August 27th is National Faith HIV Awareness Day
When I think of church, I think of what it has meant to me during the course of my lifetime, and often, what it has not provided me. The church has always been a place where I can go to sing, praise, and grow closer to God. Traditionally those are some of the more basic functions of the church in the present day. However, I feel historically the church has failed to address matters outside of spirituality, with the exception of a handful of churches here in the Omaha Metro. It has always been a belief that the church should be concerned not only with the spiritual aspect but rather the whole person; whether it is mental, physical or emotional. The well-being of the people who rely on the church SHOULD be a priority, but is often ignored.
If I could meet MY community where they are, then I could change the dynamic and the culture around African Americans and testing.
Kingdom Builders Christian Center, while not an old church by any means (being only 9 years old), has dedicated part of its mission to ministering to the whole person. Kingdom Builders Christian Center, founded by Pastor Darryl Brown Jr. and 22 founding members, has dedicated itself to its community. Earlier this Spring when I met with Pastor Brown, he expressed nothing but excitement when I told him I wanted to offer HIV and STD testing in the church. I knew this would not be an easy feat, but it was my hope that through my testing efforts that if I could meet MY community where they are, then I could change the dynamic and the culture around African Americans and testing. In my talks with Pastor Brown he expressed his excitement and that such a service was necessary to follow the commandment of Jesus and fulfill the mandate of the church. He further added, “the church has a duty to the community to provide knowledge and promote/start the healing process.”
Reception to Kingdom Builders and the HIV testing program has been positively received by the community. It is our hope that we can continue to move forward with this partnership and encourage others within the faith-based community to be open minded with this form of outreach, in order to meet the needs of people living with HIV, who are often forgotten. The partnership between NAP is becoming a vital resource. As time passes, we have no doubt this collaboration will continue to grow. We hope to increase community knowledge in a space that has the ability to make great strides with HIV and AIDS awareness.
Free HIV testing is available at Kingdom Builders Christian Center (4039 Charles Street, South Entrance, Omaha), starting in September, every Tuesday from 4:00-7:00 pm, by appointment or walk-in. Call or text Tommy for more information at 402-327-1367.
Tommy is a Prevention & Outreach Specialist in Omaha for Nebraska AIDS Project.