ANSWER TRUE OR FALSE
True: It is a chronic infectious disease that attacks the nervous system, particularly the nerves of the hands, feet and face. Sufferers may feel no pain in these areas and are thus likely to injure themselves without realising it.
Leprosy is highly infectious
False: It is less infectious than the common cold. You have to live for some years in an endemic area, where new cases of leprosy are continually being detected, to run the risk of catching it. In a study of new cases being put on treatment in the United Kingdom, it was found that all of them had lived abroad in a country with leprosy for at least eight years.
You catch the infection by touching someone with Leprosy
False: It is spread by tiny vapour droplets in the air from an infected persons breath
Leprosy is incurable
False: Since 1982, leprosy has been cured through multidrug therapy. Patients are given a cocktail of strong antibiotics which can completely cure the tuberculoid form of the disease within six months and the more infectious lepromatous form within two years. A combination of drugs must be used because the leprosy bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics very quickly. If treatment is started early, deformities and disabilities can be prevented. Treatment also makes the patients non-infectious very quickly, which helps prevent the spread of leprosy.
One of the symptoms is a persistently stuffy nose
True: This is because the disease is related to tuberculosis
The disease was once common in Western Europe
True: It was common in Europe but died out for unknown reasons 200 years ago
India has over 50% of the worlds leprosy cases
True: And Brazil has the next highest figure
If you have leprosy your fingers might drop off
False: You might lose a finger tip but only because you have injured it without any sensation of pain.
WHO ARE THE ‘LEPERS’ TODAY?
Luke 5:12-16 p.80
Amos couldn’t remember when he first started to notice the numbness in his fingers. It had made his job as a tentmaker increasingly difficult. He couldn’t sew any more, his fingers couldn’t feel the needle. He was unwilling to give in too easily though and didn’t tell anyone about it at first. How could he tell his family when they depended on him for everything. His wife noticed the pale patches on his back, and commented on them. They both knew what it might mean, but just hoped that if they ignored it they would go away. However before long there were sores on his face and hands and that was when the priest in the synagogue put two and two together. He told Amos this was a sign that God was punishing him. God had given him this infectious disease called leprosy because he had sinned. Amos accepted that because nobody was perfect, he least of all.
He was now an outcast. He had to live outside the village, to wear old clothes and grow his hair long and cover the lower part of his face. Not only that he had to cry out, “Unclean, Unclean”, when someone was near. He had really enjoyed his job and made a good living for his family. He had been a respected member of the village, but now he was a beggar. It seemed like there was nothing to live for. What was more he was worried about what would happen to his family. He was the bread-winner. How would they manage without him?
The only friends he had now were other lepers and they all lived together outside the village, relying on hand-outs from their families to survive. His health was getting worse. The sores were all over his body now but the ones on his feet were worst. It meant he could hardly walk. That and the fact that he couldn’t feel his toes or fingers meant that he constantly hurt himself without realising it. The only hope he had of a cure seemed to be in this fellow Jesus that everyone was talking about. He had heard that Jesus was curing people with all kinds of diseases. But would Jesus want to cure a leper? After all it was a punishment for sin, wasn’t it? Everyone kept well clear of Amos whenever they saw him coming. Should he break all the rules and try to find this Jesus and ask him to help?
Dr Luke tells us the man was “covered with leprosy” this was and advanced case. He must have looked repulsive and so had suffered from rejection over a long period
He prepared for rejection from Jesus but still hoped he would cure him
He threw himself down and begged Jesus “Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean”
Everyone must have drawn back in horror & been amazed when Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him & said, “I do want to, be clean!”
Jesus healed the man:
Physically - at once the disease left him
Emotionally - touch signified love & acceptance
Spiritually - he was now ritually clean from his sin
Rehabilitated into society - “go to the priest & let him examine you to prove to everyone that you are cured”
Lev 14 -a ceremony which included a bird released in open fields
Offer the sacrifices - signified Forgiveness + Thanksgiving
The man told everyone what Jesus had done. He wanted to help others to experience love, acceptance, healing & hope through Jesus
STORY - REKA
Reka lives in a village in India. She used to support her family by working in the fields. Then she lost the feeling in her hands and feet and found she was injuring herself without noticing it. She was also burning herself but couldn’t feel it.
