While in Indonesia recently, I met Maria (not her real name) she was glowing as she told us her story. A couple of months before, she was in a crowded hospital bed wasting away. She had contracted the HIV-AIDS virus. All alone, her hopes for life were then fading away.

Like Maria, many girls come to the island of Bali in hopes for jobs but end up working in places where they easily get involved in the sex trade and often end up infected. Their families usually abandon them and in often, very short periods of time these girls die. Sadly their last days are filled with great pain and hopelessness. Fortunately for Maria, she met Andy and Chika, who turned their attention to her bringing hope and a reason to fight for her life.

Andy and Chika, our partners in Bali, serve people living at the edges of society like Maria. They successfully overcame addictive lifestyles and now have been serving people living with HIV-AIDS, drug addiction and prostitution for several years. Their work is often filled with disappointment as they regularly bury some of those whom they have embraced as family members.  People like Maria, however, encourage them to fight on.

Steve and I were deeply touched as we met Maria in the community house where she now lives and thrives. She has been declared AIDS free and now lives a life of service to others. Her next goal is reconcile with her parents, which is part of the healing process practiced by the “Extreme Community” the name, as Andy and Chika’s group is known here.     The global battle against HIV-AIDS is seeing many successes as we learn how to deal with the virus. However the battle is far from over, a new United Nations report on HIV-AIDS reveal that several countries in Asia now have infection rates 25 percent higher than they were a decade ago.

One of those countries is Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation. The health minister, Nafsiah Mboi, called the U.N. findings “so embarrassing,” especially in light of large expenditures on prevention programs in Indonesia. The impact of HIV-AIDS also continues to affect people in the USA. A recent report on PBS revealed that more than 1 in 4 infections happen among 13-24 year olds yet 60% don’t know they have HIV. In the USA 72% of the infections happen through sex between young men and older males.

DSC02527 This is Andy and Chika and their own two kids

People like Maria know that the love they have received from caring people like Andy and Chika turns the tables on this virus no matter what happens to their life. Maria has reconciled with God and now seeks to live life the way it is meant to be lived. She respects herself and now goes and tells of her hope to those still trapped. This is real hope… this is what Kingdom life now is all about.