Joy In China: Lessons from the Lepers

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Volunteering in the Chinese leper colonies has been a tremendous blessing. Often I find quiet moments in between my daily duties where I can reflect on my experiences and how the Lord has led me. The thoughts that often come to my mind are these:

Lesson 1: The grandmothers and grandfathers are beautiful.

Leprosy has damaged and degraded their bodies in terrible ways. Though they are now cured of the bacteria, many have lost limbs, bear large wounds, and suffered loss of eye-sight among other things. In the eyes of the world, such an individual I suppose would seldom be considered attractive. However, during  my time here I have witnessed a beauty that ignores the boundaries of skin complexion or body symmetry, and embraces a broader definition grounded in the purity of character.

Having received the message of Christ’s love and His coming kingdom, many of the grandmothers  and grandfathers have let go of bitterness and hatred towards those who have mistreated them. Thus, the gospel has done much to brighten their countenances and uplift their spirits. To know that God loves them so much as to send volunteers from different parts of the world to minister to them brings them hope. Their love for Christ and eagerness for His second coming is quite inspiring. Often times they are found studying and memorizing the Scriptures. They have especially found joy in passages like 1 Samuel 2:8: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes.”

They love to sing about God’s love and their heavenly hope. I’m encouraged every time I hear their songs. To know that all the ridicule or embarrassment they have received has not succeeded in nullifying the power of the gospel in their lives is moving. Many times, I have seen choirs  and congregations unite in songs to God and have been impressed by such displays. However, to hear the same songs sung by leprosy victims testifies to a new power. Their pure and gracious spirits are what make them a joy to be around.

“As I work for the grandmothers and grandfathers,  I develop a burden for them. They are in need of help and relief that only Christ can give…I now know something more about the meaning of love.”

Lesson 2: Christ is even more beautiful.

I have never seen His face and cannot describe His features in detail, but serving in the leper colonies has more clearly painted a picture of Him. Through the service of the volunteers I see Him earnestly engaged in ministering to those in need. Whether it be in simple tasks such as bathing or feeding the elderly,  I know that those are His hands employed in the work. I see His feet going from door to door to visit those who have no company or no cause to leave their room. Christ’s attributes are reflected in the lives of the volunteers and through them much can be learned of Him.

Jesus has a deep love for the grandmothers and grandfathers here. Because they have been pushed far away from sympathy and love, He reaches out further to save them. He ministers first to their practical and temporal needs, then as the way is opened, He offers them salvation and eternal life.

Christ has taken it upon Himself to seek out and find this class of people. He sees that their missing limbs and sicknesses does not disqualify them from receiving God’s gift. It is His purpose to show them that they too have the right to come to a knowledge of God. The truths of the atonement of Christ on their behalf, and the gift of glorified bodies and a spot among the heavenly chorus, belong to them as well. Truly Ezekiel speaks rightly of Him when saying, “I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick”.

“I will save My flock, and they shall be no more a prey.” (Ezekiel 34:16,22).

Lesson 3: Co-labourers with Christ.

Though I have character flaws and am myself still in need of help, God has bestowed upon me the privilege of working with Him. I do not believe that it is because of any talents I possess that He is using me. Instead, I am seeing more of His strength reflected in my weaknesses.

As I work for the grandmothers and grandfathers, I develop a burden for them. They are in need of help and relief that only Christ can give, thus He invites me to be a channel through which He can impart such help. This process not only benefits them but is purifying my heart as well. I now know something more about the meaning of love.

In working with Him I realize that this work which He bids me to do for them is truly what He has done for me and in reciprocating it, I understand more of the depths of His sacrifice. His plan is to give me a heart like His own. For this purpose, to be changed into His likeness while assisting others is the invitation given to co-labour with Him.

Lessons such as these have contributed to making my experience a special blessing. I never anticipated that my decision to volunteer would be so rewarding. In volunteering, I clearly see that not only did God want to show me the beauty of service, but He also longs to refine my character to be more like His own.

The places that have been disregarded and avoided by many is where Heaven places its treasures. That leprosy — the disease regarded as a curse by God — can be used as a means to bless. So far, I have found little else that has brought me greater joy than serving Him.

Photos: Bamiji Ibironke

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Bamiji Ibironke
Bamiji Ibironke

Bamiji Ibironke recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He is currently serving as a volunteer in the Chinese leper colonies.

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