Sunday, January 07, 2024

Caring for the needy

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

It has been my privilege to visit many parts of the world, not necessarily as a tourist visiting places of popular interest but usually to see the work which dedicated men and women are doing to help others.  One such place was a leprosy hospital in India.  

Leprosy is a terrible disease because it is not just dreadful in its physical effects on the human body but carries a social stigma.  People are so fearful of contracting the disease because those with it are ostracised.  Lepers are considered unclean and are kept away from normal human contact and are unable to gain normal employment or live with their family.  Its physical affects are hideous as the fingers and toes can lose all feeling and can be lost.  The facial features can become distorted and eventually the patient will die if helpful treatment is not received.  The situation is made worse by the fact that in impoverished places rats can be a scourge.  We can imagine these people asleep at night and a rat nibbles at a finger or toe and with no feelings they are very quickly losing those digits.  That is why leprosy doctors considered the provision of a cat to be essential for those suffering with leprosy.  
As I wandered along the wards with the doctor and other medical personnel it was encouraging to see the way the patients were so well cared for by the staff.  The standard of cleanliness was very high and there was no crowding as each occupied their own bed and had their own space.  Today there is a cure for leprosy and surgery has been developed to mend hands and feet which have been affected by the disease but so often people go to the medical practitioner at a very late stage when the disease has taken serious hold.

Outside the hospital was a well organised community for leprosy sufferers and their families.  There was agricultural work and help for independent living.  There was a school for the children and I can still see them crowding around me as we entered the community.  We visited people living independently and to my amazement I met an elderly lady who had lost all her fingers and thumb on both hands.  She lived with stumps but seemed so bright and happy as there were people to help and care for her.

At the heart of the community was the church building.  There the people went for worship and to give praise to God and to learn from His Word.  There they could find the way to eternal life through faith in Christ.  It also revealed the real reason why the staff were so caring.  They were Christian people who took their responsibility seriously to obey God by caring for those in need.  Jesus was very clear that His followers should care for those who so often cannot help themselves.  All over the globe the leprosy colonies have been largely founded and supported by Christians who have given up lucrative careers to care for those who could never repay the sacrifice that was made for them.  Yet the Bible indicates that in caring for those who cannot help themselves it is done as a service for God. 

Today, through medication, leprosy is being eradicated in the world and it has certainly disappeared from the rich Western world.  Yet care for the needy must always be the concern of true Christians and the most important need is for life, life in its fullness which is eternal that gives us a place in Heaven.  May we find that to be true of ourselves.

Written by PAUL YOUNG 


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