JOY IN A LEPROSY COLONY
Have you ever found joy in the strangest of places? We did, one summer as a family—in a leprosy colony in southern India. We were in India for part of my sabbatical, several years ago, when we had the opportunity to visit a leprosy colony. All of us, including my kids, were a bit apprehensive. As we approached, we were led to a small chapel and told to wait. We were told that some of the people with leprosy would soon be joining us for a worship service. My kids wanted to know if we could touch the people. Becky and I responded that we were not sure. I must have missed that class in seminary!
Well, several dozen people did come, and they clearly had leprosy. They also wanted to hug us and shake our hands, so we did! Was it contagious? We did not know. Too late. Since then, we discovered that leprosy is actually not that contagious. You can only catch it if you come into close repeated contact with nose or mouth droplets from someone with untreated leprosy. Today, about 200,000 people worldwide, most of them in Africa and Asia, are infected with leprosy, according to the World Health Organization. Only about 100 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with leprosy every year.
What struck all of us was how joy-filled these people were. As we sang hymns, shared from the Bible, and told stories, they radiated joy. It caught all of us a bit off guard. Here were people who were nothing in the eyes of the world, and yet, because they had Jesus, they were filled with joy and peace. What a powerful lesson to five affluent Caucasians from North America. It was an encounter that I hope I never forget. Jesus shone brightly that day through people that many would deem the “least of these.” Becky and I are so thankful that we had the incredible privilege to hug some precious, joy-filled lepers in southern India.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor