For so many of us, an extremely difficult aspect of dealing with COVID-19, beyond the economic hardship it has created, has been the forced isolation from family members, friends, our church body and others in the community around us. In fact, there have been many stories in the news about individuals suffering and even dying from depression and mental illness brought on from the isolation measures implemented as part of the coronavirus. Yet, we live with the expectation that these COVID-19 restrictions will one day be fully lifted, and we can once again be together with those whom we have so greatly missed.

But imagine a situation where you would find yourself without the hope of ever seeing your friends and loved ones again. You would be isolated for the rest of your life. That is a despairing thought, isn’t it?

However, that is the reality for so many leprosy sufferers in India. Because of the predominant religious beliefs in that country, leprosy is considered punishment for one’s sins. So, once a person is diagnosed with the disease, that person is isolated. Thankfully, leprosy can be treated these days, but if the effects of the disease ever manifest themselves on the body in the form of damaged skin, or worse in the loss of toes, fingers, and other extremities, even healed victims face the stigma of the disease and must deal with discrimination.

In my last visit to India I met a precious young lady who came from a leprosy-infected family, and she had a mark on her arm from the disease. It did not affect her in any way, and she had been cured of the disease. She had studied nursing and was perfectly qualified to work, but because of the stigma of leprosy she had a very hard time finding a job and supporting herself.

The emotional scars of leprosy can be even worse than the physical scars. But the good news is that Jesus can heal a person spiritually, emotionally and physically. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all related the story of how Jesus did the unthinkable. When a leper came to Him looking for healing, Jesus not only healed the unfortunate man, but He reached out and touched him! Jesus touched someone who was untouchable, who was unclean in the eyes of mankind.

It is this example of Jesus that we follow today. We reach out in His name and show His love to the leprosy sufferers of India. For in His name, they can find healing. One of the most special times in my life took place in India, where I saw leprosy victims, who were helped by AMG, singing and raising their deformed hands to Jesus. They were full of joy and gratitude for His love and for people, like you, who made that love real to them. It was a privilege and a blessing for me to visit with them, to put my hands on them and to pray for them.

God indeed can use you and me to make His love known to people in need who have been isolated and rejected by society. In Him, they will have their spiritual, emotional and physical needs met. In Him they will find hope. Together, we can show Christ’s love to those who desperately need it. Will you prayerfully join me in following Jesus’ example and touch the lives of those who need so greatly to experience His love?

Tasos Ioannidis