Tens of thousands of people in the world suffer from leprosy, a bacterial infection which affects the skin and destroys nerves. Since the disease affects the nervous system, the affected areas become numb. People suffering from leprosy cannot feel pain and can easily hurt or injure themselves. These injuries can become infected and result in tissue loss. I remember reading about a missionary who put one of his feet in a pan of boiling water and didn’t even feel any pain. It was then that he realized that he had leprosy.
The stigma that comes from having leprosy can be worse than the disease itself. People with leprosy are outcasts. Their relatives believe that they are cursed. Their lives are filled with loneliness and pain. People avoid them. This happened to Balwant. He was in his 30s when he discovered that he had leprosy. He had white patches on his leg that itched and then became numb.
Leprosy, if left untreated, can cause serious damage and leave a person disfigured. Balwant and others like him feel ostracized and humiliated. They are denied access to common wells or prevented from participating in festivals because people are afraid of the risk of contagion. Family members reject them because they don’t want to catch the disease or be socially rejected because of those affected. Some people even believe that when a person has leprosy he or she is being punished by the gods for past sins. So, they avoid those who are affected because they don’t want to the wrath of the gods to fall upon them.
Balwant ended up losing his leg because the disease had progressed severely. The doctors had to amputate his leg at the knee. This left him weak and unable to work. To make matters worse, he couldn’t afford to pay for the medical treatments he needed to treat his high blood pressure and diabetes which he had developed. All of these things began to take a toll on Balwant and he decided that death was the only way out. It would relieve him of his suffering, take away his shame and lift the burden that caring for him placed on his family. He thought of hanging himself but he had no strength in his hands or leg. He decided that he would jump into the well near his house.
It was at this moment of despair, resignation and hopelessness that God intervened in Balwant’s life. He sent a Gospel for Asia supported pastor and three Sisters of Compassion, specialized women missionaries to Balwant’s community. After hearing about Jesus and how compassionate He is, Balwant, moved by this, opened up to the pastor and the missionaries and told them all that he was going through and his plan to end it all.
Pastor Daha and the sisters prayed for Balwant and used God’s Word to encourage him. They prayed for him for many days and his health began to improve. He felt a peace that was beyond comprehension–the peace only Jesus can offer. Balwant began to see his life through God’s eyes–precious.
Pastor Daha and the missionaries visited Balwant and his wife regularly. They showed the love of Christ through simple acts such as fetching water, chopping vegetables and even trimming Balwant’s nails, something he couldn’t do for himself. Their care and Jesus’ love made Balwant want to live. “I was emotionally weak and thought to end my life,” he testified, “but I found Jesus in the right time. I thank God that He loves me.”
Sadly, a few months after Balwant found Jesus, he fell ill with jaundice and died. He was right. He found Jesus at the right time and one day he will be among the resurrected dead who will spend eternity with the Lord. On that glorious day when Jesus returns, Balwant will have a new and incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).
Every year, there are nearly 230,000 new cases of people diagnosed with leprosy. About 60 percent of those cases concern people living in India alone. While leprosy is a curable disease, many men, women and even children find themselves abandoned and scorned because of it. Like Balwant, they live with shame and hopelessness as their constant companions. But God is using His servants to give these precious people hope and new life in Him—and you can help – Gospel for Asia
Pray for those who are living with leprosy. Their world is filled with so much shame and hopelessness. They are abandoned and scorned by relatives, friends and neighbors. They are lonely and suffer from physical and emotional pain. Help Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy ministry to bring love and hope filled life to these people.
Pray that, like Balwant, they will come to know Jesus who loves them and longs to heal them just as He did when He was here on earth. He healed this man who had leprosy on his hands. His big smile and perfectly fine hands testify that the Lord is still in the business of healing. Read about how He also healed Radhika, a 19 year old leprosy patient whose husband left her.
You can help the GFA Leprosy Ministry by praying for:
- the healing of leprosy patients
- the missionaries who are going and sharing the Gospel with the leprosy patients
- more medical personnel to care for and treat the patients
- the children whose parents have leprosy
This year, for World Leprosy Day, let us join Gospel for Asia in raising awareness about the hopelessness and rejection that many leprosy patients face and the hope, love, joy and acceptance they can find in Jesus Christ.