The church as a healing community

The church, by its very nature as the body of Christ, calls its members to become healing communities. Despite the extent and complexity of the problems raised by HIV/AIDS, the churches can make an effective healing witness towards those affected. The experience of love, acceptance and support within a community where God's love is made manifest can be a powerful healing force. This means that the church should not - as was often the case when AIDS was first recognized in the gay community - exclude, stigmatize and blame persons on the basis of behaviour which many local congregations and churches judge to be unacceptable.

It is important to acknowledge that the church is a communion of one body with many members, each distinct:

But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:24b-27).

When the church properly responds to people living with HIV/ AIDS, both ministering to them and learning from their suffering, its relationship to them will indeed make a difference, and thus become growth-producing. And if through this relationship - out of fidelity to others who are suffering and because of the significance of those who suffer - we are again pushed back on ourselves, it is because in the gospels we are required to love : this is a demand, a requirement, not an option.

Two months after the federal Centre for Disease Control's (CDC) 1981 report of the first cases of an illness to become known as AIDS, eighty men alarmed by the report gathered in New York writer Larry Kramer's apartment to hear a doctor speak-about'-"gay cancer". Passing the hat, the men contributed $6635 for biomedical research. Six months later, this fund-raising group became Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC).

Even as GMHC, one of the largest AIDS service organizations in the USA , was coming into existence, members of Metropolitan Community Churches and Episcopal churches in New York , San Francisco and Los Angeles were voicing concern and taking action regarding AIDS and those infected by the virus. They thereby launched the very first religious community response to AIDS - a response "from the pews up". Those who had long worshipped together and shared church socials together were now together in the face of the virus as they had never been before. They began to provide personal care services including meals, house-cleaning, transportation to clinics or hospitals; they provided emergency financial assistance or housing; they offered free legal or dental services. And they began to devise new liturgical responses to their suffering .

From Kenneth South, AIDS National Interfaith Network,
Washington DC , USA

The celebration of life through renewal in worship

Worship - a special moment for celebration - attempts to place daily life on the stage. The repetition of gestures, words, sounds and colours that form the moment of celebration re-creates a reality that in many respects is also lived in an unconscious way.

More than the scheduled time of celebration, worship is the connection between this moment of celebration and life itself. It is a time for recognizing that we are created in God's image, a time to acknowledge our differences, to learn to be together, to be in touch, to overcome prejudices.

Worship calls the body in its totality to express moments of daily life and to recognize God's will and the importance of God's commitment to care for people and creation. Worship can help churches to remove the barriers we create in the everyday life of our human communities by opening up our eyes, our ears and all our senses to the extraordinary significance of "ordinary" experiences and to ways of expressing God's presence amidst the people and creation.

It is important to renew the ways in which we celebrate life and our faith as we worship together, as we read the Bible, pray and bring praise, and as we share experiences, life stories and bear one another's burdens. Some are challenged to enlarge their fellowship to include other Christian traditions and other faiths. In this fellowship the community joins hands and hearts for a service of healing for all humankind, amidst all the tragedies and all the suffering of our world; and it calls for the healing of people, cultures, nations and creation.

Worship services focusing on HIV/AIDS and those affected by it have been a vital element of the Strathclyde Interchurch AIDS Project in Scotland. People living with the virus and working on the front lines have been integrally involved in planning such services and developing creative ways of identifying and addressing the spiritual needs of those touched by HIV/AIDS. To begin with, these services were promoted primarily through the churches and through health board and social work outlets; later HIV/AIDS and gay and lesbian publications were used to inform those most likely to respond about the services.[1]

Safe places for sharing, telling and listening

The church can be a healing community only if it is truly a sanctuary , that is, a safe space, a healing space. For healing, people need a place where they can be comfortable in sharing their pain.

During a solidarity visit to Project Momentum, an AIDS project in the basement of a Roman Catholic Church in New York City, woman pastor who co-ordinates the programme told about the experience of a woman who broke into tears when she participated in their meeting and openly shared, for the first time in her life, that she was living with HIV. It made her feel accepted and gave her a sense of wholeness and acceptance, as a whole person, in community.

From the report of a solidarity visit by the sob-group on pastoral care and healing community.

The church needs to create an atmosphere of openness and acceptance. As noted earlier (p. 44), St Basil the Great taught that it is up to those in leadership positions in the church to create an environment, an ethos, a "disposition" for the cultivation of goodness and love in the community. The leadership of the church is called upon to nurture the seeds of the Logos , God's own word and God's own energy among the people. By creating a proper atmosphere or disposition, that "good moral action" which is love will issue forth in the lives of the human community.

