Our reflection for the second Sunday of Lent is written by Fr Kelly Michelo SJ, who used to run the Chikuni programme for people living with HIV in Zambia.
As I come to reflect on this second week of Lent, it makes me wonder: what if Jesuits hadn’t taken the first step to respond to the AIDS crisis? What would have happened? What if AJAN didn’t exist?
Just as an example, I remember how back in 2000, many people in the rural mission of Chikuni in Zambia were bedridden. The hospital simply did not have enough space or personnel to care for them. The parish started Chikuni Home-Based Care (HBC), to train local volunteers in the communities, called ‘caregivers’, in basic nursing skills. Chikuni HBC also offered voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) through a mobile clinic before the service was moved back to the hospital.
With time, people living with HIV in Chikuni became healthier. ARVs became more accessible, people learned how to manage the disease, and their opportunistic infections were speedily treated. The HBC programme was now concerned about the sustainability of its outreach programme. So, it began income-generating activities involving both clients and caregivers.
To overcome dependency and to enable people to create sustainable livelihoods, the next step was self-help groups. These groups have helped to unleash masses of potential in the parish by empowering the individual to believe that “I have the capability to improve my situation.” The programme emphasises the value of self-reliance and increases families’ income.
Today’s Gospel of Matthew reminds us how Jesus was transfigured. Let us imagine how Peter, James and John, although not transfigured like Jesus, were nonetheless transformed by their experience. In a similar way, have we experienced degrees of transformation, whether as people living with HIV or as those who work with them?
As I reflect more about it, the disciples’ experience of transformation is certainly the same as that we have received in our AIDS ministry. Today, we are being invited to experience and to creatively bring about joyful transformation, even as we face donor fatigue and as our AIDS ministries may be threatened.
Having worked for five years in HIV programmes, I feel so much the transformation within me. I have been enriched by listening to people who are living with HIV. As I listen to them, I can see that within their hearts, there is something that is telling them more – more abundance of life, more self-reliance, and more transformation of their own lives. This desire for more is what Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, calls Magis. It is this desire for more among people living with HIV, caregivers, funding partners, Jesuits and co-workers in AIDS ministry that transformed me and should inspire you. The desire for the experience of God is the same desire for transformation that should move us to action, to continue to believe, and to continue to be relevant.
The consolation or kairos for all us in AIDS ministry is that all of us are being transformed into a profound and richer image of Jesus.
First Sunday of Lent: Making choices with Christ
Ash Wednesday: Come back to me with all your heart
To read this reflection in French, please go here: Une transformation joyeuse à la pastorale contre le SIDA