When Regina Harrington lost her uncle to AIDS, it forged a deep compassion in her heart. The experience was hard, sad, and it left her feeling compelled to do something to make sure others didn’t have the same lonely experience. God was calling her to reach out to people with HIV. But what difference could she make? She lived in a rural area, with few resources. How could she help?
Regina was a freshman in college when she got the news that her uncle had passed away. It was devastating. They had a close relationship. He was a rare adult who always made time for kids. When he was diagnosed with HIV, it was difficult for her family to process. The stigma of the disease added to the already challenging situation, and many found it hard to even talk about.
As Regina moved through college, she found her sadness about her uncle turned into a passion to know more about HIV, and to find ways to help. Every paper she wrote incorporated learning some aspect about HIV. She got her degree in counseling, in hopes that she could work full-time with people living with the disease.
The more she learned, the more her heart turned toward Africa. Half of the world’s population living with HIV, live in Eastern and Southern Africa. Swaziland has the highest prevalence rate among adults, with more than a quarter of the population infected. Regina’s heart longed to go there, and demonstrate God’s love and compassion.
One day Regina stumbled onto a newspaper article about a group of people from a church in her community who were traveling to Swaziland. She told her husband, “I have to go with them.” She contacted the group, and made plans to go the following year.
When she arrived in Africa, her heart broke even more. She saw the people struggling with HIV, living with the stigma and social isolation. She saw the children who were orphaned by the disease, and who struggled to raise their younger siblings. She knew God was calling her to do more.
Regina has since returned to Africa three times, each time getting more involved in sustainability projects to help improve quality of life. She knew the work she was doing was worthwhile, but she still had that passion to help people with HIV specifically. As she flew to Africa for her fourth mission trip, she asked God to allow her to minister to people with HIV.
God answered her prayer in a powerful way. When she arrived in Africa, one of their hosts asked if she would be willing to travel to a rural church to speak to a group of people with HIV. He had no idea about Regina’s background, or her passion to show God’s love to people living with the disease. When he asked, she knew it was a God-orchestrated opportunity. Regina says it felt like all her adult life had led to this moment.
Hear about the powerful way God used Regina to show his extravagant love, in Chapter 27 of Epic.Loving those living with HIV - Regina Harrington