I’ve never heard of these types of “untouchables” before. That team showed amazing courage and belief in Christ’s power to do what they did. I can only hope that, given the chance, I would do the same.
Broken hearts in the Philippines – sorrow & hope
Walking into the small mess hall, they first struck me as “normal.” These were individuals rescued from dying on the streets, yet only one looked malnourished and in fact, the majority looked healthier than me. It didn’t take too long to realize that they were anything but normal. They each had a unique story of how they ended up in this community…each one more heartbreaking than the last.
One woman admitted she had been sick for a long time before she ever found it serious enough to do something. It was not until her nose and eyes began to bleed that she finally found her way to a hospital. Another woman had to leave her five children to basically fend for themselves because her husband left her when she became ill. She could barely speak loud enough for us to hear, and she wept through every moment of her heart-rending story.
One man used to be a pastor before he contracted TB. He was working on another island and sending a portion of his earnings home to Bacolod. It came to the point that he felt he had saved enough at home to return and build his own home. However, when he returned to Bacolod, he found that his two sisters had spent all of his money. Upon finding out that he had TB, his sisters disowned him and he no longer has any family supporting him.
A common theme was evident throughout the room as they stood and gave their testimonies. They were believers and more importantly, they had faith that this was where Christ wanted them, and a determination to get through it together. Not one of them were directly related, but they consoled tears, offered tissues, and gave water to those that needed it to get through their story. My heart broke the entire time, and even now as I write this I am struggling to hold back tears.
You have no idea; I had no idea! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would have visited a community of born-again tuberculosis patients. We were asked not to touch them, not even to shake their hands, and to make sure to clean our hands with alcohol after we left. Basically we were asked to treat them as lepers. I don’t believe any one of our seven stuck to that. It was too vital to show them love in a way they are not used to.
We shook their hands and gave them hugs, telling them how much God loved them and treasured them. Though they cried while sharing their own stories, they cried harder when we shared this truth with them. Some of my teammates were able to offer some words of encouragement to the group of them, but I could not hold myself together long enough to open my mouth.
Once the group split up and returned to their rooms so that we could visit their small dwellings, I was able to pull myself together and tell a few of them how touched I was by their strength. I remember walking by Jeanette. She was praying for one of the ladies-the one with the five children-and Marisol sobbed through the whole prayer. When Jea was done, she asked Marisol if she could give her a hug. She did, and Marisol wailed on her shoulder. The emotion was overwhelming and I had to walk away.
I approached an eighteen-year-old man, Alfredo, no larger than my four-year-old nephew. The disease had stunted his growth years ago, but in this community he was neither teased nor ridiculed. It affected them all differently, but they were sympathetic regardless. I felt bad for him when at least five different people walked up to us to tell me how old he was. I assume they were expecting to see shock on my face but I could only show the love I felt God had given me for him. I joked with him and told him, “Wow, you look good for your age!”
He laughed but then shared with me that the bones in his thighs were broken in first grade. That the other students teased him because of his size and pushed him around. Because he was unable to seek suitable treatment for the breaks, they healed improperly and now he must walk with crutches. Despite his physical position he had a joyful disposition. We are really hoping to be able to visit these dear souls again. Please keep them in your prayers.
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