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

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 speak.

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.

Mainudin stands to accept the applause of the community


“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



Delayed in Nepal

Janakpur, Nepal

We were laughing over breakfast when the conversation drifted to possible delays in getting out of here. Guess what? When we approached the gate at Janakpur airport (for a flight to Kathmandu) they told us our flight was delayed for a few hours. No problem. We came over to Hotel Welcome where we have been given a conference room with free wifi.  But then we learned the runway at Kathmandu has still not cleared and hopes of it getting clear today are quickly disappearing. Hmmm….we may be stuck for a while.  There was a bad plane landing on Tuesday this week and the airplane is still on the runway. From the pictures we’ve just accessed it appears the Kathmandu airport is not really equipped for any such even as this.

Bill found this travel blog about the situation:

So…it’s a blessing this little team has become a covey of friends.

Sarah, Vona, Alan, Bill, Jim, Shannon, Neal



The miracles happening through Lalgadh are too great to capture. We are seeing and sharing glimpses; it is only a tiny part of what has happened since Eileen Lodge felt “called” to build a leprosy hospital on this 100 acre ground. Each day of our time here has added to the story being shared. It is a story of redemption, a story of grace….a story of miracles. Yesterday several of the staff shared testimonies of how they came to Christ through their work here. What powerful witnesses they are to God’s amazing grace!

Hugh reminds us that we are seeing and meeting the “untouchables” in Nepal. And the untouchables are beautiful. The “untouchables” are being equipped and empowered and set free to lead their families and villages and districts and regions …and country to an abundant life. Lalgadh is the place where many show up, but it is not the place they stay.

Leprosy patients have to have newly customized shoes about every 6 months to care for their feet through the healing process. The Mahara men are the shoemakers at Lalgadh. They make about 3000 pairs of shoes each year. 

The Self Care Training Center is more than occupational therapy. It is life coaching, it is restoration, it is where the “untouchables” find out they are worthy, loved and able to have full life. It is a place where Hope begins to emerge. Clients stay here two weeks in dormitory accommodations. They learn to cook without burning their hands that have often lost all feeling from the nerve damage or may have fingers missing. They learn exercises to help their various conditions. They learn how to prevent foot ulcers by taking care of their feet. They learn how to love themselves after having been told they are untouchable. The words of Jesus shout, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!”  The program, called RECLAIM, begins at the Self Training Center.

Exercise class in progress



“Love one another as I have loved you, and love your neighbor as yourself” – Jesus.

Lalgadh loves people as Christ has loved them. They learn to love themselves. Then they love others and share hope through the villages. Then miracles overflow.


There is an inpatient ward and an outpatient ward. The records room holds about 40,000 records. They see 60,000 patients a year through the Outpatient Department. With 108 staff members at Lalgadh,  and living accommodations for many on campus, the community is a family of strength and blessing. Daily devotions for the hospital and Friday night devotions for the staff are the more organized gathering times. But several times during the day evening I can hear the sound of Nepali voices singing hymns and praises. This sound we will never forget. 

Wells We Didn’t Dig

…”to drink from wells they did not dig.”

This is the scripture (Duet. 6) chosen by Dr.Daniel and Mary Ann McGinley for thier wedding This past June. I remember being so blessed by this during the months we prepared for their wedding covenant. As we walked through the village to see the wells this scripture was in my heart and mind. A couple of generations from now people will be drinking from these wells that didn’t dig them. They will have water because this generation rose up and did something as a community. The fruits of their courage, unity, sacrifice and hard work will bless thousands and ten thousands yet to come.

I wonder if heaven might be full of these wells? The places where God did amazing work through people of faith so that others could have life.  As we walk through the village and down paths of water flow I have a sneaking feeling Christ is walking with us.

What generations dug wells that you drink from every day? What wells are you digging for those who come after you? 

Village of Yogyabhumi

March 5, 2015
Village of Yogyabhumi
Kishori Yadhav is the self help group facilitator

We arrived to colors, cooking and the playfulness of children. The women were making treats for Holi that is a dough filled with chickpeas, then fried in a skillet over open fire. We (the women) were invited to join them in cooking. The men sat around a talked for short time but quickly moved to observation, supervision and encouragement! Thankfully we have a great team and between the commentary of Allen and encouagement of Neil the whole meal preparation was delightful.

This village has goals and the unity to accomplish them. They are newly formed in 2013. Their facilitator, Kishori, has a story of hope. When he was diagnosed with leprosy, the community abandoned him. He and his wife were deeply in love but her friends and the community told her she must leave him or she would get leprosy. Their fear and misunderstanding of how leprosy really affects the body, were strong enough for her to listen and she left Kishori. He was devastated.

Kishori and his wife

When Kishori sought treatment at Lalgadh Hospital they taught him self care. As the staff at Lalgadh learned of his situation, they went into the community and counseled them. His wife returned to Kishori with joy and today they work as a team. Their respect and love for each other is obvious.

The group at Yogyabhumi has two goals: education of the children and sanitation. It’s hard to imagine the situation in Nepal. Sanitation is an unknown practice. Even in those with money, many will not have a toilet (outhouse). The villages building toilets is a grassroots effort at sanitation that is actually leading everyone to improvement in sanitation.

While at Yogyabhumi the community leaders were invited to the meal which was filled by a community meeting with the organized group led by Kishori. We witnessed the conversation which centered around Edcuation and sanitation goals. It was a beatiful thing to watch unfold.
Self-help groups are a group recognized by the government. Youh have to apply for the recognition and specific organization must be met.

I met a young boy while in this village. He had been watching me write and had said “english”. When I handed him my journal he immediately wrote in beautiful English: “My name is Roshan Mandal”. He is delightful!!!


Tables in Nepal

Guest house table

I have long been suspicious that the meals we share are holy moments that offer blessing we need. More than food for fuel, we have a common need for community, for friendship, for grace. The tables we are sharing in Nepal hold a gift each time we gather.

Meal with Lalgadh Hospital Leaders

Dining hall meals are prepared for us and we feast on curry and a host of Nepali dishes most of us have never tasted. Bill and Hugh are quick to encourage us to try the new thing…and there is always something new! Hospitality at Lalgadh is abundant, peaceful and beautiful.

Picnics in the eucalyptus forest are a bit enchanting. I could sit here and write a story I’m sure…one I wouldn’t want to end. The feast follows us here as our drivers appear from the back of the jeeps with pans full of hot curry, rice, vegetables and tortillas.  Prayers of grace under the eucalyptus trees…new friends gathered and conversation laden with thankfulness. We are here; it is a holy moment; it is the grace of God.

Picnic in Eucalyptus Forest

Breakfast in the guest house is Diana’s creation. The guest house was the home where she and High lived for there first years here. It is lovely. The guys come from their house and our table is filled. Coffee is our common blood. Mornings come with their own blessing. Our sleep is sweet, our food plentiful, our fellowship a treasure. Christ is present. What’s happening at your table today?


Village of Tulasi table
Kishori’s village table


Nokailva Village

Diltoahiya was affected by leprosy. She knows the suffering. She knows the stigma. She knows the need. A widow and a woman in a Hindu culture. By all “norms”, Diltoahiva wouldn’t have much to live for. But Diltoahiva experienced Lalgadh were cure is only one stop, and restoration of hope and life is ongoing. Today she serves as a leader in the village of Nokailva. She came there to help the people. It is her gift with her life.

Hand pump

In Nokailva we find 6 hand water pumps and 10 toilets. We see children clean and dressed. We see a teacher, Ram Chandra who is giving his best knowledge to a community he doesn’t belong to. We meet the woman who received a micro loan of $50 three years ago, who will be buying a house this year. We see the bubbling up of empowerment as the women tell us of all they have done to improve their basic living conditions in the village. Our hearts are so touched by these people.

Women of Nokailva Village


In Nepal there are the “untouchables”. In Jesus’ day they often used the word “unclean”. In the village of Nokailva the “untouchables” have become touchable. The “unclean” have become clean. How? Why? Because those who could…crossed the border of old and stepped into a new thing God is doing. God is equipping people with enormous love for others. And it is changing the world.



Diltoahiva and a beautiful Nepali woman


Chepkat Village




Chepkat’s Rural Health Facilitator was once a patient at Lalgadh Hospital. He was given medicine for the cure of leprosy but returned later with ulcers on his feet. This is a common occurrence. The staff at Lalgadh saw something in Kalam that he could not see himself. You might say they could see a light that had never been lit. They cared for him and showed him love and grace. They taught him what it meant to take care of himself. Kalam began to believe he could make a difference. If he could take care of himself, maybe he could teach others how to take care of themselves.

Through the Self Care Training Center at Lalgadh, Kalam was equipped to lead others. Today he has been without ulcers for 13 years. He serves as a Rural Health Facilitator for the Chepkat Village. By every “norm” Kalam would not be leading this community – but empowered with Hope and by God’s grace – he is. Kalam is Muslim. He is giving leadership in a Hindu village, having been cared for and equipped by a Christian organization.  The women in this village are stepping up into leadership. They have put in 15 toilets on their own. They have 12 hand water pumps. Their children are going to school. This village is churning with Hope.

Toilet in Chepkat

When asked what their greatest need is: 1. A teacher for thier children; 2. More savings; 3. Better roads.

We started this day, March 4, worshipping with the hospital patients and staff. We sang hymns, each in our own language. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer, each in our own language. We said this is heaven on earth.  We ended the day with a devotion by Allen from Matthew 25 about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting those in prison. What we saw at Chepkat tells me the kingdom of God is very near, is now here, is coming. For what we see is not “normal”. What we see today is something greater than what we know. Love has spilled out over the barriers of history, culture and stigma. Love is healing in the face of leprosy. Love carried us across the ocean to Nepal. Love will do what love will do. God is love.Let it be.

