Next to the Nyamasaria River in Kenya, Nancy* and her husband began a shared life. There, they started their family of 12. And there, Nancy’s world was shattered.
She watched as AIDS took the the life of her husband and all but four of the children in her care. One by one, Nancy’s family members died, until she was the sole caregiver for a family that seemed to be fighting a losing battle. Nancy herself is also HIV-positive
Her grief was compounded when stigma connected to the disease made Nancy an outcast in her community.
“My relatives called me names, thinking I was the one who infected my husband and killed their relations,” Nancy says. “The church I used to attend rejected me too, when they heard the stories my relatives told. I never felt such brokenness and rejection in all my life. I had nowhere to turn.”
Stories like Nancy’s are common along the Nyamasaria River. Children orphaned by AIDS are cared for by aunts, stepmothers, and unrelated neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet. Because of the stigma, people refuse to give jobs to people living with HIV or AIDS.
But that is not the end of the story. Nazarene churches, in partnership with an organization called Nehemiah’s Restoration, are reaching out to women like Nancy with an opportunity to live with dignity.
Through Project Book Bag, women affected by HIV and AIDS have an opportunity to earn an income by sewing and painting bags to sell. Nancy was invited to participate by the pastor of a Nazarene church. Now, she is now able to provide for her children and send them to school.
And because of the love and compassion she has experienced through her new church, Nancy has been able to experience healing. Now, she is an active member of the church, where she attends with some of the same relatives that once ostracized her.
You can read more of Nancy’s story and learn about Project Book Bag on page 20 of the latest issue of NCM Magazine at ncm.org/mag. You can learn more about the church’s ministry to orphaned and vulnerable children here: http://ps.ncm.org/project/acm1571.
*Name changed to protect privacy.