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  • Lea Haisch

Leprosy Isn't Just in the Bible

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Until I connected with Pastor Matthew in India I had no idea that leprosy still existed. I had only read about it in the Bible and it seemed that it was one disease that should not be prevalent in our modern, medically advanced society. But I was wrong.

A woman with leprosy prays during a monthly gathering where ATC provides rations and stipend.

Leprosy, also called Hansen's Disease, is an ancient disease caused by a slow-growing bacterium. It is thankfully curable through the use of antibiotics. Though rare in the United States, there are still some reported cases each year, mostly in people who have lived in countries with less access to medical care. Two-thirds of all new cases of leprosy reported each year are in India. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding the disease often prevents people from seeking treatment which could prevent the disabilities often associated with leprosy.

The social implications of the disease are profound in India. Women are often divorced and forced out of their homes to live destitute. Many people with leprosy cannot find work because of the social stigma. Others find themselves unable to work due to the disabilities that result from untreated leprosy. (CDC Leprosy Facts)

Lea prays with two disabled women. The woman on the left lost both her legs to leprosy. The one on the right was born without legs. Both recieved hand-trikes from ATC.

When I met these beautiful people living with leprosy I was undone. Culture, religion, and ancient beliefs tell them they are unclean and untouchable. They believe they must have sinned in a past life and are therefor paying penance so their next life will be better.

I cannot explain how it feels to sit with a person with missing fingers, nose, ears, and limbs and tell them they have worth. I can't tell what joy it brings to hug them in a universal language that says they are not untouchable, to hold them and affirm that God loves them, and to see how their eyes light up when they realize they are not forgotten. It is a beautiful thing.

One profound moment was when I met Daniel. He stood proudly in front of me and told me his story. He said that he used to be a very bad man and had an evil heart full of sorrows and anger. Then he caught leprosy. Because of the leprosy he gave his life to Christ. He was thankful to God, because for the first time, he had peace in his heart.

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