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In the Valley of the Shadow of Life
by Julie Cramer
Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014
It happens every day. A woman transmits HIV to her newborn in utero, in delivery, or in breast milk. And according to UNICEF, other children contract the disease through unsafe injections and infected blood transfusions.

“It is estimated that 70,000 children below the age of 15 are living with HIV in India and 21,000 children are infected every year through parent-to-child transmission,” the agency reported.

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“Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell
in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6).

HIV delivers the death sentence; culture, the isolation.

Known as the “Land of the Highlander,” the state of Mizoram lies in the northeast corner of India, bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar. In a deep green valley, surrounded by steep hills swathed in bamboo forests, lays Aizawl. It is here that 21 orphans with HIV/AIDS have come to live out their short lives. If only they knew their home would be secure.

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With so much stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, Lucy Maruati, a social worker and founder of the Gan Sabra orphanage in Aizawl—has struggled over the years to maintain a home for the children. The fear of eviction lurks at the door of each rental property … at least until this past December. “This house is a much better facility, bigger, with an outdoor play area,” Katherine Cheng, director of missions for Orphan Outreach, said. “The landlord is open to Orphan Outreach buying the property. We are now paying rent, and our long-term plan is to buy. We have a team going in March—Westport Church in Hillsboro, Oregon.”

The total cost to purchase the property is $300,000, and Westport Church is campaigning to contribute $75,000.

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"Our new home has lots of space for indoor and outdoor activities, not far from neighbors, yet lots of privacy for the kids to run around," Lucy said. "We really wish that we need not to move again very soon. It is hard for the kids too, having had no proper homes since their birth, moving around and changing place every now and then unsettles them and makes them anxious. The local community is good and caring for the kids," she added, "and they are aware of the issues of HIV/AIDS. This is very important for us as the kids are exposed to lots of discrimination. An accepting and understanding local community is very important."

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While visiting Gan Sabra, Katherine learned firsthand what makes the house of Gan Sabra a home: “On our last day, the children all gathered in their 10x10-foot living room, laid hands on us, and prayed out loud. They had a faith that was so much stronger than I had ever expected. To hear them cry out to the Lord in their little voices, in their own tongue … that was an emotional evening. The next morning Lucy told us that the kids would never forget us because they had told her, ‘Those people love us. They came all the way from the U.S. and they didn’t even know our names.’ Orphan Outreach is one of Gan Sabra’s largest supporters, not just financially but relationally,” she said. “It was wonderful to be reminded that we have an impact because God has allowed us to be a part of it. The blessing is ours who get to be a part of these kids’ lives.”

Place a welcome mat on the door of Gan Sabra—donate today!


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