Creating "safe spaces" for telling one's own story within our church communities is therefore a practical step through which congregations can become healing communities. The church, which is built upon and shaped around the master story of the gospels, can offer a forum where those who are afflicted can, in trust and acceptance, let down their guards and share their stories. Of course, this is not easily done. Self-disclosure, surrendering the chains of shame and guilt that have held one in bondage, may seem like a kind of "death". Many would rather keep the contents of such a story hidden - not realizing that a person's hold on the story is often as much the problem as the story's hold on the person.

Healing and care become more possible as one "shares the story" within an atmosphere of acceptance, love and continuing concern. The task for those in the ordained ministry of the church is to leave space in their own hearts and to allow their own egos to die, in order that this potential source of healing can flourish and bear fruit. This is the only way to create an atmosphere of acceptance in which stories can be shared. And this healing needs to happen among the people of the church.

The congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has a support ministry committee to deal with people living with HIV/ AIDS. To become a member of the support ministry one must undergo 20 hours of training on HIV/AIDS and understand the United Church of Christ's theology of inclusiveness. The pastor is fully supportive_ of the ministry, which ensures confidentiality and a safe space for, people in the church to share their stories. The church also offers other signs of accompaniment and solidarity for members to feel comfortable in sharing their pain and joy. Of the 7000 members, 5000 are wearing red ribbons in solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS and those who have died.

Erlinda Sentunas, from the report of a solidary visit to four cities in the USA

The truth of the stories we share teaches us not only about others; it can also teach us about ourselves. Indeed, it is only in learning about ourselves that this healing is possible. People living with HIV/AIDS have shared many stories about themselves. They challenge us to change our understanding that "HIV = AIDS = death". They are living, they are struggling, they are teaching and learning - and they want all of us to enter into a new way of understanding life in community. People living with HIV/AIDS remind us that we are all vulnerable and in need of healing. We are challenged, therefore, to break the barriers between "us" and "them" because we all live with HIV/AIDS.

Weaving homes and community

The experience of AIDS highlights the shortcomings of traditional family and church structures. Many people are seeking other "spaces" for co-existence, self-discovery and self-affirmation. Leaving home and venturing into the unknown is a common experience among those living with HIV/AIDS.

The ethnographic survey carried out by the Institute of Religious Studies in Brazil in 1994 made it possible to interview and get to know a large number of people living with HIV/AIDS whose lives have been profoundly transformed by this new situation. They were re-thinking their' lives, their relationships, their future, their destiny, the quality and intensity of their-lives.-People-have sought, and in many cases found, a new home, a new family, perhaps provisionally - but with the very-deep-seated wish to recast family ties and relationships, with so many brothers and sisters discovered along the way. They have found a new home, rediscovered and rewritten with tears and dreams, as a "living space" for thousands of persons.

Ernesto Barros Cardoso

In Zaire a team visited a man who had been abandoned by his family because of his illness. He was pitifully lonely, waiting for visitors, and looking for what the team might be bringing for him. Some discussion began to build his confidence to take the initiative to call his family together. The team offered to come and talk with them in the hope of encouraging reconciliation. He invited them; and when the team' left he was looking very different from when they first arrived. He was looking forward to an opportunity for family reconciliation, not just for his own benefit but for the wellbeing of his children and grandchildren all of whom, he felt, need to protect themselves.

Ian Campbell in a report a Salvation Array team visit to Zaire


However, many people living with HIV/AIDS are also returning to their homes, running the risk of admitting that they need to rebuild relationships and seeking reconciliation. In this way they can affirm that they are not "victims", but active participants in the restoration of the family and community.

Both individually and through informal groups which they have organized, people living with HIV/AIDS in Northern Thailand are becoming a force for redemption and healing in their local communities. Young widows, whose husbands have died of AIDS cover stretches of dusty rural roads on motorbikes to sit with, hold the hand of, feed, bathe, caress and restore the hope of pain-wracked persons bereft of the will to live or to dream. Spontaneous support groups are appearing in homes and in roadside rest-spots where villagers, both HIV-infected and those not infected, share their experiences: All of these are vivid glimpses of the reality of true communion.

Thus it was, and has been for nearly two years now, that non-Christians in one part of Sankampang District have sought out the Christian pastor for comfort, support, solace and guidance, and have moved fret y in and out of the church grounds, having come to see the church as a place of refuge, of release, of acceptance, of hope and of healing .

