Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 9, 2008

Leprosy

A Page From My Journal | Nigeria | July 9, 2008

Today my world changed as I visited Blind Town in Jos, Nigeria. As its name suggests, this little community is home to the blind, or at least to the poorest of the blind. But, it is also home to those who have leprosy.


This little community is perched on rocky hills that descend to the litter-choked banks of a murky river flowing below. The streets are narrow and uneven, making walking a challenge for those with sight and an obstacle course for those without. The walls hemming in the streets are stained with green algae that fades into black as it creeps upward through the shadows. Little streams fed by human waste flow into each other as they wind down paths of least resistance to add their toxins to the filthy river below. The overpowering odors of human waste, rotting litter, and cooking fires hang heavy in the air.

This is life at the bottom — life lived amidst the shards of something that only hints at kinship to human dignity.

Today my world changed for the better as I met and touched a man with leprosy. To call him a leper somehow seems wrong. I feel as though using that awful designation will somehow make me an accomplice with the disease and consequently shave away one more thin slice of his remaining dignity.

He is a man — a man whose once strong hands are now fingerless and whose feet have eroded to stubs. He is a man whose misshapen face betrays the presence of something he cannot control and that mercilessly beats him against the reefs of human mortality. Leprosy has already exacted a cruel toll on his dignity, robbing him of his appearance and the ability to care for himself. I embraced him and prayed for him because today he has a fever, just one more straw adding to the weight he struggles under every day.

Today I touched a man with leprosy and, to my surprise, I was not afraid.

Perhaps fear lost its grip when I saw the man’s very human eyes looking into my own. It’s interesting how a person’s eyes can speak. Looking into his eyes I wondered when was the last time he had felt a human embrace.

Since wealth cannot restore what leprosy takes, I imagine that a human touch becomes the coveted currency of those conscripted into the unenviable ranks of the untouchables. Of course, I thought of Jesus who tenderly touched people with leprosy. I understand that a little better now — the significance of a human touch.

Yes, I touched a man with leprosy. But I think that what really happened today is that a man with leprosy touched me.


Responses

  1. Omar, I think of how God moves us out of our comfort zones to serve “the least of these.” As I have served in a poor area of Fort Bend County, I have witnessed, first-hand, the need for a Christlike touch. Your words speak volumes as to the need for people to carve out the time to have genuine compassion for others. As you “Go Beyond” I will be praying that those who go with you on a day trip or weeklong mission excursion would be sold out to a wholehearted devotion to, in Jesus’ name, touch others for the rest of their lives.

  2. Omar, what a blessing you must have received when you touched the man with leprosy. What dignity you must have restored to his soul! You were Jesus with skin on to this man. Our Father is constantly preparing us to meet the deep, inner needs of others. You are stepping out of the box.

  3. When I was a child I often went with my mother to feed people with leprosy on the streets of the city where we lived in Mexico. We would make them food and take it to them and yes, touch them. When I was about 7 or 8 my Dad preached a sermon on the lepers from II Kings 7. It made such an impact on me I remember that sermon to this day and have in fact had the opportunity to preach on this passage myself it is one of my favorites.
    Thank you for sharing your experience. The human touch is so important, and it is so powerful when we reach out to touch people with the Love of God. We are His hands to those around us. Keep on reaching out and touching peoples lives with Christ’s love!


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