(Nashville, Tenn. – 7/11/2011) – Just as the “Tell It!” assembly theme encouraged attendees to get out of their churches and take the gospel message out to their communities, one Disciple is taking a message of hope and HIV/AIDS education to communities around the nation.
Program Director Jody Grieb named the Disciples HIV/AIDS Ministry’s new mobile testing unit “Malachi” after the Hebrew messenger, and the retrofitted transit bus made its debut at this year’s General Assembly – not only at the convention center, but throughout the Nashville community. As a licensed minister, he strives to bring compassion and understanding to an area of health where understanding has often been in short supply.
He doesn’t take his empathy lightly – when he looks into a person’s eyes as they test, he looks with the eyes of someone living with HIV for ten years. Grieb realizes he’s lucky to be able to have access to adequate treatment and medication, something he says disadvantaged populations don’t.
With the retrofitted transit bus, made possible by a grant by Starbucks and testing supplies donated by the manufacturer, a carefully selected team privately conducts a test via oral swab and continues the education and counseling process. Results are available in around 15 minutes.
“I know people who have gotten results over the phone on the way to work,” Grieb said. “We do everything right here and don’t let that person walk out of the bus and get anxious about what will happen.”
The Malachi team administered close to 200 tests during their time in Nashville, all in an air-conditioned bus with privacy booths reminiscent of a mobile blood drive unit. Whenever they go into an area throughout the country, they are required to work with the respective state health departments and local partners. A positive result is met with immediate spiritual care and quick referrals to local health providers.
From Nashville, Malachi heads to New Orleans as a part of a large-scale partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health. Through the mobile unit and the educational component of the HIV/AIDS Ministry — a hands-on part of Disciples Home Missions – Grieb hopes the day is soon coming when the church will be at the forefront of providing education and services to those at risk for HIV/AIDS or living with it.
“Somebody’s got to be their champion,” Grieb said, “and it needs to be the Christian church.”
By: Richmond Williams