The Walls Came Tumblin Down

“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down”
Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18, Psalm 34:15-22, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-59

Whenever I hear Joshua’s name, my mind automatically goes into this little singsong:

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho.
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down…(remember that song?)

Joshua was Moses assistant, and upon Moses’ death, God spoke to Joshua and commissioned the prophet to pick up where Moses left off. That is, to take the Israelites into the Promised Land. God tells Joshua that everyplace he puts the sole of his foot; God will give to him. God assures Joshua that just as God was with Moses, so shall God be with Joshua and the Israelites. God promises never to fail or forsake them. The same promises that God made to Moses, apply to Joshua. God reminds Joshua to act in accordance with the law that was passed down to Moses, and that he should not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that they would be successful wherever they went. In the first chapter of Joshua alone, God tells Joshua “be strong and be courageous” three times. When Joshua relays God’s message to the Israelites, they pledge their allegiance to Joshua and agree to do whatever Joshua says. The people themselves commission Joshua with the words: “be strong and be courageous”

It was Joshua who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and Joshua did lead the Israelites into battle, not only with Jericho, but many battles. And each step of the way, God told Jericho what Joshua should do, and exactly how the Israelites would win. God kept God’s promise and delivered the enemies into the Israelites hands. God kept God’s promise of not failing or forsaking Israel. God promised and God delivered.

And so, the battles are won. The land is divided up between the 12 tribes of Israel, and this is where we find ourselves the reading this morning. Joshua has gathered the Israelites all together in one place and tells them that they should revere the Lord because of all that the Lord has done for them. He then asks them to make a decision: basically, make up your minds if you are going to serve the Lord or not. He wants to know whether they are going to serve the Lord that their ancestors served, or whether they are going to serve the gods that the Amorites served. He immediately lets them know who he and his family will be serving. He says as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. The Israelites response sounds like they are even surprised that Joshua would ask such a question. They remember all that the Lord has done for them. Not only for them, but they also remember all that the lord has done for their ancestors. They know that God is a keeper of promises. They know that God is a God who delivers.

As I read through the texts for this week. I prayed for a message that I could deliver to you. I think the apostle Paul says it best: “I pray that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I declare it boldly, as I must speak.”

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One Good Google deserves another

And so, as smokers usually do, we find each other at the meeting post (outside near a butt-post somewhere, you stand there looking stupid, sucking on a cancer stick..as people pass you by giving you “that look”.)  Those of us that still smoke, know that feeling and that look.  Invarably, someone else will come along, with that “thank God I’m not the only one” look and so you strike up your match or lighter and then you strike up a conversation.

Such was the case when I met Andrew:

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Andrew Faiz, Managing Editor of Presbyterian Record Andrew is also a writer, producer and filmmaker (Flemingdon Park: The Global Village, 2002).

As I told you before, the qustion that connected us all there was: “what brings you here? what is your interest in this issue?” And you tell your story or you listen to someone else’s.

Andrew asked me that question, and I told him that I was there because I was living with the virus. God knows what else I said to him, because before you know it, I find out that he is a writer for some organization or magazine, or whatever the heck, and I am like “oh lord, here we go”..I know at some point, he is going to write a little blurb about me. No, no, no….I don’t think that it is all about me, but yet, in some way, it IS all about me. It is about me being used by God to help others rise above the stigma and discrimination brought about by this disease.

I have been written about before (Christianity Today), and while it was a great article, the journalist created a picture of me that was not completely true, and so I have since become very leary of folks wanting to write about me. Not that I think that my story will put a pay your mortgage or anything like that. But I do worry about my son or my son’s friends reading something about me that is taken out of context.

I did not go to Toronto initially to put myself “out there”. I came to enjoy myself, to rest from my internship, to take a break before classes begin in September. But, the Holy Spirit never rests, never takes a break, and before you know it, I found myself (not of my own accord) attending workshops that dealt primarily with stigma, discrimination and religious leaders speaking out. I found myself being touched by Pastor Canon Gideon’s story and Reverend Patrica Sawo’s story. After sharing in a workshop, I was asked to think about doing an interview with the ELCA.

I am on pins and needles waiting for that interview to be published (the one from the ELCA, because it is my church’s headquarters). We will see what the church is made of, whether they will truly accept me for who I am, or will they try and “define” who I am by my status. It really doesn’t matter. I mean, I would love to be called to a congregation and not worry about my future. But I will love it even more, if putting my face to this issue, will empower more to come out of the shadows and put an end to not only the stigma that society puts on us, but the stigma that we put on ourselves.

So, Andrew. I look forward to your article! I thank God for meeting you. Thank you for finding me interesting enough to spread the word and to share my story. I pray that your writing is spirit-led and that you continue to be passionate about society’s response (or lack thereof) to issues that relate to our humanity towards one another.

Let the people of God say: Amen.

