LOVING THE UNLOVELY
We rescue the children of lepers not yet infected!
“Are you going to help all 4.5 million lepers of India?” For Dr. M. A. Thomas response was simple. “No, but if I can help just one of them the numbers will be 4.5 million minus one!”
Living as an “Untouchable”
Few humans experience the kind of rejection that lepers in India live with every day. As Christians, we are commanded to see everyone through the eyes of Christ. Sadly, there are people so deformed from this disease that it is sickening to look at them. The medication distributed wherever possible stops the spread of the disease, but it can’t reverse the loss of fingers, toes, noses, arms and legs already missing.
Motiram, is 64 and has lived as a leper most of his life. He accepted Jesus during one of Dr. M. A. Thomas’ first visits to the leper colony. Although he is the only Christian in his family, his wife, two grown children and three grandchildren do attend church in the colony with him. He prays daily that his family will one day recognize their need for Christ and eternal life.
Motiram lives in a leper colony that is really just a street, approximately 200 yards long. It is dotted with tiny houses built by the government for the lepers several years ago. The government does not allow them to live among those without leprosy.
Phool Bai lives on that same street. She is 69 and proudly tells everyone that she has been a Christian since 1995 – her first meeting with Dr. M. A. Thomas. She goes to church every Sunday. When asked how she came to believe in Jesus, she said: “He just worked in my heart and I believed. I love to share my faith. My husband is not a Christian yet, but I have joy and peace. I consider my problems to be few since I have Jesus in my heart. I pray all the time for the Thomas’ family.”
What is Leprosy?
Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is practically non-existent in the United States. Unfortunately, it is a very real problem in India where nearly 60% of the world’s lepers live in extremely impoverished conditions. But as insidious and horrific as this disease is, it is actually less infectious than measles or tuberculosis! Although leprosy is physically painless, the emotional wreckage of a life lived never experiencing acceptance by healthy human beings is more devastating than the deformity many live with.
MDT (Multi Drug Therapy) was developed in 1981 (www.WHO.int). Because of free distribution of the drug launched worldwide in 1995, new cases of leprosy dropped from 21.2 per 10,000 to less than one per 10,000 in 2000. Labeled the disease of the impoverished, new cases still pop up in rural villages and urban slums where many do not have access to the drug. Wherever illiteracy exists, even free medical attention is rare.
Leprosy is transmitted through droplets from the nose and mouth from an infected person (i.e. mother and child). Without financial assistance, lepers survive by begging. They move around a lot because merchants are constantly chasing them away. Each day is the same; stay out on the streets until you have sufficient money to provide enough food to sustain your deformed body one more day.
The Indian government attempt to keep lepers out of town centers because it is bad for business. Their plan is to move all colonies to the outskirts of town. Unfortunately, they are often so far out that lepers – due to severe disabilities – cannot get into town to beg.
Once cured, they still can’t get jobs. People don’t want them touching their clothing, furniture, and food or even hauling away their trash. They might as well have LEPER tattooed across their foreheads! It is impossible to make a living if they have any physical signs of having had the disease. There are even missionaries who won’t go into the colonies. But how will they know the Good News if we don’t tell them?
“How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (Romans 10:14-15).
In the late 70’s when Dr. Thomas learned that leprosy is NOT hereditary, he decided that these children needed help. With their parents’ permission, he began to rescue the children and take them to our Hope Homes to be raised. He promised the parents that their children would be fed, protected, loved and educated so they could one day live outside the leprosy colony. And, of course, all of these children were introduced to our Savior.
Hopegivers International, whenever financially feasible, will provide looms, supplies to embroider and make candles so the lepers can support their families without resorting to begging on the streets.
Our mission is to bring hope from the inside out – impossible if Christ is not living in them. His grace nurtures their souls so they can re-claim hope when we can show by them how to lead productive lives.
Our heavenly Father never sees any of us as hopeless; neither does Hopegivers International.
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5).