REACH. An organization that works with children and youth infected with HIV/AIDS, as well as their families. REACH A safe haven for the infected kids and affected family members. REACH The basis for the trust and love that has developed among the members of the REACH family. REACH Brings God's light to shine in the thousands of touches through camps, events, meetings, calls, visits and letters to the children and their families. REACH God's plan for a very special group of His children. These descriptive statements remind us of our mission and impact on our families. But because nothing stays the same, changes also impact us.
CHANGE...THE OPPORTUNITY...THE CHALLENGE.
Recent years have brought significant changes for the REACH family. Medical innovations have resulted in longer life expectancy for those born with HIV. The good news is that we have approximately 100 kids between the age of 13 and 23, but this demographic shift brings a new set of challenges for the child.
How do they fit in with other kids? What about dating? What kind of career is possible? Does God love them? Does He even exist? How do they obtain the life-skills necessary to cope with their circumstances and answer some of these crucial issues?
Life is tenuous and uncertain. Many are living in a dysfunctional family, are exposed to or are involved in drug use, have little formal education, and have under-developed social skills. And on top of that, we live in a competitive and performance-based environment. The saying "there's no free lunch" is life lived for many of our families. They are accustomed to finding a catch with every promise. God's purpose for REACH is to tell them his story...the one of extravagant grace that has no catch, no loophole that disqualifies them from Jesus' love. The story we are to tell has an ending that seems to be too good to be true - or so good that it must be true!
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU DO...
The "healthy" world is all about performance. Think about our school experience. We study math, science, reading, and so on, and are tested on our knowledge of these subjects. Test papers come back with errors, not correct answers, highlighted. And this early experience prepares us for the real world with its relentless ranking. We must earn our way in every facet of life.
In the military you are assigned a rank based on performance, and everyone in the service knows where you fit in the pecking order. Sports franchises reward their top performers and we thrill to watch their accomplishments. The sports world has no place for those who fail. Fortune Magazine lists the top 500 richest people in the world; no one knows the names of the 500 poorest.
And that's the healthy world! Add the burden of an incurable illness given at birth and the concept of acceptable performance is almost unimaginable.
But God does not operate this way. If he did, the sun would not shine on us this morning. There would be no flowers in my yard. If he rewarded only good performers, we would not breathe the air this morning. Because we could never measure up to His perfect standard.
But He does not think this way, and He loves me. He loves you. And He has a plan for us...to tell each child and family member at REACH that He holds them in the palm of His hand and will never let them go. God knows their entire story, from the first word to final breath, and declares, "You are mine."
REACH GOING FORWARD...
The changes impacting the REACH families inspire us to respond to them. Beginning in January, we are initiating a strategic planning process, that is designed to help us identify critical new priorities for the organization, and the best means to provide the assistance. Don't be surprised if you get a questionnaire asking about our strengths and weaknesses. You are a key part of our stakeholders and we value your thoughtful input. Our REACH family has many needs…education, skills and gifts assessment, financial training, community living skills, nutritional awareness and consistent exposure to Jesus' message of hope and promise.
As we go through our strategic planning process, we will redefine our core values and competencies, REACH will emerge with a plan that will add new partners, offer new and enhanced programs, and provide new communication tools; all for the kids and their families that God has chosen for us. And we can't wait!
Of course we need your continued partnership in funding, time, prayer and networks. We wouldn't exist without you. You are a major reason why we can pursue appropriate solutions in this changing environment. And we thank God for you.
The REACH Team