Marina Santee and Elizabeth Lickiss share the story of Justus Miwanda, a leader in the fight against HIV in Uganda.
Hello. I’m Marina Santee.
And I’m Elizabeth Lickiss. Welcome to Spotlight. This programme uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
‘My eyes went straight to her. She was beautiful. I knew I wanted her to be my wife.’
Today we tell a story of love, loss and hope. It takes place in the African country of Uganda. Justus Miwanda is the man at the centre of our story. Today, he is the director of the aid group, International Needs Uganda – or IN Uganda. Justus is leading their work in fighting the HIV/AIDS crisis. But Justus has his own story to tell. He says that his own painful experiences have prepared him for the work that God called him to do. Here, Mike Procter tells Justus Miwanda’s story.
‘One day I was out walking. I met a group of students from the local college. My eyes went straight to Justine. She was beautiful! I had met her before, but now I began to pray. I asked God if she was to be my future wife. My parents and Christian friends encouraged me.
‘I asked Justine to visit. She came with her friend. We met on New Years day, 1989. I remember it well. We walked and talked together. But she was not acting in her usual way. This was the day she became sick. At first, we thought it was the usual malaria. Still, I made it clear that I wanted to marry her. She agreed to pray about it! I was so happy!
‘Doctors told Justine that she had typhoid fever. She went home to recover. She was away for four  months. The next time I saw her she looked so different. She was so thin! I prayed that she would recover. But Justine was not getting better. She was getting worse.
‘We continued talking about our plans to marry. In my country, the Church tells people to have an HIV test before they marry. This is to stop the spread of HIV. So we both went for the test. Justine’s results came back positive. Through her tears, she told me the news. She had AIDS. How could this be? Justine told me that she got HIV from her first relationship. That was before she became a Christian. We both cried. It was a severe blow. But the most important thing now was helping Justine through this. I told her, “I still love you”. I visited her every week. I sang for her. I fed her. I tried to make her feel wanted still.
‘Justine died a year later. And I, I was not there. I was on a trip away. I came back on the day of her funeral. But I could not attend. Her parents blamed me for Justine’s sickness. They believed that I had given her HIV. I went to see them the next day. I told them, “It hurts me too. But I thank God that I will not die from AIDS like Justine”.
‘They could not understand this. And even some people in my village thought that I would die. They think it is not normal for a young man to have a girl and not have sex with her. Some people spoke to my parents. But my parents trusted me. So, it was a hard experience for me. But now I can tell young people that it is possible not to have sex before marriage. They can abstain. I did this. And this is why I am here today. Some people do not believe me. But Justine and I agreed that we would not have sex until we were married. And thank God he helped us to do that. It was the spirit of God that made it possible.
‘After Justine’s death, I began to study how to help and support people with HIV/AIDS. I worked with AIDS patients for ten years. And now I work with IN Uganda’.
IN Uganda has several projects. They include a health centre. Workers provide health education as well as treating sicknesses. Justus also oversees two schools for needy children – such as those without parents. Education is an important part of the schools’ work. Justus says education helps fight HIV/AIDS. School prepares children for the future – to get jobs. A woman has no need to sell her body for money when she has other work. So they encourage girls to go to school.
IN Uganda provides support for needy children in school. Government education is free for every child. But the children must wear the right clothes to attend school. And these school clothes are not free. So, IN Uganda provides school clothes for the children. And the group pays for a school meal. For many children, it is the only hot meal they will have in the day.
Justus and his team have many more plans for the future. One plan is to have a vocational school. The vocational school would be for young people who missed going to normal school when they were children. Justus said that social problems can prevent children from finishing their education. These children often turn to drugs and alcohol. At a vocational school young people can learn skills and trades. This will enable them to get jobs and earn money. It will keep them from living on the streets. It will help fight the problem of drugs and crime. Justus would like to see the work of IN expand to other parts of Uganda. He said,
‘That is my dream – then more people will receive help. They will see the love of Jesus through our work’.
Justus says that his experiences in life were difficult. But, they have made it possible for him to do his work today. He has real experiences. He shares these with young people. And many of them listen. His experiences are blessing – and helping – other people. He said,
‘It was very hard to let Justine go. It was hard to see her waste away and die. But now I am sure why God permitted it to happen. It helped me to have sympathy and understanding for people with AIDS in my country. It has helped me to understand and help families. It has given me authority to tell young people this: With Christ we can overcome temptations. We can defeat the hard times that life throws at us. God has made it possible for me to reach people with the love of Christ.
‘Today, God has blessed me with a beautiful wife and three wonderful children. And he has opened the way for his work with people suffering because of AIDS.’
The writer and producer of today’s programme was Marina Santee. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom. Computer users can hear our programmes, read our scripts and see our word list on our website at http://www.radio.english.net. This programme is called, ‘Justus Miwanda.’