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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Friday, May 31, 2013

A place of Support and Healing



 
This is the second in a series of articles written by a number of Community of Christ Evangelists in Canada East Mission.  We are pleased to offer the stories of these highly respected ministers for your reading.  It is our hope that their stories of faith will bring a blessing to your life.  This post is from Evangelist Carole Heathers of Stratford, Ontario.

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For ten years I spent a week at camp with a group of people oppressed by society and the stigma of HIV/AIDS. I knew of the oppression and stigma firsthand as our son struggled with whom he could trust to share his status. He lost his battle with AIDS in 2000.
The camp was sponsored by another denomination and was the only AIDS camp that included all people. The campers were a diverse group, adults, children, gay, straight, different nationalities, different abilities, different religions…so many differences but the one thing they had in common was that HIV/AIDS had touched their lives. In spite of the many differences they accepted each other with open arms. Camp is a safe place for everyone, often the only place where they could be themselves and feel safe enough to speak freely. When I stepped on the grounds each year I had the feeling that it was sacred space where all were safe and accepted…it reminded me of how I envision Zion.  Some campers had never been able to share their status for fear of being ostracized, even persecuted. As the week goes on you can see a weight lifted from their shoulders… a wonderful blessing…a blessing of acceptance and support.
Each day I led a Guided Meditation elective to bring healing. To those who took part it built a bond of trust between them.  On one occasion I was able to offer to a very sick camper the sacrament of the laying on of hands. My heart ached for the campers as they shared their stores of abuse and cruelty. That pain was doubled when their own family turned their back on them.
I remember the year a young man drove onto the campgrounds. It only took a look into his eyes to see his pain and fear. He had been encouraged to come to camp but as he stepped on the grounds it was obvious he was ready to run. I approached him, introduced myself and did my best to help him feel at home. It was a struggle to keep him at camp but I encouraged him each day to stay for another night and see how he felt. I asked him to come to the meditation group I was leading. After the rest of the group left for other activities he stayed and talked and cried as he shared the pain in his heart. He found out he was HIV positive just a few weeks before he came to camp; his parents distanced themselves from him. He was alone, scared of what the future would bring. He was depressed, nervous and had no one he trusted enough to share this burden with. In the quiet of our meditation room I had the privilege of listening to his story and offering him words of encouragement and hope.
At first he stayed by my side, ate every meal with me not really engaging with the other campers.  After a few days he began to look beyond his fear and see the many campers who are living with HIV/AIDS and living fully.  The day he said to me, “Do you mind if I eat my lunch with the guys from my dorm” I knew he had found a support system of friends who would stand by him without judgment.
God blessed me with a deep compassion for the difficult journey these extraordinary men and woman were walking. They have forever touched my life.

Carole Heathers

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story of love, caring, encouragement and healing. Thank you, Carole.

    ReplyDelete