Modern Day Leprosy by Karen
When I read the bible stories that describe the lepers and their awful circumstances, I read with empathy. I've tried to imagine what it would be like to have leprosy and to be sent away, condemned to a life of solitude even though I hadn't done anything wrong.
For almost a year we've been doing ministry on the same corner in Aguadilla where the destitute congregate. Given their circumstances and habitual poor life choices, this group seems especially susceptible to illness, disease and general misfortune; however our impression is that they've always looked out for one another. "The woman over there has AIDS, so you know, just be careful." someone would say. "A friend of mine is sitting on the other side of the plaza, but he can't really walk because he's lost a few too many street fights. Do you mind if I take him some food?" Of course we don't mind! "Last night, my daughter (who is known for making her money on the streets) had an especially rough night, could you pray for her?" The examples of their compassion are endless. In fact, I've been really blessed to witness the love that these folks have for one another.... at least that was the case until the most recent spike in covid cases.
When we returned from vacation we heard about some of the things that had happened during our absence: some chose to move away while others got evicted; a man named Victor committed suicide and a few others lost their lives fighting for things that don't matter. They made jokes about each other's new hair styles and teased the guy who keeps crashing cars because he's such a terrible driver. In addition to all these things, there was something else that had changed which nobody seemed to speak of - people were afraid of covid. Not only were more people wearing masks, but many were sitting away from the group with spray bottles of alcohol which the municipality has been giving away for free. We were pulled aside by various people that wanted to warn us of others' health status and inform us of who had and hadn't been vaccinated. We were given suggestions on what to do and for whom, which we've never experienced with this group. We thanked them for their concern, prayed for protection, and continued with our ministry
Three weeks ago, when we visited the corner, our friend, Ivan, was sitting alone way off to the side. Ivan has always jumped up to greet us and gets a prize for being our most enthusiastic participant. When we inquired about his unusual disposition, the group whispered, "He's got the covid." We said a prayer for Ivan, shouted a greeting to him, and then began singing.
|Here's a photo of Ivan from earlier this year. |
He was the one who always wanted to help in
any way that he could. He'd hold our song
sheets and always did what he could to
animate the folks on the corner.
On Wednesday I returned to the corner to ask about Ivan's condition and inquire about the location of his home. Although he was still alive, the consensus was that he didn't have much time left. Nobody would tell me where he lived because they said his neighborhood is too dangerous and they didn't want me to get covid. They told me that if I went to Ivan's house that nobody would want us to do ministry at their corner because they don't want to get covid. I insisted that they tell me where Ivan's house is, but they refused. I pitched my argument in another way, but they held their ground. I bowed my head to gather my thoughts. "Look," I said with conviction, "I don't want Ivan to die alone. I don't care if he has covid. I love Ivan, like a brother, just like I love all of you. I wouldn't want any of you to die alone. It's just not right. I know that the Lord will protect me because I am doing His work. I'm positive that Jesus doesn't want Ivan to die alone, but I can't be with him unless you tell me where he lives!" Silence fell over the group as they exchanged subtle glances.
I followed the guy's instructions, but found myself unsure of how to navigate the labyrinth of alley-like walkways between the houses which were all built into the side of a hill. When I asked for directions to "la casa de Momia" I was told which way to go, but then watched carefully.
When Chris and Katelyn arrived we sang together, prayed over Ivan and read to him from the bible. While Chris was out trying to find a priest to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, I moved Ivan's mattress onto the floor of the front room and then lifted his frail little body into the middle in hopes of making him more comfortable.
I stopped by the corner to let the folks there know that I was alright, which they appreciated.
I humbly ask for prayers for Ivan, that he's able to enjoy his last chapter of life in the nearby senior citizens' home. Please also pray for our family as we do our best to help others come to know Jesus in a more personal way.
In HIM, Karen
or call Family Missions Company at (337) 893 - 6111.
Thank you and may God bless you and your family!