Written by Marty Johnson
I returned recently from a life-changing trip to ECWA Hospital Egbe in Nigeria. Some of my most impactful experiences involved the Spring of Life ministry that reaches out to HIV+ and AIDS victims and their families. I learned of the devastation this disease brings to individuals, families and the community. I learned about some of the stigma associated with HIV affliction, and the shame it brings to entire families. I learned about some of the obstacles to identifying and treating victims; difficulties educating the community about the correlation between lifestyles and death; and the cultural barriers to providing in-home care to those dying and grieving from AIDS.
Pastor Alabi knew I was involved with hospice in the U.S., so he invited me to ride with him on the back of his motor bike to see an HIV patient who lived in town with her parents and her two young children. I eagerly accepted. It wasn’t until later that I learned the whole story surrounding this young mother’s tragedy. Her husband had died two or three years ago. And it was at that time she discovered he had AIDS. By then, she was already infected with the HIV virus. And sadly, her vision was irreparably damaged also. Upon our visit, we were able to provide encouragement and badly needed eye drops for the mother and also assess her daughter who had been running a high fever for three days. Dr. Nedosa, Chief Resident at ECWA Hospital Egbe, ordered malaria medications for the child; and because of timely interventions, she recovered fully.
I met another young woman who had just graduated from University. She had been diagnosed as HIV+ last summer, but it had taken months for her parents to persuade her to come to the hospital for the medications that would allow her to live. However, this girl did not want to live. Apparently, she believed her life was over. She would never marry. She would never have children. She refused to speak, avoided eye contract and cried often during her visit and counseling with Pastor Alabi and Nurse Petra. Her eyes were pools of despair. But I heard these gifted counselors speaking life to her and hope and acceptance and help.
One Friday morning, as HIV+ individuals from the community came to the hospital to receive their government-provided antiretroviral drugs, I had the privilege of sharing my testimony with them at a support group meeting at the Spring of Life clinic. Pastor Alabi interpreted. Then Dr. Vake Kantayya, also a visiting missionary–and formerly the medical director of ECWA Hospital Egbe–gave a teaching from the Bible about how we are members of one body. He shared that when one part of our body is hurting, our entire body suffers. Then Dr. Kantayya knelt at the feet of each of those individuals and washed their feet and prayed for them. It was a powerful statement to these hurting individuals–so filled with sorrow and shame–about the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ that is available to them at Spring of Life.