December 1st is World AIDS Day, a day to remember all those whom we love and have lost to AIDS, and a day to pledge to continue working for an end to the stigma of this disease.
The work of mission pushes us out of our comfort zones, the lives we live in which we don’t have to think too much about our vulnerabilities. Mission calls us out of our comfort and into the world where we meet our brothers and sisters, where we work toward a small measure of justice – even if that only looks like a new wheelchair ramp or a repaired roof. Many times I’ve heard people say that when they work on a mission team, their hands might be pounding nails or measuring wood, but it’s not really about the house. The work of mission is, at the heart of it, to be in solidarity with others in the world, to listen to their stories, to acknowledge that we need each other and all of us are precious in God’s sight.
On World AIDS Day, we also have an opportunity to be in solidarity with others in the world. Even if – and perhaps especially if – you think your life isn’t touched by AIDS, or that your loved ones aren’t at risk for AIDS, go get tested. Getting tested is a way of being in solidarity with those who are more at risk, with those who live with HIV. In many communities, it is shameful to speak out loud that a person is HIV positive. In many countries, medication to treat HIV is expensive and out of reach.
In the United Methodist Book of Worship the prayer for persons with AIDS includes these lines: “Assure them that they are not alone, and give them courage and faith for all that is to come. Strengthen those who care for them and treat them, and guide those who do research. Forgive those who have judged harshly, and enlighten those who live in prejudice or fear.”
The heart of the work of mission is compassion. Stand in solidarity with those who have HIV or AIDS. Get tested. Look for your community’s HIV/AIDS outreach and support their work. Lift a prayer for all those whom we have loved and lost.