Prakai Nontowasee

The link between prevention and care

In living its identity as a caring community and in facilitating change, the church can develop practical approaches to HIV/AIDS. It is through caring with people that changes in attitudes, behaviours and the environment happen. This process of caring is linked to the response of people as they move towards their own change and healing. In so doing they help to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading, and find hope for the future of their families and communities. They are living out the nature of true and loving care, which is to be transforming .

Caring can be expressed in various places where people can feel safe - at home, in the hospital, in drop-in centres - and it can be strengthened through the involvement of people from the whole community: neighbours, community leaders, church members, health professionals and those from various organizations. This involvement transforms people's lives - people living with HIV/AIDS, those intimately linked to them, the wider community and those doing the work. Care can provide an opportunity for exploring the meaning of creative and constructive change.

To help members of churches and communities understand the full dimension and impact of HIV/AIDS in their lives, participatory approaches are crucial. The AIDS pandemic should be regarded as a unique opportunity to revive and reinforce the values of responsibility, sexual integrity, healthy relationships, human dignity and mutual respect.

Focus group discussion in churches could be encouraged as a vital ministry. Questions such as the following could be raised: what does the church uniquely bring to efforts to face the challenges of HIV/ AIDS? Has the church become a ghetto, isolated from the life of the people? Does the church touch people's existential lives? How can the church deal with, and be responsive to, the life of the community? How can the church be supported in identifying its priorities, and in tackling difficult issues related to its identity, life and mission? How can the church identify effective and relevant action to meet the challenge of HIV/AIDS? How can those in the church best reflect on what they have learned in meeting this challenge?

The role of the church should be seen in the light of its particular cultural context as well as in the light of the universal gospel message.

One church which has had the courage to engage in focus group discussion on HIV/AIDS is the Armenian Orthodox Church in Lebanon . The context of the life and mission of this church is the pluralistic society of Lebanon, in which this group of Lebanese Christians has maintained a particular way of life. Ideally, the church is where people seek solutions; but the church has in fact been shying away from the realities of everyday life. The church is slow in reacting to social issues. There is minimal dialogue with youth, and the church faces difficulties in preparing young people for sexuality. Religion and sexuality are not seen as contradictory, but finding practical approaches has been problematic. Moreover, many priests are poorly informed about HIV/AIDS. Their only source of information is what they read in newspapers or see on television. Action on HIV/AIDS is left to non-governmental organizations; it is not something the church is involved in. Therefore a need for priests to receive education on human sexuality is recognized.

This concrete experience from a parish in Lebanon is just one of many examples illustrating the need to equip churches with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes in meeting the challenge of HIV/ AIDS.

People should develop a realistic understanding of vulnerability and risk, know the effectiveness of different preventive options and relate these to their own personal values. They should feel motivated to choose preventive behaviours, to practise relevant skills and to develop attitudes of compassion and care.

To promote the prevention of HIV-infection, frightening messages - using such images as skeletons, skulls, coffins and even open wounds - have often been transmitted in the hope of scaring people into behavioural change. Such messages are harmful. Not only do they suggest that unless one has such symptoms one is not infected, but they add to the stigma attached to those who are actually infected.

With HIV spreading everywhere, no preventive campaign can ignore that there are and will be more people infected and in need of support. The messages in a preventive campaign should therefore prepare people to take care of the infected and to show support for them. If we choose to use military language in this context and describe the virus as the "enemy", we must also make it very clear that the person carrying the virus is not the enemy, but a co-fighter against it.

Preventive work is indeed more effective when it engages persons who are living with HIV/AIDS. People listen and react when they hear the story of a person who is present before them, rather than merely seeing words on a page or drawings on a poster. Openness about HIV should be promoted, both to effect change and to extend support to those infected or affected.

Pastoral care and counselling

In practice AIDS 'counselling is often combined with health education, understood as teaching a client or patient how to behave and providing relevant information. But although information is an important dimension, counselling has other central aspects as well. Overall it should be seen as a helping or supporting process aimed at assisting persons in coping with their life-situation and accepting what has affected them.

Counselling is a process for empowering the person to make decisions about his or her own life. Beyond conveying information, the counselling process includes partnership in discussion and reflection about the specific problems and challenges the individual and his or her family are facing. In that sense, counselling may be concerned with many different areas of the life of a person or a family, and may address physical, practical, psychological, social and spiritual needs.

