Today we hit the road and headed into the wilds of Mozambique. And when I say ‘hit’ the road I mean it literally….although road is possibly too grand a word!
We collected Jonas, our translator, at a town called Chuire and then bumped along to the first village on our tour, Katapua. The Katapua ALEMO group told us all about the great work that they are doing in the local community – schools & education projects, the Identification project, farming projects and goats projects. They have 38 members who are personally affected by leprosy and 5 participants.
Participants are community members who have never had leprosy and have no link to the disease or the sufferers of it. But for some reason or other they have got involved. In this particular group they have been responsible for the construction of the ALEMO community shelter, most of the physical labour necessary for the farming project, teaching in the school and many more jobs around and about. One of these participants is responsible for collecting the leprosy medication (MDT) from the local health centre, and distributing it the group members who need it. If any of them have any health problems then he is the ‘go to’ guy for help and support, or to accompany them to the health centre.
I was really inspired by these 5 hard working volunteers who have given so much time and energy to helping folk they didn’t previously know. When I asked them why they did this role one man replied that he had seen the discrimination and problems that those with leprosy faced and he couldn’t just ignore it. He had to do something and as he was able, a new participant was born!
Later, in another village, we met a woman suffering from a reaction to the leprosy medication, which was making her very poorly. Because of this she couldn’t work or even get out and about. We were told that the ALEMO group members were regularly visiting her and taking care of her needs – fetching water, sharing and cooking food for her and also for her family. They explained that if one of the group died then they looked after the remaining family members for as long as they needed it.
Two things struck me about these people and the many more that we have so far met. Firstly that they have seen the need and the problems that people affected by leprosy face. Secondly that they then do something about it. Wellesley Bailey, who founded what is now The Leprosy Mission, saw a great need of those with leprosy in India in the 1870’s. I wonder how many other missionary visitors went to India and didn’t even notice those with leprosy. Or perhaps chose to turn a blind eye. I wonder how many people there are in need, hurting people, those simply reaching out for contact, that i have just walked straight past – either not seeing or choosing not to look.
Wellesley Bailey not only saw the problems but also got stuck into changing it and doing something about it, just like the ALEMO participants and group members here in Mozambique. Sometimes they are grand gestures such as building a community centre, sometimes simply visiting the sick and lonely. Being here in the mission field it can be easier to see the huge levels of need and the often simple ways in which we can help. So when I return to the UK I pray that God gives me the eyes to see those in need, the desire to get involved and get active in changing things, and the realisation that the mission field is where ever we are.