An excerpt from Making a Wrong TurnThe journey that led to healing
By Daniel Tolan, Special Assignment
Samwel was a pastor. We met in the tuberculosis ward at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. From the beginning, his condition was obvious: extensive tuberculosis (TB) due to his seeking care very late. Lab tests confirmed the diagnosis.
Concerned that he may have AIDS as well as TB, we suggested testing for HIV. Samwel said, “Of course, please test me. However, I am a pastor and I have no risk of being positive for HIV. My wife and I have been faithful to each other. We have two children, and she is pregnant right now with our third.”
Arap Lagat, the hospital’s HIV counselor, a trained pastor himself, talked with Samwel about the result.
Samwel said, “This is a mistake. I have never been with anyone but my wife, and she has never been with anyone other than me. You must have mixed up my blood with another person. Please, is it possible to repeat the test?”
It was repeated and was confirmed positive.
Samwel’s face clouded as he continued: “My brother and I are very close, and I visit him once per year and usually stay about 10 days.”
With his voice now hushed and frequently breaking, he told us about his secret life. “My brother and I have often traveled to the capital city seeking fun and excitement. We never meant it to become like this, but one thing led to another, and in the last few years, I have been with several prostitutes.” His voice now choking, “I am sure the tests are positive. In fact, I suspected so, and this is the real reason I have delayed seeking treatment.”
It was an effort for him to continue, “I am so scared. Truthfully, this is really why I did not want to go anywhere close to my home. I am known as a successful pastor, but I have been living a double life. I do not know if I can find forgiveness.”
Arap Lagat spoke, “Samwel, God is forgiving you right now. God the Father is wanting to make your relationship with Him right again.” God was right there. Although I could not see Him with my eyes, I knew His incredible presence was there with us.
Arap Lagat, Samwel, and I sat on his bed together in the presence of God. We talked, we cried, and we prayed together.
“Tomorrow, my wife comes from home,” Samwel told us. “She does not know anything about this. I want to tell her everything, but I cannot do it alone. Will the two of you be here to give me strength, please?” Arap Lagat answered for us both, “Yes, this is something we must do.”
The next morning came and I woke wondering what his wife would say.
Beatrice arrived around mid-afternoon, and Arap Lagat came to the outpatient clinic for me. We found Beatrice sitting on her husband’s bed, holding his hands. She was beautiful and looked so radiant, as only pregnant mothers can look. He was obviously happy to see her. Love was on both faces.
Samwel confessed everything to his wife. He held nothing back. In a quiet voice, she asked questions and he answered. He told her about praying together and how he had found his peace with God just the day before.
She was still holding his hands.
How could she? I wondered. The thought came to me, How would I respond?
I heard Samwel’s voice again, “What I have done I cannot ask you to forgive. I know that. I do want you to know I am sorry, and I do want you to know I love you, our daughters, and our baby.” He was sobbing.
Beatrice finally let go of her husband’s hands. She had to in order to take him into her arms. What we heard next was and is one of the greatest moments of my life.
“Samwel, you are my husband. I love you. And, I do forgive you!”
Could it be those were the exact words Samwel’s spirit needed to hear? I think so. In less than 24 hours, Samwel was home with his heavenly Father.
(Beatrice tested negative for HIV and TB. Their son was healthy.)