Bahula Rajal couldn’t ignore the woman lying on the ground in her own vomit. Other people walked past her, careful to keep a safe distance. Bahula could tell the woman had leprosy; even so she wouldn’t be like the others who looked away and pretended the woman didn’t exist. In Bahula’s heart, this woman was her family.
Bahula and her two companions helped the sick woman to her feet and brought her back to their home. After they washed her and gave her clean clothes, they fed her and then prayed for her.
The following morning, the woman overflowed with love toward Bahula and the other Gospel for Asia women missionaries, profusely thanking them for helping her in her most desperate time of need.
“God sent you to me,” the woman said. “No one was there to take care of me. No one was there to give me even one drop of water, but God sent you to me.”
Indifference Turns to Compassion
“No one was there to take care of me. No one was there . . .” That’s something most people affected with leprosy can repeat over and over again. The chronic infectious disease has left them shunned, cast out of their homes, without family, without friends, clustered in colonies with others suffering from the same disease.
Bahula herself grew up in a leper colony. One of her relatives lived with the skin disease, but Bahula never had compassion on those who were affected. She had been just like the others who had walked past the woman, not caring to help or get involved in their lives. But after she surrendered her life to Christ, Bahula found herself being sent to serve among leprosy patients time and time again. She wondered why God kept bringing her back to the same place—and especially to her own village—but now she sees it as His perfect purpose for her.
“Now, when we clean their wounds and I see the swelling and the blood, I feel like I am really doing God’s ministry,” Bahula says. “This is where God is present, and I feel that through this ministry, I’m really serving the Lord. I have peace in my life.”
A ‘Great Thing’ in His Life
Bahula works alongside Gospel for Asia pastor Jiva Giri, who pioneered the leprosy ministry. The first time Jiva witnessed people cleaning leprosy wounds, he thought to himself, I could do a work like that. That would be a great thing in my life.
He could have easily turned his back, never again to set his eyes on the repulsive sight of decaying flesh. Instead, he found himself wanting to wash and bandage the mutilated hands and feet of these people. This desire grew in his heart, and he began asking the Lord when He would give him an opportunity to take care of those who had no one else to care for them.
With burdened hearts, Pastor Jiva and 12 others traveled to the different leper colonies, ready to minister. They washed the clothes of leprosy patients, cut their hair and nails and gave them baths. With each wound they dressed, they poured on the healing balm of Christ’s love. They witnessed of His grace, counseled, encouraged and prayed for them. They brought more than just physical healing—they brought a wellness to hearts and minds that comes from the knowledge one is cared for and loved.
That was the start of what is now Gospel for Asia’s leprosy ministry called Reaching Friends Ministry. Pastor Tarik Paul oversaw Reaching Friends Ministry when it first began in 2007. He thought it would only be a small effort to help a few people with whatever resources they had, but today, it has become one of Gospel for Asia’s largest ministries in Northeast India.
“We never thought our ministry would expand so large or it would become so big,” Tarik says.
With a growing team of men like Pastor Jiva and women like Bahula who serve with committed hearts, hundreds of people suffering from this disease are finding healing and wholeness to their once-marred lives.
“It is because of God’s grace that we have the strength, courage and motivation to work among these people, to share with them, to hug them, to love them and to care for them,” Pastor Jiva says.
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