Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 22, 2012

Four Hundred Lepers

Tenali, India

Leprosy is a word that has retained its power to frighten across the centuries. From ancient times when lepers were separated from the camp all the way to our present day, leprosy remains shrouded in fearful mystery. The vast majority of us will live a lifetime without ever meeting a leper or seeing what it does to the unfortunate few who suffer from this dread disease. Leprosy exacts more than a physical toll from its victims, it also robs them of the social interaction that provides each of us with the affirmation and encouragement we want and need. Wherever you find leprosy you will always find its cruel companions — rejection and isolation. Lepers can only find community among other lepers. Class distinctions, religious differences, or anything else that separates healthy human beings mean nothing when you have leprosy. Leprosy creates new loyalties.

Our team has come to India to teach about the sanctity of human life. However, this morning, before starting our first teaching session, God gave us an unexpected object lesson. Harvest India, our host, fed and provided medical attention to four-hundred lepers. This is something they do once a month. People with leprosy come to the city of Tenali from throughout the region to have their medical needs met, to share a meal together, and to receive a little financial help to sustain them. Each person expressed gratitude for the kindness extended to them. This is the one place where lepers know that another human being will reach out to touch them. And, it was indeed a privilege to hold hands that have been reduced to stubs and to embrace and affirm the worth of people who are feared and shunned by their own society. I also watched as a doctor removed what was left of a woman’s toe. The only payment she could offer was a smile and a nod of appreciation. It was more than enough for the doctor.

I am grateful for today’s experience and to know that Christ-followers here are living out their faith in the most practical of ways — by living like Jesus and caring for others as He would. Today I saw what it means to believe in the sanctity of human life and the difference that doing so can make in the lives of others. I not only saw Jesus in the distressing disguise of the lepers, I also saw Him in the tender actions of each volunteer who cared for the lepers. I have so many images of today that I will not forget and that will always serve as a reminder that even leprosy cannot rob people of their worth and value in God’s eyes. I am grateful for Dr. Suresh Kumar and the work of Harvest India and for the practical ways in which they are serving the purposes of God in Andhra Pradesh.

•••••
Read about my first encounter with a man with leprosy in Nigeria.


Responses

  1. God Bless you sweet friend … your blog really brought reality to the mental and physical pain some of God’s people endure …
    Lots of love and blessings from here in Honduras.

    • Thanks, Jackie. It was a sobering experience to be with so many men and women suffering from the pain and stigma of leprosy. It’s hard to understand how they manage to smile. Every person I met was so polite and courteous and so grateful for any morsel of interest and personal attention they received. Today was one of those days that humbled me and made me wonder how I can complain about anything. God definitely used these people with leprosy to touch and teach me.

      Blessings to you as you care for precious orphans in Honduras.


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