GREENVILLE, SC – American Leprosy Missions is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases around the world.
Every two minutes, someone, somewhere across 127 different countries, is diagnosed with leprosy. We should understand by this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic that there can be a huge difference between the number of people diagnosed with a disease and the number who die from it.
Although a majority of people believe that leprosy kills, it would be very difficult to determine how many, if any, people affected by leprosy actually died of the disease. American Leprosy Missions has engaged in educating people about leprosy, supplying critical aid to four million people, including leprosy patients, and end the disease since 1906.
Leprosy is a disease that attacks the nerves. Untreated, the disease can lead to deformities, loss of extremities and limbs, and blindness. Each of those is not leprosy, but they are potential ramifications of failure to detect or diagnose the presence of the disease. It is the untreated nerve damage that makes having the sickness so burdensome for those who have it and so misunderstood by those who don’t.
“American Leprosy Missions exists to serve as a channel of Christ’s love to persons affected by leprosy and related diseases, helping them to be healed in body and spirit and restored to lives of dignity and hope.”
Therein lies the rub. Even if a typical person with leprosy lives a long time, they die an early social death as family, friends, and strangers go out of their way to avoid them. In some countries where the disease is prevalent, the people with leprosy are cast out of society or relegated to a colony.
It is difficult to imagine the loss of dignity suffered by someone whose sense of self-esteem, dignity, and hope has been cruelly damaged by family and societal rejection. Not only that, but people with leprosy living in colonies are surrounded by others who are suffering their own personal loss of dignity. Everywhere they look in their community, they see despondency and despair.
That is why the strategy of American Leprosy Missions has been so effective in the 42 countries where they have served since 1906. They know that, as channels of Christ’s love, they bring hope and healing, restore broken physical and spiritual lives, and encourage early treatment so that leprosy is no longer allowed to wreak havoc on human souls.
American Leprosy Missions is a leader on the journey to reduce the impact of leprosy and related diseases today and in the next generation. Their 2020 strategic plan defines various approaches they will use to accomplish two overarching goals to:
- Reduce the impact of leprosy and related diseases on people around the world.
- Become the type of organization that will lead the fight against leprosy and related diseases for the next generation.
The internal sub goals of their strategic plan have been wisely drafted:
- Develop and invest in projects, systems, technologies and tools that create sustainable, positive impact for people affected; accelerate the exploration and application of novel solutions to cure, care and end high-morbidity NTDs.
- Develop messaging that will take us into the future, position ourselves to target audiences and raise funds to support our mission.
- Strengthen team members, partners and systems to improve excellence in outcomes and encourage the development of healthy, whole people.
We have not reached the end of the road leading to the end of leprosy, but you can almost see it from here.