The goal of AIDS counselling in particular is twofold: to help infected persons come to terms with their situation; and to promote coping strategies for the infected and the affected, including preventing or reducing HIV-transmission.

Usually the arena for discussion, including any related testing and its associated counselling process, is one of confidentiality for the individual. Voluntary testing and counselling have been shown to be effective for support and prevention if a confidential environment is maintained.

While a variety of professionals may be involved in AIDS counselling, many professional counsellors would benefit from additional training in this specialized area. With proper training, concerned and dedicated volunteers may also be very good counsellors. Listening skills, the ability to empathize with persons in a vulnerable and difficult situation and the willingness to share the pain and grief in a counselling encounter are the main qualities which should be looked for when selecting potential counsellors.

A Guide to HIV/AIDS Pastoral Counselling , published by the World Council of Churches in 1990, is a practical manual with guidelines, information and case studies designed to help pastors and churches to improve their pastoral counselling skills.

A Journey of Love

Edward Dobson, the pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids , Michigan , USA , and a member of the WCC Consultative Group on AIDS, said that difficulties arise for many evangelicals when care is extended to people outside the church who are living with HIVi AIDS. "Immediately tensions emerge: the tension of truth and love. How can we love people without legitimizing their choices? How can the church preach and model the ideal while at the same time confronting the reality?" But pursuing people in love can be an unpredictablejourn;ey. "I view this journey as an illustration of whet happened when we decided to love some people who are ignored by many in the community. In the process of our journey we have learned some important lessons."

Rev. Dobson shared one of his journeys:

The envelope was not significantly different from the envelopes of the dozens of letters I get each week. But the contents would alter the direction of my life and ministry. It was a letter from a former member of our church. She had lost her husband, remarried and moved to another city. The letter was about her son Jim [not his real name]. Jim had grown up in our church. He attended Sunday school and was active in the youth group. But when he turned 18 he left the church for good. For many of his years in church he had struggled with his sexuality, and at 18 he left the Christian community and joined the gay community. When I received the letter, Jim was 35 and hospitalized in a serious condition. His mother feared that he had AIDS and asked if I would go and visit him.

Jim was not the first person I knew with HIV/AIDS. There was Steve. I had travelled with Steve for an entire summer in an evangelistic team. Over the years I lost contact with him. Then someone told me he had died with complications from the virus (HIV/AIDS). There was Brian. Brian was a haemophiliac. I visited him many times. He also died of complications from the virus. The funeral director refused to open the casket at his funeral.

It was a weekday evening when I went to the hospital to visit Jim. There was a sign on his door to check with the nursing station before, entering his room. I did and was given the OK to go into the room. The room was dimly lit, and Jim was all alone. I introduced myself and told Jim that his mother had written me a letter and asked me to visit him. Jim did not say much.

I told him that his mother feared he might have the virus. He told me that the doctor had just been in to, see him, and his blood tests indicated he was HIV-positive. I was the first person lie talked to since lie got the news. I did not say a lot. 'I could' tell lie was afraid. I later found out that Jim thought he was going to die that night! I took his hand to offer a prayer. It was as if his hand was on fire. His fever was extremely high. After praying, I left him a copy of Billy Graham's book Peace with God.

When I went to see him the next day his fever was broken and he was sitting up in bed. He had a smile on his face. 'I read the book,' he said, and 'I invited Christ into nay life.' Soon Jim was released from the hospital and began a five-year war against the virus. We -became friends, Jim occasionally attended our church. One of the families in our church `adopted': him. They had him over to eat regularly and walked with him through his battle. He watched our television programme every week and often offered suggestions on how to improve it. We ate lunch together. We talked about the loneliness of his battle against HIV. We talked about his struggle with sexuality. We talked about the hatred and rejection of many Christians.

The last time I was with him was again in a hospital room - the place where our friendship had begun. It was a few days before he died. AIDS had robbed his body of health, vitality and his eyesight. Two friends were with him. We joined hands together and prayed for Jim. I knew it would be my last prayer and it was hard to find words. Even as I write I am overcome with emotion."

Edward Dobson, in "HIV/AIDS; An Evangelical Perspective"

Community counselling

The counselling process which is applicable to an individual can also be applied to a group. This is done by building on the existing capacity to discuss issues of common concern.

Counselling as a community process can relate to both changes in attitude, behaviours and environments and to support. Skilled counselling can build inclusion, participation and capacity for agreement within the community.

