Friday, 26 April 2013

July's Story

July Letsebe in South Africa

Just eight years ago, July Letsebe was lying on his bed, seriously ill and waiting to die. But thankfully, after discovering he was HIV positive, he was given the right medication, is now healthy, and is helping others to access life saving treatment.
When July first became ill, he refused medical treatment and instead sought the advice of a traditional healer – a common practice in rural parts of South Africa. But after a few months, he was bedridden and barely able to move. He felt desperate.

“I asked my family to help me die, but they refused,” he says.
One day, a team of carers from a local project, the Waterberg Welfare Society, visited July’s tiny shack. When they saw how ill he was, they offered to drive him to the government clinic once a day for medical care. At the clinic, July received life-saving treatment for tuberculosis and also discovered that he was HIV positive. In an incredibly brave step, he decided to reveal his HIV status at a local community event to encourage others to get tested.

“People were shocked,” he says, “I could see the expression of disbelief in their faces.”
As he slowly recovered, July started training to become an HIV counsellor so that he could help other people who are living with the virus.
“AIDS does not actually kill people – lack of knowledge about it does,” says July, who manages Stepping Forward, a Comic Relief-funded HIV project in Vaalwater, South Africa. And, as someone who has lived with HIV for almost ten years, he knows what he’s talking about.
Today, thanks to HIV medication, July is healthy and is making sure that other people in remote rural areas of South Africa have access to life-saving HIV testing and treatment.

For more information please click here

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Gift of Life

'I always say that my life began again in 1988 because that's when Jesus gave me a new heart.'

Ann Hobbs was only forty-six years old when she had not one, but two, heart attacks. Although she wasn't frightened about dying, Ann had four children. The youngest was only eight. She also felt convinced that God had a purpose for her.

The first thing that happened was that Ann received prayer for healing. She was given a verse from Ezekiel: 'A new heart I put within you - and a new spirit.' Four weeks later her Consultant, who was planning to operate, tested her vigorously before deducting that there was nothing wrong with her heart, adding that he wished that his was as strong. 'Something has happened since I last saw you!' he declared.

A year later, fit and restored to full health, Ann found herself driving to Romania in a converted bread-van. It took three days, often travelling on dangerous mountain roads. After facing aggressive border officials, who kept them waiting another day, they finally drove into Romania. It was the start of an adventure that was to last twenty-five years.

'We smelt it from the gates.' Ann and her team made their way past security guards with dogs to visit a state orphanage, a bleak place surrounded by a high iron fence. Having negotiated with the director in an office thick with cigarette smoke they were taken to see the children. It broke her heart. The rooms were dirty and bedding sparse. Little children with shaved heads rocked silently on stinking mattresses. There were 120 living there and yet no toilet was working. 'We returned the next morning to get every child washed. It took all day but we gave each one a set of new clothing with socks and shoes. Their own clothes were so far gone we had to burn them.' Conditions at another orphanage were worse. They found one person looking after 200 babies in one room. None of them wore nappies.

Ann returned to England determined to do all she could for the neglected children. Her Romanian friends had no knowledge of what had been going on. She felt that if they joined forces and went into the orphanages consistently, things would improve. 'Step by Step' became her moto. Before long she had set up a charity shop and started receiving donations. 'We kept the best items to take to Romania and sold the rest to raise funds.' She bought a 6.5 ton lorry and, with a team of volunteers, drove across Europe with everything the children might need from nappies to flat-pack furniture. Soon lives were being transformed.

Over the years Ann started up three different charity shops and a warehouse in the UK, drawing on the retail training she had been given as a girl by Marks & Spencers. She had a team of sixteen volunteers at one stage, and ran a cafe as well as a nearly-new shop. Three times a year she would travel to Romania, re-equipping the orphanages from top to bottom. 'We gained access to all areas, which was a miracle.'

Ann has looked after the children as they have grown up, giving to them as she gives to her own. 'We've put some of the children through university, we've had weddings - it's all been very special. I don't like travelling, I don't like heat and can't stand flies but we have had great fun.' Four Romanian choirs have come back to sing in England and children have come over to take part in youth camps. 'The support from churches in the UK has been amazing.'

Mission to Romania is no longer a UK registered charity but it still helps to support to about 500 children and young people. 'Some have parents in prison, some were dumped as babies. One little boy was dropped from a balcony and was severely injured but he responded to treatment and is as bright as a button.' Ann has kept travelling, taking equipment to four orphanages as well youth remand centres across the country, visiting the churches that support them along the way. She usually travels about 6,000 miles on each visit, often ending up working at a state prison for 15-18 year old boys. 'They could have done anything from rape to murder but they all need loving and the word of God.'

Ann's message is that if God tells you to do something - do it. He'll direct you and show you how. With God all things are possible. 'However, if it's just a good idea of your own - don't go there! You won't have the strength to sustain it.'

Ann loves taking Christmas to Romania. 'We usually take craft projects as it enables us to get close to the children and bring out their creativity. It's a ministry of encouragement,' explained the lady who so very nearly died and yet has brought life to many.

Ann Hobbs ~ Mission Romania, 22 Fir Avenue, New Milton, Hampshire BH25 6EU

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The God of Second Chances

I was recently interviewed on US radio by Dr Diane Dike, a tireless campaigner who raises awareness and support for invisible diseases. She suffers from a rare blood disease herself and is all too familiar with feelings of  brokenness and rejection.

Diane lives by the verse, 'Be strong and courageous' as she strives to help those who have been abandoned by running a number of programmes. To read more please click here

'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you of forsake you.' Deuteronomy 31:6

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

An extract from Funnily Enough in the April edition of iBelieve magazine

While Gloria Gaynor tells how she kept the faith in tough times'll find a cartoon of me endevouring to do the same. In reality I could not have used ear-phones, watched TV or tolerated cats as I had gone down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Sophie Neville

If you click on the images you should be able to read my story. I hope it will encourage others to be able to sing out, 'I will survive!'

To subscribe to iBelieve magazine please click here

To reach the Funnily Enough web-site please click here

To read a bit more of Funnily Enough please click here

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Be strong and courageous...

April 1991 ~ the time when I was taken out of Egypt.

Like the some of Israelites, I wasn't sure I wanted to go, but I went down with the plague and had little choice in the matter. No choice. I lost my job in London after falling ill with CFS or ME (or CFIDS as it's know in the states.)

Despite a few trials, I managed to cross the Read Sea and rather enjoyed wandering around in the wilderness. For me, this entailed spending twelve years in southern Africa, ever travelling and often camping in the desert. I was tempted to cast idols and make a fool of myself but got to actually study the Ten Commandments and rather enjoyed sleeping out under the stars.

On 1st January 2004 I was given the verse from Joshua 1 v 9, Be strong and courageous,  not knowing that this would lead me into the Promised Land. In June that year I met a widower, a man I thought the Lord might want me to marry. I was praying for confirmation when I noticed a ring on his little finger and asked what was inscribed on it.

'Fortiter et Fideliter,' he declared.

'Strength and Courage'. I crossed the River Jordan.

'Funnily Enough' by Sophie Neville

You can read more 
about how I came out of Egypt here