Stop, think, and pray

Today’s Lent reflection is by Nicky Ward.

As Lent comes to an end I want to introduce you to Rinika and her three-year-old daughter Sreta from Bangladesh.

At an age when children should be running around without too many cares in the world Rinika became different. At merely 8 years of age old she hurt foot whilst playing with her friends and realised there was no pain. She had leprosy! Unfortunately, though she got help, she didn’t finish taking the medicines she was prescribed.

Rinika suffered with fevers and pain, due to her body’s reaction to leprosy, not something that we normally think of but as the nerves become more and more damaged people often suffer a lot of pain. Rinika got ulcers as she was not caring for herself well enough and even fainted at school with a rash and fever due to the severity of an ulcer that would not heal. Eventually she had to have her leg amputated. That was 14 years ago.

Over the last 15 years she has had to spend much too much time in hospital as she has had many ulcers. Things got so bad that a year ago her right leg also needed to be amputated. She got the latest ulcers doing housework and looking after her little girl. Rinika does what she believes is right for her child and her husband but doing this means she doesn’t properly care for herself- “but what alternative do I have?” she asks. She regrets not taking the full MDT treatment when she was first diagnosed as she thinks it would have prevented her losing her legs.

“I was young, I played” she recollects. What more would we expect of a child?

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Rinika with her three year old daughter Sreta.

Each year over lent we have the opportunity to stop, think, and pray. We stop to consider our lives in reference to what we are taught in the Bible. We think about how we need to change what we do and how we live. We pray for God’s guidance as we look to Jesus example of true love for others.

Over the next few days we will have the opportunity to take in the story that tells of Jesus, pain and sacrifice because of love. We will hear about the scars that become the proof of love.

When I hear Rinika’s story. When I see her picture. I see the scars of love. Love for her child, a love that sacrifices health to care for another.

Jesus said ‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?

Today we have the gift of being able to meet Jesus in the lives of others like Rinika.

And this is such a wonderful gift. May we over the next few days, as we think about Jesus sacrifice for us, remember people like Rinika who live a life of sacrifice every day. Give a gift today.

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 Rinika at DBLM Hospital, Bangladesh
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Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy

Today’s reflection is from James Pender, Programmes and Advocacy Officer at The Leprosy Mission England & Wales.

Today is when we remember Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem at the start of Holy week, when the crowd were shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

In Matthew chapter 21:1-11 we read that Jesus came riding on a donkey and that people waved branches from trees to celebrate Jesus’ coming, for which we name the day ‘Palm Sunday’. In Psalm 96, King David, an ancestor of Christ himself, calls the whole earth to rejoice and again in 1 Chronicles 16 after another triumphal procession to Jerusalem carrying the Ark of the Covenant.

Psalm 96 declared that the trees, fields and all Creation should praise the Lord or ‘the trees of the field shall clap their hands’ as the old chorus goes, ‘for the Lord comes’. On Palm Sunday the Lord did indeed come physically into Jerusalem and branches from the trees were giving praise as people waved them and a young donkey that had never been broken-in worshipfully submitted to Jesus its Creator riding on its back.

In Colossians 1 it talks about Christ creating all things and then reconciling all things to himself through his death on the cross, while Romans 8 talks about all Creation (humans and nature) suffering, groaning and yearning to be set free. So, it is fitting that through the donkey, the palm branches and the people waving them, the desire for all Creation’s redemption was represented as Jesus entered Jerusalem to die for ‘the whole cosmos’.

In Mozambique through our Feet First appeal we raised funds that are being used to bring new life to people and the fields they farm. Fields that are suffering through drought, climate change and environmental degradation. ‘Farming God’s Way’ encourages environmentally sustainable farming using organic techniques such as mulching, composting, crop spacing, weeding, thinning, and legumes, alongside Biblical teaching on good stewardship and creation care. As a result, the Kingdom of God that Christ birthed at the First Easter, is being expanded to transform the lives of people affected by leprosy and their communities in the north of Mozambique. For as a result of better care of their fields and ensuring the goodness of the soils are replenished, farmers are having larger harvests and feeding their families. For All Creation it is a time for rejoicing instead of groaning!

 

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Farming Gods Way Mozambique
One of the Feet First Agriculture Groups in Mozambique

Help people like Avinash celebrate life again.

Today is St Patricks day. A day that celebrates the life of the patron saint of Ireland. To all our Irish friends Lá fhéile Pádraig sona duit (Happy St Patrick’s day in Gaelic).

Patrick was born in Britain circa AD 387 and kidnapped as a slave at the age of 16 he was taken to Ireland. He escaped six years later but around AD 432 he heard God’s call to serve the people of Ireland and share the Good News with them and so returned to Ireland. He purportedly baptised 12,000 people in a single day near a town called Killala – what incredible favour from God!

In Luke 4:17-19 we see a story about Jesus sharing his calling:
‘and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him [Jesus]. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

This moves me to think about the people The Leprosy Mission meet every day in many countries. People who find themselves on the edges. People who find themselves hearing the ‘bad’ news of having leprosy. People trapped by folk law and the chains of stigma. Prisoners of depression and fear, people who have little hope once they hear those words… ‘You have leprosy!’. Unlike Patrick people affected by leprosy feel there is no escape, but that is where people like you and I come in to the picture.

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Avinash is from a very remote area of Nepal. He was finally diagnosed with leprosy when he was 17 years old at Green Pastures Clinic in Pokhara. He regularly attends Anandaban Hospital where he receives care for his ulcers. 

We have the opportunity of sharing the Good News – ‘Today there is a cure. Today there is hope. Today you can escape the oppression you feel. Today you can be free!’  We may not be able to say this face to face but by being generous with our gifts and by praying we can help people know the favour of God.

Today Irish people all over the word celebrate with parades and parties sharing the joy of their heritage and feeling connected to people like themselves across the globe.

We can help people affected by leprosy celebrate life again.

Together we can help people like Avinash who since being helped by people like you says… “At festival time when people gather I go with my friends and pray out loud.” He is no longer afraid to be seen or heard. He is no longer afraid to shout out loud and show the effects that leprosy has had on his body, because he is free! He can now, like others, celebrate at festivals and be an unashamed member of his culture and society.

Thank you for all that you do for people like Avinash. Thank you for hearing God’s call to proclaim Good News. Thank you.

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Avinash at Anandaban Hospital, Nepal.