Lee Kann’s introduction to the world of HIV was the most brutal we’ve ever written about in HIV Positive! magazine.
“I was 19 years old,” Lee told us. “Like many other teens, I was out drinking. I put myself in a vulnerable situation. I was leaving a bar in New York when two men jumped me, forced me into the back of a van, savagely beat me and raped me. At one point in the assault I realized if I didn’t stop fighting I’d die.”
Like most other male victims of rape or sexual molestation, Lee never went to the police or told anyone about his ordeal. “I wanted to pretend that it never happened,” Lee says. “But a year later I was so depressed that I checked myself into the hospital.”
It was in the hospital that Lee received his calling to the ministry.
“A friend of mine gave me a tape by Amy Grant. There was a song on it called ‘The Prodigal.’ That song was like a sledgehammer that broke through the cement wall I’d built around my heart. I cried for hours, and totally surrendered myself to God.”
Shortly after what Lee calls his “grace awakening,” he went to the seminary, ultimately earning one Ph.D. in Theocentric Counseling Psychology and another in Pastoral Counseling. He also met and married his first wife, Amy, and entered the ministry as a youth counselor.
Then, roughly twelve years after his rape, Lee’s world was turned upside down again. First, his beloved Amy was killed by a drunk driver. Then he was diagnosed with AIDS.
“Because I had been faithful to my wife and was living a ministerial lifestyle, it never even crossed my mind that I was at risk for AIDS,” Lee says. “I lost 50 pounds and I was sleeping 16 hours a day. When the doctors finally tested me for HIV, I had more than half-a-million copies of the virus and only 72 T-cells in my system. The virus had 12 years to destroy my immune system, and I had full-blown AIDS.”
“Initially I thought my ministry was over,” Lee says. “How could God use a minister with AIDS? I gave up my pastoral work and was really angry with God for three years. I thought, ‘Why me? I’m one of yours! I help your kids!!!’”
“Finally God spoke to my heart and said, ‘Why not you, beloved? I have children suffering and dying all over the world. What arrogant presumption to think that you alone would be spared.’”
“It was then that I got restored and believed that God could use me,” Lee says. “I entered the ministry again as a counselor in an AIDS ministry.”
Today Lee is taking HIV medications, his viral load is down to just 176 copies and his T-cells have rebuilt to 991. “When I reached 300 T-cells, my doctors said, ‘This is the best we can expect,’” Lee said. “But I asked God for a greater healing.”
Lee has recently remarried – his new wife, Ann, is also a rape survivor. He has started a new ministry under the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches called “Redeemer’s Arms.”
“One of the books that led me to the seminary was called The Wounded Healer,” Lee says. “Just as Christ healed the world through his wounds, we are called to heal others through our wounds. I had this vision of Jesus with his arms outstretched ready to embrace anyone who comes to him. I hope that anyone who comes to this ministry will find complete love. It is my calling to love people to Christ.”
When we asked Lee’s advice for those who are newly infected with HIV, he quoted Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a ‘why’ to live can endure any ‘how.’ I really challenge people to find their ‘why’ – find something that gives your life meaning and perspective. My ‘why’ is to love God and help his kids.’”
Copyright 2018, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
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