One of the most serious concerns in the former Soviet Union is the ever-increasing rate of HIV/AIDS.
•Ukraine has one of the fastest-growing rates of HIV infection in the world.
•Moldova—one of the poorest countries in Europe—not only has the highest rate of human trafficking in Europe, but also may soon equal or exceed Ukraine’s HIV-infection rate.
With this sobering backdrop, Samaritan’s Purse, Russian Ministries and its national ministry partner, the Association for Spiritual Renewal (ASR_ hosted a “Prescription for Hope” conference at Russian Ministries’ national ministry center in Irpen, Ukraine.
Through its “Prescription for Hope” project, Samaritan’s Purse has developed materials to help equip and mobilize the church worldwide to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Prior to the June 3-6 conference, ASR translated and developed the “Prescription for Hope” materials to use in the cultural context of the former Soviet Union.
During the conference, the 130 participants heard from more than 15 different speakers from six countries on every aspect of HIV/AIDS—from basic medical information, to the problems of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, to its effects on children. Conference participants also discovered what they, as individuals and the church as a whole, can do about HIV/AIDS.
Between lectures and testimonies, group discussions and other interactive times, these national Christian leaders had opportunities for fellowship and to encourage each other to grasp the enormity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the former Soviet Union and its relevance to the church.
Those who attended the conference not only were equipped to share their newly gained knowledge with others through similar HIV/AIDS lectures and conferences, but also discovered how to support people living with HIV/AIDS—and to show them the hope that is in Jesus.
Oleg, a young Next Generation Christian leader from Ruza, Russia, had struggled with how he would react if a person who was HIV-positive came to his church. “What would we do with him? I thought I probably wouldn’t be able to touch him, but God did a miracle—attending this conference really opened my eyes. I realized that they are people in need of God, and I won’t be infect with HIV by touching them, and they especially need our support.”
As the conference came to a close, each participant received copies of all of the conference materials, including lecture outlines, storyboards and a flip chart with basic information on HIV/AIDS. All of the material was also made available in electronic form.
“After this conference, I have a great desire to hold a similar conference in Central Asia,” remarked a ministry leader from Uzbekistan, underscoring a strategic aspect of the conference: to equip participants to use the materials to teach others about HIV/AIDS in churches, schools, camps and other venues, and to organize similar workshops in their communities.
Yurii came from Brest, Belarus, planning to discuss other important ministry matters, but left with, in his own words “. . . a huge desire to do HIV/AIDS prevention work. A big thanks to Samaritan’s Purse for their generosity and sacrifice, which have long disappeared in other places.”
Edward, who has been HIV-positive for five years, praised the conference for its depth. “These were not empty platitudes of people or organizations that work for selfish motives. Evident at this conference were care, pain and worry, which come from the truth—from the heart of God. And all of our conclusions sought God’s truth and love, with hope and reliance on Him and His Word.”