Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a day set aside starting in 1988 to increase awareness, raise money for for research, and remember those living around us who are fighting HIV and AIDS. It’s estimated that, globally, more than 33 million people, including 2 million children, are living with HIV (UNAIDS, Nov. 2009).
…And I know one.
...in Mumbai's red light district...
The words “I’m a positive” shattered my heart. Of all the words I heard and spoke in India this summer, those I will never forget. Reality struck me like a smoldering dagger taking revenge on a block of ice. I’m not sure if my heart melted or shattered — I think it must’ve done both. I sat, horrified, listening to this beautiful girl unfold her story to me.
It wasn’t fair. She, like so many of the girls I had the opportunity to share life with this summer, had been subjected to life in Mumbai’s red light district. It was not her choice to be there. Some girls are sold by their families for money, others are tricked into moving to the city to find work, others are born in the shadows of the brothels to mothers who are forced to prostitute themselves there. The scars of such torment are deep — both emotionally and physically. Tragically, many girls contract HIV from the men who rape them there.
This world is broken and twisted. Terrible things happen to good people more often than we’d like to acknowledge. This morning I remembered the story of Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888)… I thought I’d share it here with the hope that it will be a blessing to you. It is worth a listen.
Horatio was a Chicago lawyer. You may know him more as the man who penned the famous hymn It is Well With My Soul.
His words are not some hollow praise from lips that eat from the silver spoon of life. They were born out of intense personal tragedy — out of a life that was not fair.
In 1870, Horatio and his wife, Anna, lost their only son to scarlet fever… he was 4 years old. One year later, the great Chicago fire swept through the city leaving personal and financial devastation in its wake. Unfortunately, Horatio was heavily invested in real estate on Lake Michigan… it was all destroyed by the fire.
Needless to say, life was pretty rough at this point.
The death of their son and the wreckage of the fire was weighing heavily on the family, and Horatio decided to take his family on an England vacation. They were friends of the famous preacher D.L. Moody, and were planning on joining him on his preaching campaign in Britain. Just as the family was about to leave for England, though, Horatio got snagged by a last-minute business development. He didn’t want to ruin the family vacation, so he persuaded them to go on ahead. He promised to catch up with them after taking care of business back in Chicago.
Here the story goes from bad to worse.
To his great horror, the ship that held his wife and four daughters sank en route to England. Horatio received a telegram just nine days later: his wife had miraculously survived… but all four of his daughters were dead. The ‘Ville de Havre’ had collided with an English ship ‘the Lochearn’… it sank in 12 minutes, dragging with it the lives of 226 passengers. Anna, his wife, was miraculously saved by a plank that had floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up.
At once, upon hearing the news, Horatio boarded the next ship out of New York to join his wife. His daughter, born later, explained that the ship’s captain called him the ship’s bridge at one point. He told Horatio, “I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.” It was then that Horatio returned to his cabin and wrote the famous hymn.
..It really gives a whole different level to “when sorrows like sea billows roll”, doesn’t it? May we, like Horatio, through the strength and grace of God, be able to say — whatever happens in life – it is well with my soul. For my friends in India and for myself alike, this is my prayer. Here are the words written at sea over the watery grave of his daughters…
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
[chorus] It is well, with my soul
It is well, it is well
With my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
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