In community counselling the presence of people living with HIV/ AIDS is alluded to, but this is not connected specifically with those who are directly involved. These are kept in "shared confidentiality", meaning that people know the situation but do not discuss it directly. Instead, its meanings and implications are explored by the community members themselves. One major element of community confidentiality is "confidential sharing". If acknowledged, this can be a building block for facilitating a community response that links persons through their relationships to processes of support and change.

One example of this comes from Tshelanyemba , Zimbabwe , where community leaders came to understand the information about HIV/AIDS through interactive methods of education. Concerned, they began to meet together to discuss what they as leaders should do. Such spontaneous responses happen frequently when community leaders in any part of the world become aware; but this process can and should be facilitated so that it emerges more quickly and produces concrete action before the energy of commitment dissipates.

Knowing they had a resource in the AIDS team at the nearby hospital from which the educational resources had come, the Tshelanyemba leaders began to meet regularly with the team. At first there was an expectation that the hospital team would have "the answers"; but even when it became apparent that they did not, the commitment of everyone to the process was such that they could continue to facilitate joint exploration. This also taught the team something about the resourcefulness and determination of their community. The community became serious enough about the issues illuminated by HIV/AIDS to go on to tackle questions of alcohol use, migrant worker husbands, the drinking behaviour of men during the day, the sexual activity of their youth which was sometimes known to follow all-night prayer meetings, and the need to reflect on "codes of accountability", both those which already existed and those needed for future survival.

People of Christian faith are called to a service of reconciliation which links spiritual, biblical and theological themes to our response to HIV/AIDS in the areas of counselling and confidentiality. As an integral aspect of this response we must seek to capture the mystery of belonging, participation and mutual accountability - all of which are elements of confidentiality.

These elements, including the process of "confidential sharing", are realities existing in communities in different cultures. From them

can develop an integrated care and prevention approach which accelerates a community's capacity to work together for positive change through respecting individual rights, while acknowledging community responsibility for both support and change. This is a source of hope and increased spiritual sensitivity for people and communities in the face of accumulated loss.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges the church to rediscover and strengthen its ministry to those under threat of death or now dying. The church believes that hope is not lost when a person is infected with HIV; it believes that the spiritual resources of the church can be used to help people to accept, and to come to terms with, their own mortality. In all these concerns churches are well placed to work with local communities.

Case Study: The Strength of a Woman

The Church of Christ in Thailand has experienced the importance of community involvement in counselling and on this basis has developed case studies to assist churches in reflecting on pastoral care and healing community. These case studies, drawn from concrete experiences, include questions for discussion and reflection. One of these studies is as follows:

Arthit and Urai lived together with their six-year-old daughter Nut and Arthit's parents in a village about 30 km. south of Chiang Mai. They learned that they were both HIV-positive when they went for medical check-ups prior to deciding whether to have a second child. Arthit, angry with himself for having brought this upon his family, became suicidal. Urai's love, equanimity and firmness kept him from taking his life. "Whatever happens, we'll face it together," she said.

When Arthit was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis, he again felt discouraged and defeated. On top of the physical suffering came the pain inflicted by others. Neighbours stopped coming to visit for fear of contracting HIV. People in the market where Urai sold fresh vegetables avoided her stand, and her business slowed drastically, The family of Arthit's sister even took Nut away for fear that she would contract HIV by living under the same roof. Although he had been very close to his daughter, Arthit's own irrational fear even stopped him touching and holding Nut. He missed her comfort and warmth, He would not go outside the house, he stopped eating and he stopped taking care of himself. Still, Urai rose early each morning to go and sell her vegetables, only allowing herself to cry for a few minutes in the darkness before her husband awoke, refusing to let hind see her tears. Again, it was her love, determination and commitment to him that made life worth fighting for and pulled Arthit back from despair.

After visiting a specialist at the hospital, and receiving medication for his meningitis, Arthit's condition improved within a matter of days.

Some time later Arthit and Urai heard about a Buddhist meditation centre where the abbot taught a technique designed for people living with AIDS. Based loosely on psychological and psychosomatic principles, and using a model which combined traditional Buddhist teachings and healing, it was providing many people with an effective spiritual discipline. It helped to release their pent-up emotions, focus their minds and clarity their thoughts and planning, resulting in improved health and a strengthened immune system. After a one-week session at the centre, they returned home feeling utterly renewed, refreshed, re- invigorated, and with new desire and energy for the struggle for life.

