Arthur J. Ammann, with Barbara McLennan, (in)Visible: From Obscure to Valuable (Eugene: RESOURCE Publications, 2014), 112pp.
Arthur Ammann has spent the last fifty years pondering a simple but profound question — how do we discover the value of a single individual, who in our depersonalizing world will likely remain invisible to us? And could it be, in the providential love of God, that all our life experiences prepare us for a single encounter with a special individual?
Ammann is the former Director of the Pediatric Immunology and Clinical Research Center at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. In 1982, he documented the first cases of AIDS transmission from mother to infant, and also the first blood transfusion AIDS patients. In 1998 he founded Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, where today he ministers around the world. With a special focus on women and children, Global Strategies implements international strategies to prevent HIV infection and to work toward "a generation free of HIV."
Which is to say that he's worked with invisible people all of his adult life. To explore his question, Ammann extrapolates some life lessons from the little book of Philemon in the New Testament. It's about a runaway slave named Onesimus, who epitomizes an invisible person. In successive chapters Ammann considers embracing the invisible in various relationships — within friendships, between siblings, within generations, and between spouses. What makes this book sparkle are the autobiographical stories that he shares, like his family struggle with a schizophrenic sister, a taxi ride, a summer job at a Christian camp, or his HIV work in third world countries. When we open our eyes to the person in front of us, the invisible becomes visible and valued.