Stigma. It is a one word sentence. Once a stigma is in place it takes a miracle to remove it. Miracles are exactly what we are seeing in the villages of Nepal. I’ve read about these miracles all my life. Jesus encountered the woman who was bleeding; he healed her body and restored her spirit. Jesus was always encountering people who others no longer could see. His response was simple and profound: Healing of their bodies and restoration of thier spirits.
Bill Simmons is the CEO of Amercian Leprosy Mission (ALM) He grew up in the Congo where his parents were on the mission field. After much success in the corporate arena, Bill came back to his missional roots fully equipped for the work ahead. And that work is leading the ALM. He is a fabulous leader. Today in the village Bill was recounting the story of Mainudin. It was a story of grace and restoration. Bill said something that will stick with me: “Ending leprosy is about ending the stigma that leprosy causes.”
Stigma is what happens when leprosy comes into someone’s life. Families are distraught; they abandon. Communities are scared; they shun the person affected. People who have the diagnosis are overwhelmed with the isolation; they lose hope that life will ever be different. No one thinks they are worthy human beings. Maybe they begin to believe the lies.
Jesus spoke a Word and the person affected by leprosy was healed. We give a medicine and the manifestation is healed. Jesus restored the spirit in that same moment. We see restoration of spirits after many people have shown love, grace, compassion and then equipped the healed to be a part of restoring others. What happens along the way is that many others are restored as they participate in the miracle.
We met Mainudin in the Mahuwa village where he facilitates the self help groups in the district. Mainudin was an orphan at age 10. His journey is full of loss, suffering and isolation. Until he found Lalgadh and Lalgadh rekindled the light in him. Before we arrive in the village Hugh prepares us with anticipation of some great news he will be sharing. We wonder with both excitement and awe…how could we be here to witness this good news?
Hugh stands to address the gathering and everyone is listening. He announces that Mainudin has been selected to join him for a meeting in Guang, China to advise the world’s team of experts on leprosy. The focus is how to strengthen the participation of people affected by leprosy so that they can be contributors. From a dusty village in Nepal and orphaned at age 10, Mainudin’s life has dramatically changed. From “untouchable” to world expert. From disabled to fully abled. From staring death in the face to helping others find life. This stigma is removed.
“When Jesus had come down from the mountains great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. – Matthew 8:1-3