Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached Jesus. He knelt before him, worshipping. "Lord," the man said, "if you want to, you can make me well again." Jesus touched him. "I want to," he said. "Be healed!" And instantly the leprosy disappeared.
We might read this story and think, "Wow, Jesus healed that guy. Nice. And because the story is so short, we may never think about this disease that is virtually extinct, or its implications. Let's take a deeper look. Max Lucado relates the story of the leper and Jesus' healing touch in a dramatic fashion:
What if the whole story went something like this:
For five years no one has touched me. No one. Not one person. Not my wife. Not my child. No one has touched me. They saw me. They spoke to me. But I didn't feel their touch. There was no touch. Not once. No one touched me. I was untouchable. I was a leper. And no one touched me. Until today.
Leprosy was the most dreaded disease in these times. The body was a mass of ulcers and decay. Nerve endings died, leading to loss of fingers toes, or even a whole hand or foot. Leprosy was death by inches.
The social consequences were as severe as the physical. Considered contagious, the leper was quarantined, banished to a leper colony.
In the bible the leper is symbolic of the ultimate outcast: infected by a condition he did not seek, rejected by those he knew, avoided by people he did not know, condemned to a future he could not bear.
One year during harvest my grip on the shovel seemed weak. The tips of my fingers numbed. First one finger then another. Within a short time, I could grip the tool but scarcely feel it. By the end of the season, I felt nothing at all. The hand gripping the handle might as well have belonged to someone else...the feeling was gone.
One afternoon I plunged my hands into a basin of water intending to wash my face. The water reddened. My finger was bleeding, bleeding freely. I didn't even know that I was wounded . How did I cut myself?
"It's on your clothes, too, my wife said softly. She was behind me. Before looking at her, I looked down at the crimson spots on my robe. For the longest time I stood over the basin, staring at my hand. I knew that my life was forever being altered.
Five years have passed, and no one has touched me since, until today. Oh, how I repulsed those who saw me. Five years of leprosy had left my hands gnarled.
Tips of my fingers were missing as were portions of an ear and my nose. At the sight of me, fathers grabbed their children. Mothers covered their faces. Children stared.
The rags on my body couldn't hide my sores. Nor could the wrap on my face hide the rage in my eyes. How many nights did I shake my fist at the silent sky? "What did I do to deserve this?" But never a reply.
That is why I took the step today. Of course it was risky. But what did I have to lose? He calls himself God's Son.
Either he will hear my complaint and kill me or accept my demands and heal me. I came to him as a defiant man. Moved not by faith but by a desperate anger. God had wrought this calamity on my body, and he would either fix it or end it.
But then I saw him, and when I saw him, I was changed. My rage became trust. From behind a rock, I waited until he was only paces from me, then I stepped out. He stopped and looked in my direction. Everyone stepped back except him. He stepped toward me. Toward me.
Five years ago my wife had stepped toward me. She was the last to do so. Now he did. I did not move. I just spoke. "Lord, you can heal me if you will." Had he healed me with a word, I would have been thrilled. But he wasn't satisfied with speaking to me. He drew near me. He touched me. Five years ago my wife touched me. No one had touched me since.
Until today. "I will." His words were as tender as his touch. "Be healed!"
In an instant I felt warmth where there was numbness. I felt strength where there had been atrophy. My back straightened, and my head lifted.
Imagine that...unworthy of the touch of a man, yet worthy of the touch of God.
What do leprosy and HIV have in common?
Mr. Lucado tells the story of the leper in a dramatic fashion. His first telling provides us with details that bring this story to an emotional life. The leper was alone and had no hope. Our kids are often isolated and have little hope. We read that this man had a desperate anger. Our kids question why and may get angry.
He was dying by inches. Our kids are left in isolation. Isn't that dying by inches? The leper was banished and quarantined. People ran when they saw him. Our society quietly separates those with HIV. But both are left without community and love and a touch.
The leper remembers the kiss of his wife. The hug of his child. The REACH kid may never get to experience the kiss of a spouse or the hug of their child. Both long for the love. Both are without hope of a future that includes these things.
The leper has the opportunity to meet Jesus and receive grace. So do our kids. The leper had the incomparable experience to receive His healing word. But it did not stop there. Jesus touched him. He honored him. He loved him. And Jesus will use REACH and you to touch our kids, to honor them, to love them. They will learn about his word of promise. They will feel the touch of a hope and a future.
What are the practical ways that these plans will work in the lives of the REACH kids and their families? How will these plans be accomplished in this dynamic environment?
We shared Max Lucado's story of the leper because it is our story in these post-modern times.
Here's our current situation...
HIV babies are ill-equipped for independence and adulthood, due to isolation from cultural environments of playmates, friendships, school involvement, and other social activities available to healthy children. Some have little parenting guidance. Many live with the fear of low survival rates, resulting in depression, hopelessness and anger.
We are hard at work developing programs that will enable them to connect their own unique gifts, interests, and aptitudes with a vision of their place in the world as well as contributions to it. They include:
- Basic and advanced life skills programs
- Discover values, skills and beliefs
- Learn purpose and mission in life
- Education options
- Career readiness
We implement this new strategy knowing that we are a part of a larger whole. You also occupy a place in this journey to provide a hope and a future. For we move forward together. We can do this because you support these crucial efforts. Our kids will flourish when they have access to the community of teachers, supporters, and mentors necessary for learning that God is trustworthy and He in fact has a plan for their lives.
The REACH Team
Washington and other states are struggling with crushing budget deficits. Legislators are cutting all but the most essential services. Training programs and education funding for at risk youths are being dramatically reduced or eliminated. The REACH Life Skills program can stand in the gap. We can accomplish it through your financial support, prayers and time. We have enclosed a giving envelope for your use. Because you keep on keeping on, so do we.
If you have considered changing to electronic funds transfer, our website has secure, safe and easy options for online giving.