At home they kept up the meditation, growing stronger day by day. While pain, problems, obstacles, frustration, grief and family issues which brought disagreement and quarrels did not disappear, Urai and Arthit felt able to confront them one by one, day by day, without fear.

About this time they were introduced to We Church of Christ in Thailand 's AIDS ministries team. The team visited weekly, brought basic medicine they needed and, more importantly, just sat and talked quietly with them, giving them a chance to express their feelings, giving voice to their thoughts and breath to their dreams. Soon Arthit's sister returned Nut to there, and Arthit himself packed away the thin mattress from the front room of the house where he had become accustomed to lying when lie was sick or feverish. "I don't need it now," he said, "because there are no longer any sick people in this house." Urai gradually assumed the role of unofficial counsellor to people with problems in their district - anyone who needed a listening ear, a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. She was a source of encouragement and hope for dozens of persons and families who were HIV--positive. Even serge olio had shunned her in the marketplace sought her help, asking what made her so strong in the midst of her crisis.

One day Urai appeared at the CCT AIDS ministries office with fear and confusion in her eyes. Arthit had terrible headaches, could not rise from bed, and there were new skin lesions even worse than before. "Does this mean he is really at the last stage now?", she whispered between gasps, with barely enough strength to force the words out. Then the tears, held hack for months, came rushing out.

We sat with her and let her cry until she finished, then found some pain medication for her to take to Arthit, and promised to visit them both the next day.

When members of the team arrived at their home, Arthit was just as Urai had described. Yet it became clear after only a few minutes of sitting and talking together that the roost distressing and disheartening thing was that neither Arthit's father nor mother, nor anyone else in the household or neighbourhood dared to touch him. They were afraid even to spend more than a few moments at a time in the room with him. He wanted to sit and look out of the window, but no one would help him up. Our workers went to Arthit's side, touched his face and arms, and applied ointment to the affected skin. Placing their arms gently around his waist, they eased him to his feet, and supported friar as he walked the few paces to the door to see the sunshine.

From that day nearly ten months ago, Arthit began to improve. He weighs mare now than he did before getting sick, and while you might sec the scars on Ins face and arms if you looked for-them, you cannot help noticing the radiant smile which is on his face most of to time. It is a hard-won smile which comes from learning to live and love each day, one day at a time. Urai, still Arthit's rock, solace, and joy, continues it good health offering friendship, advice, encouragement and hope to many others living with HIV. Some have formed an informal support group which meets regularly in their home. And reporting on what has been personal and fancily disaster, "I have found true love... I think it's worth it, don't you?"

Questions for discussion

  1. In the context of the HIV AIDS pandemic, how should Christians and churches respond to claims of healing potential (physical, spiritual and otherwise) arising from other traditions, such Buddhist meditation or natural "folk" medicines?
  2. Imagine yourself in Arthit's place. How would he feel about being touched, or physically cared for in the way he was by members of the CCT AIDS ministries team? How would you feel about being touched? How would feel if your parents refused to touch you?
  3. In terms of mental, spiritual, social and relational health; how much of Arthit's and Urai's success in leaving with HIV AIDS is due to medical care and treatment, and how much to other sources?
  4. Consider Urai's role in this story. What observations, as general as they may he, would you venture to make regarding the role of women (wives, mothers, daughters, etc.) in Asian households during tines of disease, death crisis? Where does Urai's strength come from?

From a report by Praitar Nontawasee
on the Church of Christ in Thailand's Health Promotion Unit;
Source-Report on the Meeting of the Sub-Group
on Pastoral Care And Healing Community, New York, pp. 35-38

Support and counselling services, based in community life, should be encouraged by Christian communities. Christian pastoral care and counselling are complementary: pastoral care is a ministry of presence which each person can offer, while counselling is a process of helping people to make healthy choices for their lives. Christians working together in pastoral care and counselling can enable the sharing of burdens and of truth; they can be channels for reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18 ). Drawing on the gifts of the Christian community, we can create teams of volunteers trained in pastoral care and counselling. As these gifts are offered, they can be more fully developed and used.

The needs of those who minister through giving pastoral care and counselling should also be remembered. Pastors and other care-givers need the time and opportunity to grieve for the deaths of those for whom they have cared. They need support in order to live creatively within the continuing stress of constant change and frequent loss.


[1]    Edith Campbell, "The Story of the Strathclyde Interchurch AIDS Project", in Michael S. Northcott, ed., AIDS, Sex and the Scottish Churches , Occasional Paper No. 29, Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, 1993, pp.53f.