The second week of Advent invites us to focus on FAITH. May Francis’ story be an invitation to reflect on your personal walk with the Lord through whatever circumstances you are facing in this season. Furthermore, we invite you to consider the power of faith as a pathway toward peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul declared in his letter to the early Christians in Rome:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that
suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
“I can’t fathom how people turn away from the One we need the most. I have witnessed His love throughout and I have seen Him work this miracle for us when we had nothing to hope for.” – Francis, age 18
By the time Francis was nine years old, his parents had both passed away from HIV/AIDS. Francis became the primary caregiver for his younger brother, Richard, who also lives with HIV.
After their parents died, they wandered from place to place until their uncle finally allowed them to stay with him and his two sons. Their uncle struggles financially and is rarely home, so Francis is responsible for looking after himself and the three younger boys.
Before the intervention of Ndirande Evangelical Church of Malawi, the boys lived in extreme poverty and were unable to attend school. Francis worried most of all for his little brother, who was taking strong dosages of his anti-retroviral (HIV) medicine on an empty stomach. Richard has impaired hearing as a result of taking these drugs without proper nourishment.
Through a quiet investment by Forgotten Voices, the church stepped in to provide food supplements and pay school fees. This support was life-changing for Francis and Richard and their cousins. Now 18 years old, Francis shared with us how these circumstances have drawn him closer to God saying:
“You just don’t know how timely this help was to us. These were just dreams we had of a day without hunger, and here it is! I am so excited that I am not living like an orphan. I have had my friends ask me: ‘what sort of a church is that that does things like these?’ and I just smile and say: ‘this is God at work.’ To be honest, we never expected anything close to this… I no longer feel haunted by the sickness of my brother.”
Faith in Action
Francis and Richard are among the 530,000 children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS in Malawi, where the prevalence rate of HIV is one of the highest in the world (10.3% of the population lives with HIV, according to the UNAIDS 2014 Gap Report). Through death and illness, famine and drought, political instability, community violence, poverty and other difficult circumstances, Forgotten Voices has learned that listening to local Christian leaders for guidance is the best way to meet the physical and spiritual needs of children like Francis and Richard. The pastors, volunteers and caregivers with whom we partner exemplify “faith in action” each day as they trust God for wisdom and provision in the face of daunting situations and give Him glory in all things.
As we continue through the Advent season, may we view the birth of our Savior as the unshakable evidence that our faith is not in vain. Christ’s birth, ministry, crucifixion and victory over death fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, reminding us that God always keeps His promises. Like Francis, may we bear witness to God’s ultimate promise of all-surpassing love by putting our faith in Jesus Christ and by acknowledging Him in our gratefulness for both challenges and unexpected miracles alike.
Questions for reflection:
- How does having faith in Jesus affect the way you live?
- Are there times when your faith feels “strong” and other times when it feels “weak”?
- Can you think of a challenging circumstance in your life that drew you closer to God? How did He use the situation to deepen your faith?
- How have you seen “God at work” this week? Take time to praise Him for building your faith through sufferings, perseverance, character growth, and hope.