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Judy and South Africa

I said that I have learned alot while at the conference. One thing that I learned is of the governments “role” (or lack of it) that gets much needed ARV’s (Anti-Retro-Virals). Medications that prolong life and help prevent the virus from advancing into full-blown AIDS. I always thought that it was the fault was primarily with the pharmaceutical companies and greed. (which may very well still be the reason). When I was over there in 2004, medicines were just becoming available, but not widespread. One had to be on death’s door (full-blown) before having access to the medication.

As I stated previously, Judy needed diflucan badly. And diflucan is not an antiretroviral, but medication used to treat yeast infection. She said it was too expensive for her to get. If that was too expensive for her, then I am sure that she was not receiving all the other medication that she probably needed.

But moreover, I am finding out that South Africa’s own Minister of Health may play a role also. I did happen to pass by the South African booth, but really didn’t pay much attention to it, because there didn’t seem to be that many people over in that area. I did see a bowl of fruit, but really thought that it was promoting good health. Which is very important.

A problem that was raised during one of the workshops I attended, was dealing with hunger and poverty in that: what was the point in having the ARV’s, if people didn’t have food to eat? Some of those medications are quite powerful and you absolutely have to eat. But, I digress…

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I’m Sorry Judy..

Judy

(Judy is the one on the left)

I helped facilitate our workshop “Are you dealing with a full deck?”, with the Bishop from the Central Diocese in South Africa (Bishop Phaswana). I already told you that I knew Bishop Phaswana from meeting him in South Africa in 2004. While he was giving his part of the presentation, he talked about the amount of women that began the support, and he mentioned that many of them had died. This took me by surprise (I don’t know why)..but when he sat down and another presenter began talking, I was scribbling names and nudging him to look. He would look at the name and give me either a thumbs up or a thumbs down, depending upon whether that person was still alive. When I mentioned “Judy” he gave me a thumbs down, and my heart sank. Judy was one of the three women I bonded with in the support group. Judy was the bold/suspicious one who asked me about my lifestyle before Christ. Judy was the one that had come back from death’s door. Judy was the one who told me that she needed some “Diflucan”. She couldn’t afford it, and I had a few bottles in my room. I took her to my room and offered her whatever medicines I had. Judy was the one who I gave a pair of thongs (yes, they were brand new). My stuff was all over the room and she was picking stuff up and giggling, so I gave her a pair. Judy ran back and showed them to the other girls. Judy would’ve been my home-girl in another place and time. She had a tough exterior to her. I am sorry that she died. I am sorry that I did not keep in contact like I promised.

Women/Girl’s March

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We took to the streets one morning. AIDS Action for Women and Girls. Before we marched, different women spoke about the need to be more proactive in their treatment and decision making. It was a rally to protect girls and women that are affected and infected. Louiseb Binder (an activist and woman living with the virus since the early 80’s) said in short:

“Violence against women and girls, poverty, lack of education and housing, and lack of property rights, all fuel HIV/AIDS infection rates among women and girls. HIV positive women’s human rights are also regularly violated.”

 

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There are some places and societies where women do not have any say so in whether or not their sexual partner uses condoms or not. These women fall prey to infection by unfaithful partners.

I believe it was Pastor Gideon that told us a story about a woman, who faithfully saved herself for her wedding night, only to be infected by her husband, develop AIDS and died. This woman could’ve very well been protected had her husband used a condom.

Scientists are now working on something called microbicides. These are basically female condoms and cervical barriers that would put the protection in the woman’s hands.

The night that Bill and Melinda Gates spoke, Bill said something that was very powerful. He said: “A woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life…”

amen!

from the beginning (kinda)

Well, I am back home, and am going to do things a little differently.  Gonna back-track a little bit and talk about some things that I have observed, learned, encountered and decisions that I have thus made.  I am glad to be home, because the conference for me was a little overwhelming.  While I enjoyed the conference, I really enjoyed the pre-conference better.  The pre-conference involved all faith communitie from all over the world.

It basically called for all religious leaders to become more accountable.  These promises were made in the 8 Millennium Development Goals.  The government so far doesn’t seem to have made much progress in achieving these goals.  The religious community cannot afford to sit back and let this pandemic continue to run rampant in our communities, in our countries, in our world.  And so, we gathered together to make promises to ourselves and each other, that we would do all we can.

During the afternoon plenary, Presiding Bishop Hanson (Bishop of the ELCA), gave a rousing and passionate speech about religious leaders keeping the promise..he said something to the effect of: “how can religious leaders keep a promise that they have never made?”..that blew me away.

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Soft as a baby’s bottom

got up real up close on bill clinton today.  he and bill gates were on a discussion panel this morning.  Got a few photos, and got to shake his hand at the end.  Smooth….

walked around today and got a photo with John Salley.  More on that story later when I have the photo to post…it was funny.  I didn’t know who the guy was.  Had to walk up to him and ask him.  Must’ve done a lot for his ego! 

The interview is tomorrow morning at 10.00.  Nervous about it, but time to put my money where my mouth is.  Can’t expect stigma to go away, if I don’t do anything about it.  More on that later also.

check y’all later!