HopeSprings: restoring hope and healing to those affected by HIV/AIDS
HopeSprings is an HIV/AIDS ministry founded by Grace Fellowship and Central Presbyterian Churches in July 2007 to address the pandemic both locally, here in Baltimore, Maryland, and internationally in Malawi, Africa. In October 2006 Central hosted a missions conference aimed to educate the congregation as to the realities of this pandemic. The conference was titled, "Why should we care?" We learned that we must care, quite simply because God does. God's heart is breaking for His children around the world who live in pain and isolation as a result of this disease. Throughout scripture we are commanded to offer our love and compassion to those in need as we take on the role of the hands and feet of Jesus. This is the purpose of HopeSprings.
During the conference we also learned that you don't have to travel around the globe to see the devastation this virus brings. We learned that the devastation is right here with us in our hometown of Baltimore.
- Infection rates in the city are comparable to many parts of Africa, 14 percent in some ZIP codes.
- We learned that the youth in Baltimore are being infected at an alarming rate, 50 percent of all new infections occur in youth ages 15-24.
- We learned that this virus is the leading cause of death for 35 to 44 year olds living in Baltimore City.
- We learned that despite access to medication, the virus continues to destroy lives as stigma and fear decimate familial and peer relationships.
When faced with the realities of HIV/AIDS here in Baltimore and the world beyond, we knew we must respond. The question was "how?" After much prayer and discernment HopeSprings leadership feels that God has led us to a three-step response in answer to that question. We believe that we are called to:
- Raise awareness within the body.
- Equip those who feel called to engage in this ministry.
- Provide avenues of engagement for those equipped volunteers.
We have worked to raise awareness in the body by hosting learning communities, mission fairs, AIDS Day services and the World Vision "Step into Africa" Experience. We have accepted invitations to speak at several area churches, and several area conferences. Our hope in these awareness venues is that stigmas would be destroyed, people would be awakened to the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and empowered to join the fight through practical engagement both here and abroad.
We have worked to equip those who feel called by developing and implementing a six-week training course for prospective volunteers called "The Journey." We are in our third session of the course with over 90 participants to date. We have also designed a volunteer support system to encourage and further empower our volunteers through learning communities and volunteer mentorship.
We have worked with area partners to provide avenues of engagement for these equipped volunteers. Many are now working with HIV clients at local HIV service agencies throughout the city. In less than a year's time the community is recognizing our faithful group of servants and beginning to talk about our efforts. I recently met with the executive director of STAR, a 20-year old HIV program downtown. As I began to tell her about HopeSprings she stopped me and said, "I know about you all. Our clients are coming in and telling us about you all bringing them meals and birthday cakes, taking them to farms out in the county and just loving them. You are doing great things."
Our faithful efforts to walk with God are paying off. Our awareness efforts have reached far beyond our wildest imaginations, reaching numerous area churches as well as national audiences via write-ups in the Presbytery's Mission Yearbook and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. We have equipped over 90 volunteers through the journey course. We have engaged those volunteers in meaningful service. Hope was desperately needed. Hope is springing to life.
HopeSprings has faithfully sought God's will overseas in Malawi as well. We have sent teams to conduct initial community and partnership assessments. We have begun to converse with those partners who have come to the surface through our intensive prayer and discernment process. We have contract with a field coordinator to assist our efforts in Malawi and will send teams of leaders to be apprenticed by those partner agencies and a pioneering church that has been working in country for the past four years. These apprentice leaders will return ready to build teams of servants to return to Malawi and begin work alongside our partners there within the year.
Wherever we go we enter as learners, seeking to humbly serve alongside those who have come before us, both locally and internationally. We enter with only the love and compassion of Jesus. Our hope is that you will enter with us as we embark on this journey. Join us as we walk with God to restore hope and healing to those impacted by HIV/AIDS in Baltimore and around the world.
In His Faithful Service,
Executive Director, HopeSprings