bible teaches about mercy. Like
many others, Doree came to realize it was time to change her perspective, as
well as her actions. As she studied the curriculum Doree began to wonder if she
was too judgmental, and began to examine her own motives. The lessons on mercy
helped her become less critical of others. She has learned to be more kind and
During the Miracle of Mercy, Saddleback South Manila
conducted a Mercy Project called, Life After HIV, an HIV & AIDS Mercy
Experience. WIth her background in biology, Doree was naturally curious and
decided to help out at the event.
Many people living with HIV were present at this event, the
majority in the 20's and early 30's. Everyone in the room heard moving stories
from people who are infected. Fear, isolation and loss of hope were common
themes. So many people who live with this disease don't even tell their
families due to the immense stigma attached to it. The stories created
awareness, and opened the door to an atmosphere for safe sharing.
At the end of the presentation, the crowd was encouraged to
interact with each other. A young man approached Doree. She couldn't help
notice he appeared to be roughly the same age as her son. To her surprise he
addressed Doree as "Mom" and hugged her tightly, crying on her
shoulder. The young man confessed he was terrified at the thought of admitting
to his parents he is HIV positive, fearing certain condemnation and rejection.
He felt so alone with his suffering and shame. All he wanted was for someone to
embrace his grief, his loneliness and his pain. And that night, Doree was there
for him, to listen and to love. She imagined what she would want for her own
son if he were in the same situation, so she held him close, welcoming his
worries and tears. In a very simple, yet powerful way, Doree extended mercy to
a man she had never seen before, and may never see again. That act of mercy
comforted him, and changed Doree forever.
One of Doree's favorite bible verses is Psalms 37:4
"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your
heart." As Doree explains it, when
she truly delights in the Lord, that becomes a filter for her desires. Mercy,
compassion and love are Doree's current desires. Not just to receive them, but
to also give them freely.
"We are all broken and that changes how we treat
people," Doree shared. When we stop looking at others through eyes of
judgment, and begin to see people through the eyes and life of Jesus, the
natural response becomes love.
Doree's story in not uncommon. At Saddleback Church we
believe that loving your neighbor as yourself includes caring for the sick, and
ministering to those who are infected with HIV & AIDS. We also care for
those who are affected, meaning the loved ones of those infected. Our HIV/AIDS
support group is a safe place to come and share your pain with others.
If you would like more information about serving people living with HIV through your church, email us at HIV@saddleback.com.