Saturday, November 22, 2014


There have always been diseases and conditions that become the defining feature of a person’s existence. No longer a man or woman, you have become something else—a leper. 

What other ways have we taken symptoms and characteristics and used them to define people as something less than what we are?

Luke 17:
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance
13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"
14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Jesus often travels along borders of human division. If you want to see where Jesus is at work, look for human borders that separate people from one another. The separation between Samaria and Galilee was marked by a huge gulf in understanding and respect.

The ten men on the outskirts of town were all given the same name—Leper. Any other defining characteristic was lost or losing ground. It may be that 9 of them were Jewish and 1 was Samaritan. The religious distinctions were buried by the disease identity. Their names, family connections and occupations were quickly becoming memories.

In suffering, they become each other’s companions. Former distinctions were less important to them now that they were truly alone. There are some labels that supersede everything else that you are or were. Is it any wonder that they cry to Jesus for mercy? Who else was there to listen to them? The gatekeepers of society ensured that they were kept away in the name of public safety.

In the absence of a healthy community connection, the exiles formed community among the sick. Sometimes the sick take care of the sick, better than the healthy do. Other times, they lack the strength and resource to make any difference for their companions and misery is met with misery.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


In ancient times, leprosy was a greatly feared disease. The Centers For Disease Control report that:

Hansen's disease (also known as leprosy) is a long-lasting infection caused by bacteria. The disease was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease. Now, however, the disease is very rare and easily treated. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevent disability related to the disease.[i]

Did you know that Canada had leper colonies?

Sheldrake Island, New Brunswick was set up as a lazaretto in 1844. 18 people with leprosy (including children) were forced to live in isolation on the island. Social services dropped off food and firewood, but they were not allowed to leave. More were added to the colony. Five years later a new colony was established in Tracadie, New Brunswick and the Sheldrake lepers were moved. There were now 31 people and all Caucasian.

The Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph came from Montreal, in 1868 to take care of the lepers at Tracadie and they continued this ministry until the last leper left in 1965.[ii] 

There was another island colony in British Columbia. D’Arcy Islands were a destination with no return.

From 1891 till 1924 these islands were home to a lazaretto, or leper colony. People who were discovered to have leprosy were simply exiled there, with no possibility of reprieve. The lazaretto was first established by the municipal council of Victoria in 1891. They did it in response to five Chinese lepers being discovered in a shack in Chinatown. The traditional horror of this disease moved the council to action.[iii] 

All residents of D'Arcy Islands colony were Chinese. 

When we read about leprosy in the Scriptures, we are exposed to the same protective fear that we still have about modern diseases. Lepers in Israel had to live outside the community and were not allowed to associate freely. One with the disease was required to warn you verbally at a distance so you would stay away. They believed that it was contagious and so lepers were permanently quarantined.

If you were pronounced unclean, the only way to be restored to the community was to have the priests examine you. If they determined that you were not diseased, you could come back into society. The modern priests of medicine are whom we see now to get a clean bill of health.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Today the world is dealing with the crisis of the Ebola disease. This is likely the largest outbreak in history for this particular disease. If an epidemic affects a whole country or spreads over the world, it is called a pandemic. Ebola is not yet a pandemic, but the potential does exist.

While it is necessary to take wise precautions in areas affected and those who deal with patients, we need to understand a historical perspective on diseases.

·       541-542 AD – 100,000,000 died from Plague of Justinian
·       1346-1350 AD – 50,000,000 died from Black Plague
·       1969 to present – 39,000,000 died from AIDS/HIV
·       1918-1920 – 20,000,000 died from Influenza
·       1894-1903 – 10,000,000 Modern Plague
·       1957-1958 – 2,000,000 Asian Flu
·       1968-1969 – 1,000,000 Hong Kong Flu
·       2009 – 284,000 Swine Flu
·       2002-2003 – 774 SARS[i]

While this is just a small list of killer diseases in history, we can see that human history has been unable to eradicate sicknesses that kill. Every generation has had its theories and science to try and prevent the spread. In many cases, we are able to protect and prevent. But, new ones appear in time.

The history of civilization is also a history of disease. Every generation lives with the fear of death from unseen biological enemies. We are able to eliminate some diseases, but we are not able to eliminate the fear of death.

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