Lessons from a Chinese leper colony
By Grace Lee
(image1) Above: HELPING THOSE IN NEED: Grace Lee poses with a leper colony resident
(image2) Left: HEARTFELT COMPASSION: Volunteer Grace Lee holds hands with an elderly woman living in one of China’s colonies for those affllicted with leprosy.
(image3) HAPPY IN JESUS: A joyful Bible student
(image4) PRAYING TOGETHER: Leper colony volunteer Grace Lee bows and prays with a colony resident
(image5) Above: BIBLE STUDY: More than 600 leper colony residents have learned about Jesus and accepted Him as their Savior.
I didn’t know I was infected. In fact, I thought I was in better condition than most people and didn’t need treatment at all. God then brought me to serve people with leprosy in order to show me that I was actually the one who needed to be healed from my leprosy of selfishness.
In February 2013 God gave me the awesome opportunity to serve as a volunteer in one of the 600 leper colonies in China. The country has a total of about 240,000 abandoned, mainly elderly, people with leprosy, who need not only physical but also spiritual help—hearing the good news of Jesus.
An elderly Korean man named Kim Jin To, now 81 years old, initiated the leprosy ministry in 2006. He came alone to China after serving lepers in Korea for 17 years and blind people in Japan for five years before that. Approximately 90 volunteers from various countries are currently united in this work. The volunteers live in nine different leper colonies in order to meet the physical needs of the people there. As their physical needs are met, the people’s hearts naturally open up to hearing about the volunteers’ Savior, Jesus.
“Can You Get It?”
The question I’m asked most often is “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to get leprosy yourself?” Thankfully, the answer is no. Because of modern medicine leprosy is an easily curable disease, and all the people in the colonies have been treated and are no longer contagious. Unfortunately, however, because they were infected many years before receiving proper treatment, a large number of them live with the aftermath of the disease. This means they struggle with various wounds and physical handicaps. Many are blind, crippled, disfigured, and missing fingers, hands, and legs.
The most detrimental characteristic of leprosy, though, is the inability to feel. For example, while cooking, some of the people do not realize that their hand is being burned from the scalding water. When we’re dressing their wounds, they say it doesn’t hurt, even though the wound may be large and deep.
Soon after I began my volunteer assignment in China, I read a quote from Ellen White: “The leprosy of selfishness has taken hold of the church. The Lord Jesus Christ will heal the church of this terrible disease if she will be healed. The remedy is found in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah.”1
Then it hit me. I was the real leper! On the outside I looked “normal,” but my heart was numb and I was decaying spiritually because of my selfishness and sin. I had not truly realized my condition and had been living without Christ’s love in my heart. I had been ignoring the suffering and afflicted who were dying without knowing Jesus.
God showed me that I was like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). They thought they were spiritually healthy because they were attending church every Sabbath, eating clean foods, and had a lot of Bible knowledge. But in reality, as Jesus pointed out, they were breaking the very principles of God’s law—love to God and love to others (see Matt. 22:37-40).
Now Is the Time
Now is the time for us to repent and put away our selfishness and sins so we can be changed to reflect Jesus’ character. As Luke wrote in the book of Acts, we need to “repent . . . and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before” (Acts 3:19, 20).
“I saw that none could share the ‘refreshing’ unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action. We should, therefore, be drawing nearer and nearer to the Lord and be earnestly seeking that preparation necessary to enable us to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.”2
I am so thankful that God brought me to China to show me that I had the leprosy of selfishness and needed to be healed by Him. Truly the Holy Spirit is working in the leper colonies here. So far, 677 people have accepted Jesus as their Savior and have been baptized—and many others are preparing for baptism, asking Jesus to cleanse them from their sins and empower them to live a new life in Him.
Our brothers and sisters here cannot wait until Jesus comes again—but what about us? My great desire is that when He comes, we, along with those in China’s leper colonies, will be joyously praising Him for healing not only our physical leprosy but our spiritual maladies as well.
1 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), p. 85.
2 Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1982), p. 71.
Grace Lee, a graduate of Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, United States, has been a volunteer for the Adventist lay leprosy ministry in China since 2013.