“Unclean! Unclean!”—this is how a person with leprosy was required to announce their presence when they came in contact with others in ancient times. Not much has changed today. People are still sick, and still made to feel less than human.
India is home to the largest number of leprosy outbreaks—well more than 135,000 cases, nearly 55% of all cases in the world. And it’s also a growing problem. What’s now called Hansen’s disease is marked by skin lesions, muscle weakness and numbness in the extremities. An individual with leprosy does not feel pain, which can lead to infections, deformities, and amputations.
There is gross discrimination surrounding Leprosy. People are forced into “Leper Colonies,” and in many states in India, prohibited from obtaining a drivers license, traveling by train, attending school, and gaining employment. In India leprosy is prevalent among the most poor and marginalized communities because of a lack of access to healthcare, poor sanitation and congested living spaces.
Ignorance surrounds the disease. Many Hindus believe people with leprosy are cursed, and being punished for transgressions committed in a previous life—and nothing can fix it. Children in families marked by the illness suffer a great deal even if they’re not afflicted. Parents sometimes send their children to orphanages far from home so they can have a fresh start away from the colony and stigma of the illness.
Global Mission at David C Cook hosts a three-year whole life discipleship Club (called J127 Clubs) for a number of children from families with leprosy. A key component of discipleship includes soul care for extreme trauma. For these children this translates into worthlessness, lack of identity, abandonment, hopelessness, mistrust, and fear.
Here’s one story from the Shalom Club (pictured above).
Pradeep’s parents have lived in a leper’s colony for 10-15 years. They both have the disease and make a living by begging outside of temples. Six years ago the head of the colony dropped Pradeep off at the orphanage. At first he refused to take a bath or keep himself clean. If anyone commented on his appearance, he’d lash out with rage. He came from brokenness, and that manifested in challenging ways.
Pradeep is one of those kids who immediately clung to Jesus in his J127 Club time. It has changed him. He loves the activities and games—and understands on a deep level that he now has a loving Father who sees him as pure and clean, a young prince of the Most High. He knows that Jesus—a God who healed many lepers in His time on earth—is not afraid to touch and love this group of people. And Jesus just didn’t heal leprosy, he cleansed individuals from stigma (Mark 1:40-42, Luke 17:12-14, Matthew 10:8, Luke 5:13-14).
Pradeep hopes to become a doctor. He prays for his parents to accept Jesus into their hearts. A few Club children such as Pradeep have come out the other end of the suffering associated with leprosy and long to become doctors and nurses and serve leprosy affected people. The Club leader, Auntie Alpana, says,
They understand the physical suffering and shame. Nobody in India wants to touch these individuals; there is hate toward them. Please pray these children see their dreams fulfilled
If you’re interested in sponsoring a J127 Club with children who’ve faced trauma, please contact us at globalchurch.com.
Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.