NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
Several years ago on a Mission Helper trip to India, I was riding with Pastor Moses, one of the district chairmen, on the back of his motorcycle. We rode past a large billboard that read, “Leprosy is a treatable disease.” My first thought was, “There are lepers here?!?”
Leprosy is something we often read about in the Bible, but for most of us it is not something that we ever see. Modern multi-drug therapy has made leprosy (Hansen’s disease) rare in the western world, but it still has not been eradicated in India. In a recent plea to the central government to work toward the elimination of leprosy, advocate Pankaj Sinha claimed that 125,000 people are infected with it each year.
Even with effective treatment, by the time the bacteria is stopped, a person has often been disfigured in some way. Even though Hansen’s disease is not really very contagious, lepers are stigmatized and ostracized and confined to leper colonies, which usually surround a leprosy hospital. Here the Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church (BELC), which is affiliated with the CLC, works in two such leper colonies.
One colony has a population of approximately five thousand. Pastor John Paul has been serving the BELC congregation in this colony since 2007. There are around seventy-five adults and twenty-five children who attend this church. The church does not have its own building, so the believers meet in the courtyard and veranda of one of the houses.
Pastor Augustin serves the BELC congregation in the other leper colony. This colony has a population of over one thousand, and there are forty-seven members in this church.
Each Christmas, Project KINSHIP provides funds for a special Christmas celebration at these two churches. At these celebrations we give the people a small gift of clothing and food. This small gesture means a great deal to these people who have so little and whom the world would rather forget. When Jesus touched the leper in Matthew 8:3, it may seem like a small thing to us, but think of how much it must have meant to the leper who had to avoid all human contact. The clothing and food we give is a small way that we touch the lives of these people, a people who are considered untouchable. And it shows them that they are part of a much greater fellowship of believers. It shows them that they have brothers and sisters on the other side of the world who care about them.
Most importantly, however, at these celebrations and at every service, the people hear about the far greater gift God has given all of us: the salvation we have through Jesus Christ. Today we can look to modern medicine to cure physical leprosy, but only the blood of Jesus can cure a person from the leprosy of sin. These two pastors, along with all the pastors in the BELC, work each week to call people to Calvary’s holy mountain to find the spiritual healing and eternal life that only Jesus brings.
District Chairman Moses would like to start an orphanage for children affected by leprosy. Orphans are already disadvantaged; leprosy orphans are doubly so. Because the believers here are very poor, funding such an orphanage is a big challenge, and adequate funds are not currently available. Pray that the Lord would provide the means to start this orphanage.
There are so many who need to hear about their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray that the light of the Gospel would shine forth and bring salvation not only in these colonies, but also in every village in India.
Peter Evensen is a CLC foreign missionary. He lives in Chennai, India.