It’s not every day that you find yourself sitting with a 60 year old French man who has spent his entire adult life working with individuals affected by leprosy. Last Wednesday, as I listened to Pierre’s story, my heart continued to break for the plight of those I’ve come to love – Lolei, Jum, Noel, Ram – all of them have leprosy.
Pierre partnered with a German Catholic woman in 1960 to start a colony for individuals affected by leprosy in North India. They provide housing, medication and purpose for over 300 people. This colony happens to be 15 minutes up the road from me.
Leprosy is curable and treatable, but only for those who have access to the proper resources….most of these people don’t. Since Bible times, individuals infected with leprosy have been considered “unclean” and they are caste out. In India, due to the ever present caste system, those affected by leprosy are still caste out of society. They have to live separate from their villages and even their families.
One day, about 16 months ago, God lead me to Pierre and his people. I remember the first day I walked into the colony. This place was the most peaceful place that I had ever visited in India.
It is green. There are gardens everywhere, with flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees blossoming. The people’s dwellings are painted in a beautiful sky blue with climbing vines, flowering wisteria and the freshest air available in a hundred mile radius. There are very few signs of decay, death, disease…especially if you look past the fingers, toes and noses. Inside each building, women (and a few men) are bustling with work – carding, spinning, weaving cotton – keeping their hands busy and their hearts glad. Work gives them purpose each day.
Now, I go there weekly to give work, purpose and whatever joy, laughter, words, hugs, and smiles I can bring with me. I go there to give, but I always come away from this place feeling that I am the one who receives. Jesus‘ kingdom works this way. The more you give, the more you receive. I understand more and more each day why Jesus wanted to be with the “poor” and encouraged us to do the same. Its too difficult to explain the outcome, it must be experienced. I’m so thankful that at 33, my God has sent me here.
I am still amazed each week with the people’s peace, their joy, and the work of their hands. Many of these folks don’t have fingers, and if they do have fingers, they have very little feeling or mobility. Yet, day after day, they card, spin and weave cotton into beautiful fabric. Have you ever tried carding, spinning or weaving? I’m horrible at it and my fingers work perfectly. Yet they’ve mastered it…in spite of their disabilities.
For the last 17 months I’ve had the privilege of building friendships with these people. They have blessed me far greater than I will bless them. Connecting their work with western markets is the least that I can do to share my blessings. I was born into opportunity, love, life, freedom – they were born into poverty, brokenness and sickness. I could’ve just as easily been born into their life. Its to MY benefit that I pass my joy to them.
When you purchase a JOYN product, please think about these amazing people and send up a prayer for them. Pray that they would continue to know truth, find love and experience joy. And this isn’t a challenge, its an invitation – find your little haven of “poor” and visit them as often as you can. As Mother Theresa once said, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” In my own experience, I kinda think she’s right.