In Leviticus 13, we are told about the harsh ostracization suffered by Israelites found to have leprosy. They were to wear torn clothes and repeatedly cry out that they were unclean. They were to live outside the camp, alone.
One of Jesus’ earliest miracles was to restore a leper to full dignity. We often focus on the physical healing part of this miracle but neglect the social and spiritual dimensions. By commanding the healed leper to go directly to the priest for ritual cleansing, Jesus was urging the leper to be reintegrated into his community.
Unfortunately, for many of the sick and diseased in the world today, ostracization is still a prevalent reality. For example, we know that for those affected with HIV/AIDS in Thailand, they are often forced out of their villages. For survival they often band together in support communities.
Covenant World Relief’s partner, the Sustainable Development Research Foundation (SDRF) has pursued innovative and entrepreneurial projects throughout Thailand. Most recently, SDRF’s Center for HIV/AIDS Affected Communities has been gaining momentum. Through creation of fish farms, the center seeks to provide meaningful employment within these communities that have been stigmatized out of the mainstream of Thai society. Through economic reintegration into Thai society, these communities of HIV/AIDS-affected individuals and their families are rediscovering their God-given dignity.
We have received an encouraging update from SDRF on the progress of the Center for HIV/AIDS Affected Communities.
“Abnormal rains and storms in south Thailand have impacted Ranote district over the past several months slowing down the CHAC Fish Farm (CFF) project time table. In spite of this the SDRF is making good progress clearing the land and laying out the systems which are essential parts of the CFF.
SDRF staff are involved in training programs with the Songkhla and Ranote Fisheries Departments. They are focusing on white sea bass production which will be the focus of the CFF project. SDRF staff member, Mr. Ah, has spent the past 6 months studying at two fishery department institutions, one in Phuket and currently the SongkhlaFisheries Department and learning from them how to produce and grow-out white sea bass. Ah is currently interacting, also, with the Ranote Fisheries Department which is located about 4 kilometers from the new CFF site. He and leaders from the Center for HIV/AIDS Affected Communities (CHAC) are developing the CFF plans for the project and are currently constructing water ways and diking systems that will be part of the CFF fish farm system.
The CFF project is providing a context for the empowerment of the leaders of CHAC as they move from the “push” context of high marginalization and stigmatization that they experience from local communities to the “pull” context of similarly ostracized HIV positive people who are forming support communities of new believers related to CHAC throughout south Thailand. As they work together to develop the new CHAC Fish Farm, they are finding a new “graceful resilience” which enables them to move forward with power and grace. Srinuan, the director of CHAC along with Wirot, the Songkhla province coordinator and Saguan, the Ranote district coordinator are mobilizing their CHAC communities to help develop the new CHAC Fish Farm as well as a new CHAC Center that will be constructed on the land of the new fish farm. They are handling all of the government interactions required for developing the project (licenses for development of the land and for constructing buildings, etc.). They are graceful as they develop new relationships with officials of the Thai government (fisheries department, public health department, provincial officials, etc.) and with members of the communities that have actively marginalized them. They are resilient in their drive to pour themselves into the lives of others, defying the stigmatization that would deter normal people. They are weak and yet are very strong as they bring hope and new life to others. They keep growing through the very tangible power of God as He flows into their lives and then out to impact the least, last and lost around them. God is flowing through this project and his power is transforming the lives of those he is poured into.
We are thankful to you and CWR for your partnership in our ministry! Without our relationship to Covenant World Relief this project and the resulting empowerment of multiple HIV communities in south Thailand, where CHAC is working, would not be possible. Thank you for pouring yourselves and your resources into the work of God in this area!”