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Lepers blessing

True story. A church group from New Bern, North Carolina, had traveled to the Caribbean on a mission trip. As you probably know, the conditions at the posh, luxury resorts are a far cry from the impoverished way of life endured by many others on these tropical islands. During this particular ministry trip, their host took them to visit a leper colony on the island of Tobago. And while there, they held a worship service in the campus chapel. As you can imagine, the sight of emaciated lepers filing into their seats on the bare pews bore deeply into the minds and memories of each visitor to this unaccustomed scene. But no memory left its mark like this one: When the pastor announced, “We have time for one more hymn. Does anyone have a favorite?” he noticed a lone patient seated awkwardly on the back row, facing away from the front. At this final call for hymn requests, with great effort, the woman slowly turned her body in the pastor’s direction. “Body” would perhaps be a generous description of what remained of hers. No nose. No lips. Just bare teeth, askew within a chalky skull. She raised her bony nub of an arm (no hand) to see if she might be called on to appeal for her favorite song to be sung. Her teeth moved to the croaky rhythm of her voice as she said, “Could we sing ‘Count Your Many Blessings’?”

The pastor stumbled out of the pulpit, out the door, and into the adjoining yard, tears of holy conviction raining down his face. One of the traveling party rushed to fill his place, beginning to sing the familiar song in this unfamiliar place, arguably the most “unblessed” of any spot in the universe. A friend hustled outside, put his arm around the sobbing pastor, and consolingly said, “I’ll bet you’ll never be able to sing that song again, will you?” “Yeah, I’ll sing it,” the pastor answered, “but never the same way, ever again.” 7 Leave it to a grotesquely deformed leper to remind us that grateful people are characterized by grateful words, while ungrateful people are given to griping, complaining, murmuring, whining.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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