Don’t be afraid, just trust me

In 1992 I was invited to speak at a conference in Zambia. It was my first visit to Africa, and it was good to meet people who have become lifelong friends. As I prepared to go, I read a number of books about how to stay healthy while I was travelling. I took prophylaxis medication to protect me from malaria and tried to drink bottled water. Thankfully I kept very well.

During my time in Zambia I stayed with a lovely Christian couple, David and Christine, on their farm in Mkushi River. Some of David’s farmworkers had contracted the HIV/AIDS virus but were able to continue working. As David was driving me from the Copper Belt to his farm, I asked him what people did when they became ill, because the farm was a long way from a hospital. His answer was, “We pray!”

During his ministry Jesus healed many sick people. Today, Christians all over the world who are sick, or who are anxious about becoming sick, pray to God knowing that he can heal them. One day when Jesus was in Capernaum and was teaching the people by the Sea of Galilee a synagogue leader called Jairus came seeking his urgent help. Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying, please come and lay your hands on her and heal her so she can live.”

Jesus immediately went with him. But progress was slow because the crowd of people followed them. Then a woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for 12 years came up in the crowd and touched Jesus’ robe and was immediately healed. Jesus stopped until the woman came forward and then said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

While Jesus was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’ home and told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” Jairus’ heart sank, but Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” Jesus then sent the crowd away and went with Jairus, and three of his disciples, to Jairus’ house where they were greeted by mourners weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus made them all leave and then took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. Holding her hand, he said to her, “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. In this time of fear and anxiety Jesus’ words to Jairus speak powerfully to us, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.”


God’s love for widows and orphans

I have just returned from a visit to South Africa. It is a very beautiful country enjoying economic stability, which is rare in the continent of Africa. The people are very friendly and welcoming. I spent the first few days near Durban and visited a small project, run by Christians, which provides care for about 30 AIDS orphans. The children who live in the project have lost both their parents through HIV/AIDS.

It is estimated that there are 1.5 million such children in South Africa alone. Many orphan children are being looked after in the extended family, by grandparents. So many parents have died, however, that some families have found it impossible to cope and, so, projects have been established to look after the children. The social and economic cost of HIV/AIDS is very great. The orphans’ parents were the main wage earners and the grandparents struggle to find the money to bring up the children.

It was a privilege to meet the South African house parents, who are caring for these children, and the doctor and his wife, who established the project and raise the finance need to sustain it. The children have a good home and are going to school. They have experienced great sadness at a young age but are being given a good foundation for their future lives. They are growing up in a stable and loving environment.

God has a very special love for widows and orphans. He watches over and sustains the fatherless and the widow. Christians, who know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, are also committed to living out their faith. The letter of James says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

The children living in the project are experiencing the love of God through those who care for them. They know that they are valued and that they are not on their own. They are being helped to cope with their sadness and are being equipped to face the future. Some of them have already understood God’s love for them in Jesus. They know that God is their heavenly Father and will always be with them. He will never forsake them or fail them. It is a wonderful thing to know such love and to know that our heavenly Father can bring us through the deepest sadness and give us hope for the future.