West Ohio’s AIDS Healing Weekend Brings Love and Hope!

by Sharon Thomas and Linda Bales Todd

Sixty persons gathered August 23-25 at Widewater Retreat Center near Toledo, OH to journey with each other at the AIDS Healing Weekend sponsored by the West Ohio Annual Conference.  This annual event is open to persons affected and infected with HIV & AIDS and is a time for celebration of lives lost and lives living with the disease.

Sharon Thomas is a Cleveland woman living with AIDS who has attended many weekends.  “The United Methodist Healing Weekends have saved many lives and brought the love of God to those who have attended.  Having been diagnosed with HIV twenty-six years ago, I know about feeling un-worthy & having no self-esteem. The ability to bring a friend or loved one to the weekend adds a different dimension to healing.  Everyone present is surrounded by love and care.”

Thomas has been involved with various leadership aspects for the weekend and her joy and compassion are reflected through her smile, her hugs and her sincere voiced affirmations for all attendees.

“All who attend find strength for the journey,” says Thomas.  “And miracles happen through sharing personal stories and experiencing tears turning into laughter – all of which bring levels of healing.”

“I wish everyone, regardless of their diagnosis, could experience the ‘community’ we all feel.  To leave behind isolation and be free to share openly without judgment is truly one of the blessings anyone could ever receive.”

Brian Montgomery, chair of the West Ohio AIDS Task Force, led the organizing effort for the weekend.  "The United Methodist HIV/AIDS Healing Weekends provide a safe place where people can openly discuss their issues and gain much needed support in a Christian environment. God's love is nowhere more evident as it is when people who are used to feeling outcast and afraid receive the warmth, healing and hope that I've seen at the Healing Weekends. I sincerely hope this ministry continues until a cure can be found for this disease," says Montgomery.

HIV & AIDS is still very present around the globe including the United States.  Fortunately some progress is being made, but way too many persons do not know they are infected and, if they are diagnosed, treatment is not available.  United Methodists are urged to support the UMC Global AIDS Fund (UMGAF) which is an Advance Special of the UMC #982345 bringing hope and relief to thousands suffering with AIDS.  The West Ohio AIDS Healing Weekend is made possible, in part, due to contributions to the UMGAF.

Thomas is willing to be a resource to anyone interested in finding out more about the West Ohio Healing Weekend.  Please contact her at: (216)226-5256 or sharonsclose [at] yahoo.com.  Other links:  West Ohio Annual Conference (www.wocumc.org) and United Methodist Global AIDS Fund (www.umglobalaidsfund.com