By Ronnie Adams
Anniversaries often prompt reflection. February 2016 was anniversary month for two AIDS service organizations with which I have had the privilege of partnering; one for 18 years, the other for 16 years.
These partnerships began with leading a spirituality group, usually focused on a study of scripture. They have evolved into the development of spiritual communities where members, including myself, share, support, celebrate and grieve together. As I have shared with the group members, thinking back over the years of these partnerships, I experience an immense sense of gratitude for being part of these communities. The people in these groups have become a part of my family. As we have shared life experiences, life’s final moments on earth for some and memorial services of remembrance, I have learned much about courage, faithfulness and determination. In the face of many who judge and condemn them, these friends continue journeys of faith as they seek to more fully connect to God.
God’s message of love and mercy is powerful enough to cut through the most horrific of circumstances Here are three examples:
F., a former drug addict who was homeless and was convinced that God could not possibly forgive him, began a faith journey through one of the spirituality groups. He then taught himself to read by reading the Bible and has lived drug free for 12 years. He now lives very independently in his own apartment and volunteers in several ministries at one of the churches with which I partner.
B., a mother of three who had been abused as a child, contracted HIV from a cheating husband. She overcame her hate and anger after she accepted Christ. She became a leader, inspiring and supporting others in the spirituality group even throughout the AIDS-related illness that resulted in her death.
M. was bullied on a daily basis in a South Bronx school and was told he was an abomination to God. He believed this for many years. When he was near death and no place to go, his grandmother took him into her home. After seeing her on her knees praying for him, he came to Christ and then found our spirituality group. He is now a leader in both our group and his church. Through teen advocacy work, he uses his art to bring healing and faith to others. His story of feeling rejected until realizing that God’s love overcame the false teaching of condemnation is a source of insight and inspiration for many.
Serving as a CBF field personnel in New York City for over twenty years, I have had the privilege to walk with these members of NYC’s HIV community, some of over 100,000 living in our boroughs.
It has been a wonderful gift and has included partnerships with incredible people, organizations and congregations. As I reflect, I recall the many who have come to know the peace, joy and strength that only God can provide.
Some of these continue to live out their faith; others are now in a wonderful heavenly home. These life-changing spiritual groups and ministries have only been possible with the support of many faithful believers and congregations.
You have partnered in this ministry in so many ways – prayer, notes and calls of encouragement, direct service during mission trips, donations of materials/supplies and financial gifts through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Offering for Global Missions. There are no words sufficient to express my immense gratitude for all of this support. Thank you so very much for your ongoing support of these life-changing ministries that bless the lives of so many!
Ronnie Adams is a CBF field personnel serving in New York City, N.Y., with the HIV community. Funding for Ronnie’s ministry is supported through the CBF Offering for Global Missions. Find out more about the Offering and partner with Ronnie through a financial gift at www.cbf.net/OGM.