George Odhiambo is a big man with ruggedly handsome features. But his body has been ravished by AIDS. In Kenya, they call it the “wasting disease,” and looking at George one can see why.
George is a member of Nairobi International Lutheran Church in Nairobi, Kenya, where Sam and Cindy Wolff serve as ELCA missionaries. Sam is pastor of the congregation, and they both work in leading an HIV and AIDS outreach ministry there.
As ELCA missionaries called to do God’s work in the world, Sam and Cindy are engaged in the lives of people like George. There are more than 240 ELCA missionaries serving in nearly 50 countries preaching the good news, teaching, healing the sick and building hope.
They are helped by the generosity of ELCA members who support ELCA missionary personnel worldwide.
God is good!
One of eight children, George’s family was well-off until his father died and poverty hit. George was forced to drop out of school and traveled 600 kilometers for a job as a life guard at a sports club.
He later married and had four children. But in 2002 George’s wife grew weak, and she eventually passed away from AIDS. George was left to raise their children alone.
Within a year of his wife’s passing, George became sick and struggled to continue working. A social worker had convinced him to go to the hospital, where he was also diagnosed with AIDS.
With medicine George felt well enough to work again selling eggs. He earns less than a dollar a day, affording only one meal daily for himself and family. On top of that, he needs to take medicine three times a day with food.
Despite these hardships, Sam says George’s faith remains strong.
“George remains filled with hope and thanksgiving,” says Sam. “He is a wonderful, faithful member of our church. He is one of those rare people God made who are just good and gentle.”
Recently, both Sam and Cindy were able to assist George in finding a job as a part-time night guard.
“We hope that his life will improve,” says Sam.
ELCA members respond faithfully
Worldwide the HIV and AIDS crisis has claimed more than 25 million lives. Members of the ELCA are working to respond faithfully and effectively to this pandemic through the ELCA Strategy on HIV and AIDS.
The goals of the strategy include efforts to help halt the spread of HIV, reduce the conditions of poverty that contribute to the spread and eliminate the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who are HIV-positive.
The strategy is designed to give people like George hope.
“God is good!” George tells Sam and Cindy in speaking about his faith. “And, God is always!”