We heard of a gentleman this past week from Eunice, our local women’s ministries coordinator. She was pretty sure he had Leprosy and he really needed our help. “Okay, tell him to come to the clinic on Saturday morning so I can talk to him.” I said. I had seen Leprosy victims here before. Most cases had sadly deteriorated past the hope of salvaging usable digits. One such person is a widow the mission helps with food each month. She’s a sweet elderly lady. The kind you want to embrace.
On Saturday morning I was up early enough. While I drank coffee and got caught up on world news I was summoned to assess a child with the worst case of LTB (croup) I have ever seen. While I was in the midst of counseling this mom on the best treatment for her child and running cement down to the school for the construction project, the gentleman with Leprosy arrived. It was yet another very muggy, hot African summer morning and I was dressed in the coolest sleeveless top I could find. I still felt like I was in a sauna. As I approached the clinic, Eunice introduced me to two men, one was her husband, and the other, dressed in a heavy, long-sleeved sweater, was the man with Leprosy. His eyes were mostly downcast and he kept his sleeves tightly tucked over the ends of his hands. Only after some coaxing did he pull his sleeves up so I could assess his condition. He had mere stumps with no fingers at all, on both arms. We usually take photos of all the needy people we help. But that day I simply didn’t have the heart to ask for his picture. His story goes like this: in 1992 when the Leprosy became obvious, his family evicted him from their home. At some point, they gave him a herd of goats to help him survive. He moved to some distant, isolated part of the bush where he lived with another gentleman who helped care for him. In the last few months, this gentleman has decided to move away, and so, this man decided to move closer to one of our nearby communities. He then started to attend one of the churches connected to the mission. His three remaining goats stand between him and starvation. Eunice and the church people have been helping to cook for and feed this poor man. On Monday the mission staff will meet to discuss how we can best help him. Ernesto, our clinic staff, will work with him to pursue any treatment that may be available to him through the government. With the Lord’s help, maybe we can still help him make something of what seems like nothingness in his life. Maybe we’ll get a photo of a smiling face yet!