WILLS POINT, TX – Indigenous Gospel for Asia-supported workers are accustomed to facing the effects of leprosy on the people of South Asia. Leprosy is one of the most devastating diseases in the world. It is one of the oldest diagnosed illnesses without a protocol for prevention.
Four million people living in tropical regions currently suffer from the ravages of the progressively debilitating disease. Eighty percent of them live in Brazil, India, and Indonesia.
The Compassion Services workers of Gospel for Asia labor faithfully within leper colonies where thousands of victims of the disease have been isolated because they are disfigured, and society considers them “unclean.”
GFA-supported workers served residents in more than 1,200 leper colonies in 2018. They offered comfort and healing for the broken hearts that are undeniably the most grievous pain that accompanies leprosy. They tended to the more obvious physical wounds and lost extremities that either scare or offend the lepers’ own families and friends.
We are all called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world by doing good works that bring glory to God. We do that by serving others as the hands and feet of Jesus. In the case of leprosy, Jesus provided a simple, yet moving example of what being His hands and feet means.
Matthew shares an incident that happened with Jesus immediately after He had delivered the Sermon on the Mount. As the multitudes followed Him, “Behold, a leper came and worshipped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2)
That’s a bold – and correct – statement. But, picture this disfigured man, who was considered unclean and untouchable, as he approached Jesus. Visualize the multitudes avoiding the man. And remember that all Jesus needed to do was to say the word and the man would be healed.
But, “Jesus put out His hand and touched him!” Jesus touched Him! He didn’t have to touch him, but He did! By that touch, Jesus demonstrated that the leper was not untouchable at all.
“Then Jesus said, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matthew 8:3)
In like manner and in Christ-like compassion, GFA’s workers in the leper colonies of South Asia convey the same empathy by literally reaching out their hands lovingly, just as Jesus did.
Gospel for Asia is committed to ministering love and grace to lepers in South Asia. We also want to help our readers and supporters become more aware of and understand the disease of leprosy.
In conjunction with World Leprosy Day (Sunday, January 26), GFA has issued an update to the special report we published in January 2019, “Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep It Alive.” The update is entitled, “Progress in the Fight Against Leprosy.” It includes facts about leprosy that can help each of us better understand the disease.
Important insights in the two reports include:
- Leprosy is curable!
- 95 percent of the people in the world are naturally immune to leprosy.
- Multi-drug therapy (MDT) has been proven to cure leprosy evidenced in its early stages. Administered in a timely manner, the MDT can prevent the otherwise inevitable disfigurement.
- Leprosy can take as long as 20 years to manifest itself. This makes early diagnosis difficult and finding a vaccine a necessity.
- Over 200,000 new cases of leprosy are reported every year.
- Leprosy is still active in more than 100 countries, although 3.2 million infected individuals live in just three countries.
- An effective vaccine may be on the way using the drug rifampicin. Although still in the early stages of development, the treatment appears to reduce the risk of individuals who might become exposed to leprosy.
- Infected people fail to seek medical treatment either because access to hospitals is limited or because the victims believe they can’t afford it.
- Many leprosy victims are barred from schools, restaurants, stores, and public transportation. It is nearly impossible for many of them to find employment.
- Leprosy patients are still people created in the image of God.
Gospel for Asia is committed to providing the compassionate care that leprosy victims need. GFA-supported hospitals in South Asia offer leprosy treatment. GFA-supported churches and their members invite leprosy victims into their homes and places of worship where they are loved, hugged, fed, and befriended.
Learn more about the GFA-supported leprosy ministry, or the Reaching Friends Ministry, helping remind people affected by leprosy that, despite the stigma of leprosy, they have dignity and are valued by God.
- Gospel for Asia, Progress in the Fight Against Leprosy
- Gospel for Asia, Leprosy: Misunderstandings and Stigma Keep It Alive
- Gospel for Asia, Leprosy Ministry
- Gospel for Asia, Photo of the Day