Charumati’s husband lay dead. Her son, Devan, clung to her, too young to fully understand what had happened. A dark pall settled over their future, and Charumati struggled to provide food and shelter for him. Through her years of labor, she didn’t notice the day the bacteria entered her flesh. It wasn’t until her son reached adulthood that Charumati recognized the first symptoms of the leprosy which invaded her body long before.
She saved what money she could, laboring in a paddy field and selling vegetables, gathering enough for a few months’ worth of medical treatments. Sadly, the treatments didn’t work, leaving Charumati in despair.
Although usually curable if caught early enough, leprosy in South Asia carries a debilitating stigma and often goes unreported until it is too late. Few employers are willing to hire lepers, and those who do usually pay them less than their uninfected coworkers. Many victims wind up living in leprosy colonies. Even if someone is cured, they might not be able to integrate back into society because of the obvious physical disfigurement leprosy often brings. This Charumati knows all too well.
As the years passed, repeated injuries and infection caused Charumati’s toes to shrink and turn inward. Short stubs replaced her once nimble fingers. Simple tasks became difficult to accomplish, then nearly impossible. Devan never left her side, but neither did her sense of hopelessness about her situation.
A Loving Touch
Not far from Charumati, a GFA-supported pastor named Manaar gathered with a group of believers. These men and women wanted to tell others about Jesus, the One who brings hope. When they met Charumati that day, Jesus gave her a taste of His great love for her.
As they talked, they told Charumati about the One who gives peace. She asked them to pray for her, and they gladly did. At that moment, God filled her with peace unlike any she had ever known. She decided to meet with the believers on Sunday to find out more about Jesus. Within a few months, God stirred her heart to embrace Jesus’ love.
Over the next few years, Pastor Manaar and the believers continued to visit Charumati and Devan. At times, they helped her with simple tasks like fetching water, washing clothes and preparing food. They also raised money to give her some medicine and to buy new clothing. And because someone donated to provide gifts, like those found in GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog, Pastor Manaar was able to give a blanket to keep Charumati warm and a sewing machine for Devan to use.
Devan now earns most of the income for his home and continues to care for his mother’s well-being. Through her testimony and counsel, he has also decided to give his heart to Jesus.
Although Charumati still suffers from leprosy, she no longer feels hopeless about her situation: She has the hope of eternal life in Christ.
“Even if I am not well physically,” she shares, “my spirit is in peace with the Lord Jesus Christ, and even if I die, my spirit will be with Him eternally.”