She tells her story: ‘I had visited many private doctors in different places. Nobody told me about my disease. I spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to find out what it was. Eventually my brother took me to a doctor who said, “this is leprosy and you must take her to the hospital”.
My village is more than 100km from the hospital, so my brother took me there. But it meant leaving my children to fend for themselves and that it a big worry for me. I've got two sons and one daughter. The elder son is 14, the next is 12 and my daughter is 10. Nobody is there to look after them. There are a few relatives but they don't care about them. My husband neglects the family and plays no supporting role. I feel that all my life I have taken care of him and now I've got leprosy he's not taking care of me.
I wonder how long my brother and his family will support me? They are having to spend a lot of money on my treatment, on travelling and other costs, it's a heavy burden for them to bear all the time.
One day at home, while I was sleeping, a cat or a rat had bitten my anaesthetic foot. It was bleeding and I was very disturbed and thought, “I will die. Now I won't cause any problems to anyone”, so didn't call my brother. Then after a while it became worse so I called him and he brought me to his house. He took responsibility for me and consoled me. I don’t know what I would have done without him.
I've faced a lot of rejection from the community because of leprosy. I can't meet with the people around me. Within the family and community they use bad words about me. In the family some relatives say "she is smelly, take her to the leprosy hospital". Before the leprosy, everyone was friendly to me. I was a good wife and daughter-in-law, everyone respected me. But now I am an outcast.’
Reka is a patient at Naini hospital in India and is just one of many people who have been rejected and stigmatised because of leprosy. Naini Hospital, located in North India, was first opened in 1830 and is now one of the largest leprosy regional referral centres in the area. Patients come from all over northern India to receive treatment and help with being rehabilitated back into their society.
And so Reka says, “The people at the hospital were so kind to me. It made such a difference. Now I am getting treatment and I have hope for the future”
QUESTION: WHO ARE THE ‘LEPERS’ IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY?
Amanda had always been good at art and loved to draw and paint. Her teachers had hinted that she would make a very good teacher herself one day and that is what she had set her heart on. And so off she went to Art College. It was easy at first, everything was new and exciting. She was invited to lots of parties and loved to be one of the crowd. The drugs were there of course and although her parents had warned her about the dangers she couldn’t see the harm in just trying some now and then. After all, drugs were cheaper than alcohol and some people said they were not nearly so harmful. She found that some of the socially acceptable drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine helped her to enjoy the parties and get on with her art course at the same time. However, it was when she started to go out during the week as well as the weekend that things got out of hand.
To fund her way through college she had a part time job, working in a supermarket in the evenings. But Amanda was no longer the happy young girl that had once left home and gone to art college. She became very moody and lost her job due to being rude to a customer. That put pressure on her finances, and to lift her mood she took more drugs. One thing led to another and she was soon shoplifting to keep her habit. It wasn’t long before she lost interest in her studies and was asked to leave college.
Her parents couldn’t live with her behaviour and insisted she either give up the drugs or leave. Well she needed cocaine to get through every day and so had to leave home. She was now homeless and spent most of her time on the streets begging. She met a man who was also an addict and they found a council flat in an area where there were a lot of other addicts. By then she wanted to give up taking drugs and sought help. She had a course of treatment but there was no follow up so she soon relapsed and was back on the drugs again.
Things went from bad to worse. She started smoking heroin then injecting it. Her partner was violent and after having had her nose broken several times she was determined to find a way out. Eventually she managed to get a place in Rainbow House - a rehabilitation centre run by the Church of Scotland. She stayed there for six months. She had help with her self-esteem through counselling and group therapy. She particularly enjoyed the art therapy classes and when she left Rainbow House she reapplied to art college, was accepted and graduated with a BA.
The love and acceptance she found at Rainbow House made all the difference to Amanda. She still goes to the art therapy course every week, but now she’s running it, helping other addicts to find the love, acceptance, healing and hope that she found.
Jesus reached out to Amos, bringing him love, acceptance, healing and hope.
Through ordinary Christians Jesus has reached out and to give love, acceptance, healing and hope to Reka and to Amanda
Who do we know that needs the love of Jesus? How can we reach out to bring them acceptance, healing and hope today?