Village Visits and Medical Rounds

It is 9pm here and our day has come to an end. What an amazing day! I am sitting outside unde a gazebo for Internet acces and letting some of the pictures download to facebook. I can’t get them on my IPAD yet so picture to match the stories will be added later.

Dr. Jim made medical rounds with the physician at Lalgadh Hospital today…60 patients! Jim was touched by the compassion and passion of the staff. Although we met many of them earlier, today he saw them in action at the bedsides and treatment rooms. When he played his mandolin as part of our devotion tonight I was certain his heart was overflowing. It is so nice to have him here to interact with the medical team.

The rest of us spent our day in two villages. The impact in these villages is incredible. We witnessed first hand the community leaders and the fruit of empowerment, healing and restoration. In the midst of deplorable living conditions, the local people are trained and empowered to change their communities. And they are doing it with excellence! Excellence and Love.

The colors of the culture and the peace with which the people live in unforgettable. What are they celebrating? Toilets, washing hands, children going to school, micro loans that are teaching them to save, invest and learn how to create support for their families. One woman we met today was given a $50.00 loan three years ago. She bought a pig and stated saving. This year she is buying a home! Three years of developing the resources and stability are paying off. She is overjoyed!

We saw several toilets in each village. Once the village had been given 1-2 toilets by another community group, they built some in their own community. Their pride and joy in showing us how they have learned basic hygiene and how to build a toilet was so good. Hugh Cross often says this work creates HOPE…and HOPE is what we saw today.

We also discovered a man in one village who was newly affected by leprosy. Hugh stopped along the trail and heard his story. The lesion on his face was obvious. We went by his home…maybe 3 x 5 for a family of 6. Leprosy thrives when basic health, nutrition and hygiene are compromised. This man will be assessed in the field and brought to the hospital so he can have HOPE of a different future.

The eyes of many we saw in the hospital were sad and troubled. Most have been abandoned. Dreams have been shattered. They didn’t expect life to turn this way. And in the villages we saw bright eyes of fire…ready to rise up and lead their famiies and communities with hope and love.  And sometimes hope and love come in the way of a toilet and a water hand pump.

We give thanks for this day and the grace of the people to allow us to come into their villages and learn from their great leadership. We give thanks to God for trusting us enough to be involved in the miracles Christ is unfolding throughout the earth.

The Things We Don’t Know

We began with nearly no visibility in the dense fog and landed in Janakpur with the sun shining brightly. A beautiful drive …on switch backs up the “hills” (mountains to us) and through communities that tell us the story of Nepal. As we passed by one small community the prayer flags were everywhere. “This is an important place”….Hugh’s words draw us to attention. Nothing to do or say, just be aware and know.

Kathmandu is primarily Tibetan Buddhism influence and where we are now is primarily Hindu. Nepal is grounded in its spiritual life and you can sense the peace everywhere.  Prayer and ritual are the norm, not a weekly event or occasion; it is the way the people walk through their days.

So here we are…in Janakpur. The leprosy colony (or community being the better word) is quite lovely. After hours of poverty views along the roadside, the arrival at a planned, intentional and well developed campus is like arriving at a retreat center. Lalgadh sits on 100 acres that were purchased and developed by a woman who felt called by God to build a leprosy hospital here. No one thought she was right at the time. No one thought leprosy was a problem in this area. She began with some wound care. Now this campus is filled with hospital wards, training centers, dining hall, staff apartments and a deep sense of mission.

I am so impressed with what we saw today. Meeting the staff and hearing their compelling motivations to “care for the least of these” is, as Jim said, “humbling”. Their love for the people they serve is overflowing. Their organization and approach to their work is beautiful. Their results are incredible. No quick fixes…but long-standing, intentional practices and improvements  have cheated the lives of many on year after another. Many of the key leaders have been here over 15 years.

The girls are staying in the guest house which was Hugh And Diana’s home for the first 5 years they were here (1990’s). It is lovely. Our beds are covered with white mosquito nets. The guys report cool gykos in their house and all of us are talking about toilets which is a common topic in these parts. The Asian toilet is flat to the ground but we have an option for both American and Asian types in this house. I’m thankful.

I am also grateful that we are staying inside the leprosy community with those who are affected by the disease. Tomorrow we will visit two villages where the people come from..their home villages. Hugh tells us that we will “see it, hear it, taste, smell it and feel it” because it is the only way for us to know.

The American Leprosy Mission is a Christian organization.  The Lalgdah Leprosy Community is one of their most successful missions. Lalgdah was started by someone called by God to do it. It is led by equally called Christian leaders who believe they are following Christ’s instructions to care for the sick and the hungry. Their devotion is amazing; they have given their lives to this work. And now by God’s grace we are being given the gift of seeing what the Lord has done with their obedience and faith. Going to sleep amazed tonight.