It was an emotional day in Bundibugyo, Uganda, as 60 Bwisi people from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda graduated from an HIV/AIDS training seminar using “Kande’s Story.” All of the participants were HIV positive— many shared how the training had helped them see their illness in terms of God’s perspective, and how best to help others avoid the disease.
“Kande’s Story”—now translated into 104 languages in 14 countries (97 in 12 African countries)—is about a twelve-year-old African girl who grieves over her father and mother, who died of AIDS. She and her five siblings, now orphans, must fend for themselves, facing many problems and dangers just to survive. Various people in their community, especially local church members, minister to their needs.
The fact that the story is translated into local languages—in this case Bwisi—is tremendously important. “This Kande book is helping me to teach about AIDS,” said one Bwisi man. “It is in my mother tongue and it is heard well by others, unlike other materials in English that many cannot understand.”
Seminars designed around the story equip church and community leaders to present the facts about the disease in culturally sensitive ways, and then to follow up with Bwisi Bible studies. Learning how to apply the Scriptures to HIV/AIDS-related issues provides fresh hope and motivates people to change their behavior.
The Bwisi literacy/Scripture engagement team (working with Robin Rempel, Wycliffe USA and SIL member) has worked to translate “Kande’s Story,” develop coordinated Bible studies, and conduct local training seminars. One pastor said, “Meeting to read “Kande’s Story,” you can really sympathize. You can cry real tears. You learn to care. You learn to prevent AIDS. You learn to be faithful to your spouse…. Let the training continue!”
While the seminars help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, they also help HIV-infected people live with the disease. They learn to communicate more openly with their families, seek reconciliation in relationships, prepare for what’s ahead by making wills, and help their children prepare for the future.
What’s amazing is that, according to the testimonies I heard, these HIV-infected people also find hope. “This kind of seminar brings us closer to God,” said one man. Through studies in the Scriptures, the seminars offer knowledge and assurance of God’s forgiveness and eternal life. As a result, many have come into a relationship with God for the first time, including three at the seminar I visited. Along with new and renewed relationships with God, they experience repaired relationships with spouses and families; rejection and fear are replaced by acceptance and love.
Some participants at the workshop are now weighing the claims of Christ. One graduation participant gave me a small handmade bag saying, “Though I am poor, I am not too poor to say thank you. I wanted to give something to the man who sends funds to help us have books like ‘Kande’s Story.’ This book was written for me! Please keep up the good work.”
As I said at the outset, it was an emotional day. It was an honor to represent all of you as I accepted his gift. I was also grateful to our prayer partners and financial donors who make events like this possible.
And I am increasingly grateful that God has given you and me the opportunity to minister in His name—in the languages He created—to the Bwisi and others who need practical help with diseases like HIV, and who need to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ. What a privilege it is to be able to say, “Jesus cares, and so do we!”
If you would like to read more about “Kande’s Story,” Charisma Magazine has posted an article called “Bible Translators Join in Fight Against AIDS.” Find it online at http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news/25507-bible-translators-join-in-fight-against-aids.