Since 2007, GFA-supported workers have been caring for leprosy patients through medical care, practical personal care and by giving them the opportunity to know that God loves them. This ministry is one of those that I am so happy we can be a part of. God’s heart is for the vulnerable and the forgotten, and these precious people certainly are one among them. By God’s grace, we are working in 44 leprosy colonies across Asia. Some of these colonies have up to 5,000 patients. I am amazed and so grateful we have a part in making their difficult lives better.
Not only do these patients have the physical difficulties that comes with this infectious disease, but they have the emotional difficulties that come along with it as well. Because of the stigma associated with this disease, it is not uncommon that those who have it are abandoned by family members and are left uncared for by anyone.
Although with appropriate medical care this disease can be treated and cease to be contagious, many do not know this and try to hide the fact that they have it for as long as they can out of fear of rejection. In many cases, the time spent hiding the disease shuts the window on treating the disease at all. ,
This year in recognition of World Leprosy Day (January 28), GFA-supported workers are holding special programs and times of ministry for the leprosy patients across the Indian subcontinent. Many awareness programs will be held educating people about the disease. Sisters of Compassion and GFA-workers will be going out to visit leprosy patients in some areas just to spend time with these precious people, pray for them and let them know that they are loved. At the special programs, the leprosy patients will receive various kinds of practical help. In some places, they’ll be holding a clinic for the leprosy patients or providing a meal. In other places they will be distributing various items such as a medicine, hygiene kits, food packets, clothing, sandals, blankets, umbrellas and notebooks for leprosy-affected children.
This last November, I visited a leprosy colony myself. I had the opportunity to help clean the wounds of leprosy patients, pray for them, and give them blankets for the upcoming winter season. Around 500 of our precious Sisters of Compassion daily serve these leprosy patients. They so faithfully follow Christ’s example to serve these who are the vulnerable and forgotten.
These sisters are an example of how God works. He wants us, in our physical bodies, with hands, legs, eyes and ears, to live as Christ lived. We are to engage our five senses as we follow Him and live out our spirituality. But what does that really mean?
When the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father and help them to understand God, He responded, “You’ve been with Me all this time. Didn’t you understand it? If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. It’s Me in the flesh” (John 14:9, paraphrased).
God being manifested in the flesh is what 1 Timothy 3:16 calls the “mystery of godliness.” I encourage you to think about this. God appeared in the flesh. The invisible became visible. The intangible became tangible. The Word became flesh.
This truth helps us understand how we can experience the mystery of godliness in our own lives. We can think of godliness, spirituality and knowing God only in terms of something invisible or simply internal. But we cannot divorce our spirituality from our humanity.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says, we are, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord” and being changed continually into the image of the One we see in the mirror. This mirror, according to the book of James, is the Bible. The purpose of Scripture is that when we look at it, we will see the face of Christ. And then the Holy Spirit takes that image and works within us, transforming us into that image. And the result of that is something tangible and real.
Think about John 13, when Jesus met with His disciples. There was something very important He wanted them to learn. He taught them by showing them. Taking on the appearance and behavior of a slave, Jesus took off His outer garment, wrapped a towel around Himself and washed the disciples’ feet. Then Jesus says, “You see what I have done—not what I have taught, but what I have done—now you must do this” (John 13:14-15, paraphrased).
Christ was not invisible. He was walking around, touching the sick, even those affected with leprosy, and taking little kids and embracing them.
We too are meant to act out our spirituality as we follow Christ. There are so many ways that this could look in our day-to-day lives. For some of us, maybe it’s embracing a simple lifestyle so we can do more for others. It might be physically kneeling before the Lord in the time we spend with Him. Or it might be taking opportunities to reach out to the rejected or touch those considered untouchable in your life. It could be someone in your work place that no one notices or is generally looked down on. It could be praying for leprosy patients around the world that someone would touch them with the kindness of our Lord. Or it could be giving to someone who can reach out to those in need on your behalf.
I think about those Sisters of Compassion and GFA supported workers who day after day are reaching out to these precious people who need God’s touch in very practical ways, and I am inspired. Let us all seek the Lord to see how He wants us to practice practical spirituality and do godliness. Let’s let the tangible and intangible meet in our daily lives.
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