Inside a forbidden village…
As I took their photographs, most tried to hide their hands and feet, embarrassed to show what remained of their diseased fingers and toes. Some had neither hands nor feet, but only stubs at the ends of their arms and legs. In the most advanced cases, the dreaded disease had infected their eyes and mouths, resulting in grotesque facial disfigurations.
I was visiting, illegally, a remote and isolated mountaintop community in Yunnan Province, China, where about thirty men and women afflicted with leprosy are hidden from the rest of the world.
With my daughter, Elisabeth, and missionary Todd Matthews who directs Heaven’s Family’s Unreached People Groups Fund, we toured, one by one, the single-room concrete “apartments” where each resident lives. Each room had an open fire pit for cooking and winter warmth, but there were no chimneys or exhaust vents. Hand-cut branches and logs were stacked in corners to be used for fuel. The walls, floors, and single windows in each room were filthy. Utensils were blackened. Sleeping mats were soiled and stained. I’ve attached a few photos so you can see a little bit of what we saw.
Each resident had a story to tell. Most had been afflicted with leprosy years ago and, as a consequence, were rejected by their spouses and children—whom they hadn’t seen since they were dropped off at the village. It all seemed especially tragic since, today, leprosy can be quickly cured and rendered non-contagious.
Although they are stigmatized and sequestered, they are people created in God’s image, and I was so happy for the small team of Chinese believers with us who were doing their best to meet practical needs and share the gospel. Since that day, assisted by Heaven’s Family through our Leprosy Ministry Fund, that same team has made numerous visits to meet the most pressings needs in the village and share God’s love. Some of the residents have become believers and are now being discipled.
This month, rather than send our regular ministry magazine that highlights people around the world being served by your kindness, I wanted to make a special appeal on behalf of these forgotten people in China. Although the leprous residents of that community are doing what they can—given their physical limitations—to provide for themselves by growing their own food, most are undernourished, lacking protein, and they can’t afford to purchase meat or fish.
As a remedy, we’re funding the installation of a large, stainless steal “fishpond” in their village that looks like an above-ground swimming pool. This is proven technology in China for raising carp and catfish. Residents will raise fish, not only to feed themselves, but to sell for a profit, and thus improve their diets and lives. Most importantly, this project is helping to soften Chinese hearts to the gospel that can give them eternal life.
There are scores of other small communities in Yunnan Province where longtime victims of leprosy are shut away, forgotten, and waiting to die. With the help of partnering Chinese believers, our plan is to install fishponds in as many of them as possible as a means of sharing God’s love and establishing footholds for the gospel. Excavation, installation, and the stocking of each self-sustaining fishpond costs about $5,500. Heaven’s Family staff members will be personally verifying each project.
This is another opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven. As always, 100% of your contributions to the Leprosy Ministry Fund will be sent overseas to directly benefit leprous believers and non-believers who are listening to the gospel. Will you help? Thanks so much.
For the “least of these,”