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Kathleen Burns works closely with pastors and church leaders in the Ssese Islands, Uganda, encouraging them to reach out and care for the high percentage of people living there with HIV/Aids. She explains why healthcare is important and how it plays an effective role in her evangelism.
Compassion to the vulnerable
Suffering or going through a serious illness can make us feel vulnerable, incredibly powerless and, at times, anxious or afraid. We begin to recognise our own limitations. Facing our own mortality, we desperately cling to anything that we think might help us.
She’s not forgotten
Kathleen Burns describes how God worked in one woman’s life on the Ssese Islands to bring her into a relationship with him.
My colleague Alice and I had just finished our morning devotions. We had already planned which camp to visit, but we felt the Lord leading us to a different camp instead. On reaching this camp we found a mother who had just given birth to a very sick baby. The mother was crying and afraid. In her distress she asked us, “Why has God forgotten me?”
Immediately, I felt the Lord lead me to Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” I shared this verse with her and she cried. Alice prayed for the mama and as she and her baby left to get help on the mainland, the church organised some members to care for her other children.
Several weeks later we returned to the camp and found mama and baby both looking in very good health. We rejoiced with the mother that God had saved her baby. She wept again as she told us that she had given her life to the Lord, and that now she knew that she was not forgotten.
In the Ssese Islands, disease and sickness are rife. HIV/Aids are on the increase, and alcohol and drug abuse are painfully visible as we walk through the camps there. We often meet people at their most vulnerable and with very desperate needs. People seek answers in the wrong places, turning to witchcraft to break the curse of sickness and disease. Death is something that we see all too often. It is these situations that God calls us into, to minister his compassion, his love and his healing.
Into the arms of our Saviour
Illness often leads people in search of God. What a joy it is to be able to be there to show his compassion, his love and his truth to those who, in their sickness, seek the one who gives life. And what an amazing privilege to have the opportunity to share the gospel of hope with people in their suffering. Over the years I have worked in the fishing communities I have witnessed how God has often used sickness and suffering to get people’s attention. It has been amazing to see God’s Spirit work in people who didn’t trust us, weren’t interested in anything that we had to offer, and were resistant to the gospel. We have seen how, when struggling with sickness, God has softened people’s hearts to let us in and allow us to minister to them. Some of the most moving and deep conversations we have had with people have been as they have ‘walked through the valley of the shadow of death’. It has been a huge privilege to be able to sit with them and lead them into the arms of our Saviour as they leave this world.