Nepal is a beautiful country dominated by the Himalayas. But like so many developing countries, it is wonderful to visit but a challenging place in which to live. It has a population of 30 million with more than half of the population living below the poverty line of US$1.25 a day. Leprosy is a disease intrinsically linked with poverty and therefore it is of no surprise that around 3,500 new cases of leprosy are diagnosed in Nepal each year and the country has one of the world’s highest rates of leprosy-caused disability.
Rup Lal comes from a Hindu family and was training to be a Hindu priest when he started to display outward signs of leprosy. When his family feared he had this much-stigmatised disease, they disowned him. He had to leave home and live on the streets. He went to his local government health post but they would not help him, nor did any other hospital he travelled to. Finally he caught a bus to Kathmandu. But because he had visible signs of leprosy in the form of a bad ulcer on his foot, he was told he could not travel inside the bus but must go up on the roof with the luggage.
Eventually he made his way to Patan Hospital and they told him to come back when The Leprosy Mission was holding its clinic. He slept on the street until then. At the clinic he was diagnosed with leprosy and was given the cure. He was also taken to The Leprosy Mission’s Anandaban Hospital where he was nursed back to health and his ulcers treated.
After the devastation of being cast out by his family for simply having a curable disease, it was quite baffling for Rup to read the sign at the entrance to Anandaban Hospital which states:
“People affected by leprosy are the most important visitors in our premises. They are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them. Service to them is the purpose of our work. They are not outsiders to our service. They are part of it. We are not doing them favour by serving them. They are giving us opportunity to do so”.
At Anandaban Hospital Rup was treated with the upmost kindness and respect. Having experienced so much rejection as a result of having leprosy, this intrigued Rup and he asked a Christian doctor why people seemed to care about him. The doctor explained that Jesus loves everyone and that every person is valued. He explained that by serving some of the world’s most rejected people through his work, he was serving Jesus.
Rup was soon discharged from Anandaban Hospital but on return visits for inpatient and outpatient care, he would ask people about Jesus and the Gospels.
He said: “Then one day Jesus spoke to me and told me He loved me. I became a Christian. I then prayed that the Lord would show me what to do and He told me to share this good news.”
The Lord enabled Rup to set up a church near to Anandaban Hospital which now has more than 100 members, including many people affected by leprosy. It meets in four locations. Rup now has a vision to plant churches in India and China.
After experiencing the pain of rejection, Rup felt in his heart that God wanted him to provide a home for orphans, many of which are leprosy-affected children who had nowhere else to go after being abandoned by their families. Many of the staff at Anandaban Hospital support the church and orphanage and even serve as trustees.
For more information visit www.leprosymission.org.uk