Today I made a trip with Missionaries June and Evelyn to the leper colony. They help out with the distribution of food. It is here where I can see that a ministry of presence can make a big difference. Here at the colony, each individual shares a room with one other person. It is practically its own village with it’s own farms, water system and organization. Evelyn told me before hand that many of the children like to hold hands because they so often are deprived of being touched. Many of their parents and grandparents have leprosy. When we arrived, the food distribution was already in process of being distributed. The project was being conducted by an OLA sister (Our Lady of Apostles, sister organization to the SMA Fathers, Society de missionaire d’afrique) and some Franciscan sisters. They were distributing fruits and vegetables. Sister Anne buys these vegetables from the leprosy camp and then gives it back to them for free as she distributes them across the camp. This way the farmers in the camp can make some small money. Many of the wazee (elderly) who we saw there were in fact blind from the disease and missing fingers and toes. They took care of themselves, however, cleaning themselves and cooking their own food. Most wonderful was that their interactions with us were that of equals. They were happy to see us and speak with us.
Walking around, I was in perfect form. It was almost like being back on the reservation in burns again. Many of the kids wanted to hold my hand, so of course, allowed them to. Walking along I taught them the handclapping of down by the banks. I am a pretty silly guy, so many of the kids surrounded me as I taught them the robot, made fish faces at them, blowed up my cheeks like a blow fish and gave them the lion face from yoga class (which consists of sticking out your tongue as far as you can and rolling up your eyes while breathing. They asked me if I had a camera so I could take their pictures and I obliged them. It is so much fun being able to share this small present with them.
Many of the kids had some sort of skin disease on their heads. You wonder if this close contact with their family increases the likely hood that they will get leprosy themselves….
Going home I couldn’t help but to scrub down everything. I guess some fears are not so easily dispelled.
More to come later…. Thanks for reading.