April 1987 What started out as a chance encounter in the early spring of 1987 became the catalyst for a Christian ministry called The Gathering Place.
While doing a hospital visit in April of 1987 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Bob and Melanie Lewis met a young man named “Al”. All they knew of Al was that he had been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and that he had been hospitalized with a respiratory problem. As they visited Al, they learned his problem was a strange type of pneumonia called Pnuemocystic Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). They found out days later that PCP was what many people being diagnosed with this new disease called AIDS were dying from. And yes, Al was dying as well. At that time, there were no effective medications. At the same time God was connecting hearts. The Lewis’s became friends with Al and adopted him into their family. Having Al at their dinner table or sitting around the Christmas tree with their three early teenage children became common occurrences. Within the next 8 months, Al also introduced Bob & Melanie to twelve other people he knew who were HIV infected, including Al’s sister.
So, the journey continued…
Shortly, both Bob & Melanie left their traditional full-time jobs to focus on building The Gathering Place ministry.
1994 TGP had moved into an 8,000+ sq. ft. building on Pershing Avenue, in Lancaster City. The new facility helped meet the rapidly growing needs of the more than 100 clients they were serving.
2004 The Gathering Place was invited to come to Nigeria by Living Word Ministries. There Bob did a consultation and training for doctors in HIV/AIDS.
2006 The Gathering Place was invited to come to Zimbabwe wherePastor Bob did an evaluation and consultation on the impact that HIV was having on their country.
2007 Bob and Melanie were asked by Living Springs Faith Ministries to go to Muizenberg, South Africa to discuss their ministry and to train a group of South Africans on how to minister to those with HIV/AIDS in their region.
January 2008, Bob traveled to South Africa to establish the trained staff and commission them to begin the work. This new work was called “Ehmlangenweni”, which means The Gathering Place in the Xhose language.
September 2008 Bob & Melanie took a team of 7 to South Africa to provide additional training for the SA team. The training consisted of: visitation in 3 informal townships, work in an orphanage, assessment of maternal healthcare, outreach to children from 3 informal townships, and evaluation of ongoing needs.
2015 The Gathering Place was invited by Maisha Project to come to Kisumu, Kenya to work in collaboration with this ministry.
2016 & 2017 Two missions trips were taken to Kenya. The Gathering Place is currently working in a slum area called Nyalenda. Our two current works in Kenya are Health Insurance Sponsorships and Training for Community Health Care Workers.
This area of Kenya is populated by the Luo tribe. The Luo tribe has the largest HIV population in all of the tribes in Kenya. Over 40% of their population is between the ages of 0-14. When the parents die of AIDS, they leave an average of 4 orphans.
The Gathering Place has begun two programs in Nyalenda.
- The first program is Health Insurance Sponsorships. Kenya has a National Health Insurance Program which will provide the needed medical care for those with HIV; their spouse and any child under the age of 18 within the household but the people of Nyalenda are so impoverished they cannot afford it. Which is why The Gathering Place began our program. We are able to sponsor these families for $120.00 a year. To show the impact that this has, it is like throwing a pebble in a pool of water. The ripples extend outward. When you get a parent healthy….they are able to work…provide and care for their children….and prevent children from becoming orphans!
- The second program is Training for Community Health Care Workers. By March 2017, Pastor Bob has trained (25) Community Health Care Workers. Our goal is to continue this multiplication process of creating trained Health Care Workers so that they are able to assist those infected and train for prevention.
Early 2019 Bob and Melanie felt it was an opportune time to turn over The Gathering Place (TGP) work in Kenya to the ministry that had invited TGP to come alongside of them to initiate these programs on a larger scale.
This change allows TGP to move forward in our vision to reach the world. This new opportunity opens time and resources for Bob to begin a video training tool designed to share The Gathering Places thirty two years of HIV/AIDS experience and knowledge with a global audience.