February 24 2010

Washington Post article
January 18, 1992

AIDS Ministry Uses Hope, Encouragement as Its Guide

Helping Others, HIV-Positive Md. Man Revitalized

by Carey Kinsolving

David Dunithan tested HIV positive and plunged into despair in 1988. “I wasn’t that young, but I wasn’t that old. And my life was going down the tubes.”

“I felt alone and buried by problems. Suicide would have been no problem for me at that time,” he recalled recently.

But unlike some people with the AIDS virus, Dunithan, 39, recovered from his feeling of hopelessness. He said he lives life more fully now than he ever has and looks forward to each day’s challenges.

So complete is Dunithan’s emotional recovery that he welcomes opportunities to speak to groups about the spiritual truths that have enabled him to live with hope in the face of a fatal disease. He credits his turnaround to a ministry called Love & Action, based in Annapolis.

What started in 1987 with two people meeting to minister to patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome has grown to more than 1,500 volunteers who have attended Love & Action training workshops. Their stated purpose:

“As followers of Jesus, we bear a special responsibility to care for the sick and to assure that they are treated with dignity and respect. Through public education and outreach, Love & Action staff and volunteers are channeling God’s mercy and love to those who are often left rejected and alone.”

After 18 months of living in Annapolis, Dunithan moved back to Cumberland, Md., where he is Love & Action’s assistant director for Allegany County.

“Love & Action gave me a choice,” Dunithan said. “I could have stayed in Cumberland and rotted on my own self pity, or I could come to Annapolis and work with them and achieve something for God.”

Dunithan attributes his new outlook on life to accepting God’s forgiveness for his homosexual activity and forgiving those who would hold it against him. “From the Bible I have seen that I am loved,” Dunithan said. “I am not an outcast. What I had done to obtain AIDS is under the blood of Jesus.”

Love & Action Director Eric Hoheisel views Dunithan’s attitude and ministry with awe. “David puts me to shame the way he loves and serves people,” Hoheisel said. “The message that’s out there so often is somehow you can’t come back. God isn’t there. Christians really don’t care; therefore, God doesn’t care.

“We forget that we are saved by grace, period. Every one of us. We think one sin stinks worse than another to God, and it doesn’t. We all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross.”

The traditional Christian view is that sex outside marriage is contrary to God’s design and is sin. But Hoheisel is quick to add that some Christians like to distinguish between various kinds of sin, and they especially condemn those guilty of sexual sins.

The biblical view, Hoheisel said, treats all sin the same in the sense that the penalty is separation from God – “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Thus, in God’s eyes, a person who gets the AIDS virus from homosexual activity is no more guilty than someone who commits sins that may be more socially acceptable. Hoheisel encourages Christians to ask a simple question when considering whether they should minister to people with AIDS: “What would Jesus do?”

Hoheisel cites Dunithan as a prime example of a Christian who is living with AIDS instead of dying with AIDS.

“I’ve watched bodies decay while spirits blossom. Some of the greatest Christians I’ve ever met are living with AIDS. Their priorities are straight. They have a focus and a purpose.”