The following is a testimony that was given at Alto Refugio (High Refuge Ministry) the 18th of September, 2003. It’s the story of Maria*, a girl that thought she had everything.

“I was about to finish my university studies. I thought that in my life, my diploma was  the most important thing and that as soon as I got it, all my problems would be solved. I could get everything i desired! At the time had a good job, I was a great student in the university and was very admired there for my external beauty. I thought I was happy. There were a lot of guys in my class at the university, and when we weren’t studying we spent our time – mostly on the weekend – going to parties and traveling around. We enjoyed ourselves in every way a young person would want.

I had everything planned out – this would be my last year in the university and finally I would see my biggest dream come true – getting my degree. My classmates and I started to plan an “end of the year” trip to the beach. But we had forgotten about God, to ask for His Will and accept whatever that entitled.

Everything was fine… until one day when I started to get sick. Everyone could tell that I was acting different, except for me. My mother, who was very concerned for my heath, went to my work place to ask permission to take me to Asuncion (the capital city) and after doing a bunch of tests, we discovered that I was infected with the HIV virus. I didn’t know that it existed here in Paraguay. When I found out what I had, my first thought was, ‘Who infected me? How many had been infected by me?’ You see, when we young people talk about having fun and enjoying ourselves, we are also talking about being involved in sexual relationships. We knew that we should protect ourselves, but at that age we thought that we were invincible – “nothing will happen to me”. We drank, shared partners and much more; without hesitation. I started that life at 18 years of age, but many had started long before that. I had always given my mother the false impression that I was a good girl. I deceived her, and now what? I have to live with the consequences! I don’t remember anything about the time that I was admitted into the hospital. So I will let Judy, a volunteer from Alto Refugio and my good friend, tell about that time.”

Judy remembers the following: “As a volunteer and counselor for Alto Refugio, I was visiting the patients with AIDS in the hospital when I found a young lady of 24 years. Her eyes, face and whole body was swollen, but still, she looked at me and smiled. It was evident that her mother was taking really good care of her and doing everything possible to do whatever the doctors told her. They had to keep doing check ups, get various tests done, buy medication and much more. But every time that I went back to visit her, she was worse. She was aggressive and fell from her bed a few times. She would take out her IV and feeding tube. She cried loudly because of the pain and the cramps that she had in her legs. The only way to calm her down was to give her lots of sedatives.

Her mom was completely confused and drained. “What is happening?” “Is my daughter going to die?” “Why can’t the doctors help me?” She had to learn everything there was to know about this sickness called HIV/AIDS. When she finally understood what exactly her daughter had, it was very painful for her. The sickness that had actually brought her to the hospital in the first place was Toxoplasmosis. With this sickness some survive and others do not. During the time that the mother had to take care of her, i was there often to help her, console her, and give her the support that she needed. We prayed that the mercy and hand of God would touch this fragile life.

Finally, after weeks of being between life and death, she started to “wake up”. All of her food and medication went into her body by way of a feeding tube and her weight was down to a mere 30 kilos. But she started to recuperate. It was a slow but sure recovery.

At this point Maria picks the story back up: “One day a friend came to visit me and spoke to me about Christ. He said ‘Repeat this prayer in your heart’. I did, and Jesus changed my life. I could know and accept Christ as my Savior and I am so blessed that he gave me a new opportunity. Physically, I had to re-learn how to walk, write, talk and chew. Spiritually, I had to be born again.”

“The Maria from before has stayed in the past and now I am now a new person. I want to dedicate myself to Jesus. I know that Christ has given me a firm foundation. People might mock me, but I will serve Him and work for Him anyway. I will love those around me and I see them in a new light now. I will not fear man. One day I will have courage to tell my story to everyone. If God allows it, in 2004 I will get my diploma”.

In the last week of September, Maria had a set back. Her Toxoplasmosis advanced and hit her nervous system, taking away the control of her body and mind. She had been preparing for her final exams – the last step before getting her diploma. They sent Maria to Asuncion in an ambulance where she stayed on a stretcher for 3 days because of the lack of beds and an empty room. Just like the time before, the only way to keep her calm was with a lot of sedatives. Only God knew if she would survive this time. Most of the time she was not conscious, but still talked a lot, mostly about God and the Bible.

Five days after being admitted to the hospital she was conscious and calm. Maria asked for her Bible and was reading it when a volunteer came in to visit her. With a bright smile she greeted him and asked for prayer.

Thanks be to God, Maria is getting better again. Her main prayer concern now is that her mother and father come to know Christ and for them to experience what she has experienced with and through Him in her life.

Note: Maria is a lawyer working full time in a town in the interior.

*to avoid discrimination against her, Maria’s name has been changed.

Note: illustrative image.



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