This first week of Advent I was invited to attend a faith-walk in Knoxville, TN. The walk, sponsored by Samaritan Ministry, a HIV/AIDS Network, was entitled “Faithwalk: Knoxville Steps Up for HIV.” The purpose was to show thanks for the growing number of Knoxville churches and individuals assisting in loving ministry to those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The walk corresponded with World AIDS Day. Wayne Smith and Samaritan Ministry, a CBF Partner, did a marvelous job of promoting and organizing this walk through downtown Knoxville on what turned out to be a beautiful winter day.
I arrived early to mingle with those registering. There I met HIV-positive individuals ministered to by the churches in the network. They came to walk as an expression of thanks for the way the churches minster to them and others in their situation. Also there were the counselors from Samaritan Ministry. Some were HIV-positive trained and professional counselors who when the tests the ministry freely offers return positive sit down, visit, and journey alongside the newly diagnosed patient. Then there were the church members and young families who came from churches like Central Bearden Baptist, FBC Knoxville, Immaculate Conception Catholic, Ball Camp Baptist, Mt. Olive Baptist Church and on and on. Young families with children in strollers and in backpacks ready to walk in loving support of and alongside their HIV-positive friends. The laughter, hugs, joy and love around the refreshment table was just a precursor to the fun walk ahead. Not too many years ago a young family or even a non-HIV positive person would have so enthusiastically hugged, shared a refreshment table and certainly not brought their preschooler to such an event. The very fact that this gathering occurred and that churches aggressively promoted this walk speak to the positive work of Samaritan Ministry. Time by itself doesn’t solve or take care of many things. The remedy is often a combination of time, faithful work, and loving prayer. The FaithWalk this first Sunday of Advent is a reminder that Christmas miracles still occur.
Here is the prayer offered by Dr. Wade Bibb, pastor of Central Bearden Baptist Church, in the worship service preceding the walk.
Prayer and Celebration of Hope: The Challenge
– For too long, too many …have turned healthy backs to broken bodies
– For too long, too many …have turned blind eyes to crying eyes
– For too long, too many … have confused issues of science and health with issues of morality
– For too long, too many … have enjoyed health care and cheap medicine while others wonder and hope and pray for deliverance
– For too long, too many …have said, “it will not, cannot happen to me or mine.
– For too long, too many …have not cared, have not acted, have not loved.
– For too long, too many…have spent too much on the wrong things, temporary things, selfish things.
We confess our sinfulness, all too often more led by fear than trust, greed than kindness, blindness than faithfulness.
We pray for – Courage to learn from our mistakes
We pray for – Strength for the tasks ahead
We pray for – Determination to love creation as you do
We pray for – The humility to accept help from those whom we believe must be different, who surely cannot understand
We pray for – those who labor daily while in weakness and frailty.
We pray for – those who research, test, examine, and hope in labs and hospital rooms.
We pray for – tireless caregivers and providers – for tirelessness and unfailing hope.
May awareness dawn, May compassion rise, May love win over all.
Because you became our scapegoat, we have been delivered from the need to make others the scapegoat of our fears.
Because it is your love that led to creation that now gives us hope for re-creation, re-birth, re-newal …on earth even as it is in heaven.
Hear our prayers, O Lord. Amen.
A blessed Christmas to ALL. May this walk and prayer be a reminder that ALL really does mean ALL.
For more information on Samaritan Ministry and how your church can learn about ministry to those with HIV/AIDS visit http://www.samaritancentral.org and the CBF Heathcare Mission Community, http://www.missioncommunities.org/healthcare.
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