Diary of the Ghetto Priest |The Jamaican brothers and the lepers
The local bishop of East Timor asked the brothers to open up a new ministry in East Timor for the lepers. It's really the special people that the Lord addressed more than 2,000 years ago, and so we sent four brothers to begin a ministry exclusively for lepers in one of the poorest countries of the Far Eastern world. There was no hesitation from our brothers selected to go: Jimmy Pia, Elmer Dupalco, David Massai and Guilly Taylaran.
East Timor is one of the few remaining countries where leprosy is endemic. However, there is leprosy in Far East countries such as India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Brothers have encountered and cared for lepers in such countries. But it is not as widespread as in East Timor.
East Timor is really a part of the physical country, Indonesia, but it received independence recently. It is Christian however, whereas Indonesia, where our brothers are already working, is mostly Muslim.
There is well over 10,000 new cases of leprosy that have been discovered in East Timor over the last 10 years. The brothers have found families of lepers as well as individuals; little children, men, women who are young, as well as old-timers. The brothers reported that one of the difficulties for lepers is that there is so much poverty in East Timor. There is poor sanitation, poor diet and poor hygiene, which affect the people's immune system which make them susceptible to catching leprosy.
WORKING WITH POOR
The Jamaican brothers are called 'Jamaicans' because all are trained in Jamaica, the founding country of Missionaries of the Poor. We work with the poorest of Jamaican people and are also known to sing Jamaicans songs. The brothers are brave and selfless in facing new challenges.
At the moment, they live in a rented house and go daily to work on the land given to them by the local bishop, while two others go off in the streets bringing food and clothes, comforting the lepers, praying with them and giving them hope.
The brothers are patient. They go among the lepers - some who drag their bodies along the dirt ground or side walks; some with pushed-in noses; some, though young, with bald heads. Often, their skins are brown with white patches that spread as the leprosy increases; others have flattened noses, as the bones are eaten away by the bacteria.
Strangely, the lepers are not hated or scorned by the people, but are not helped because of the overall poverty of the people.
As for the lepers themselves, Brother Jimmy and the brothers find them gentle, cheerful, humble, and tender-hearted with each other and the brothers themselves.
Pray for the Jamaican brothers, we are about to set up a monastery there. It's a commitment for life. When we go to countries, we establish ourselves permanently.
God grant us the strength and the means to go on. God grant our brothers with the courage and the love of God and neighbour to continue the ministries to the poorest people all over the world. May the light of Christ shine forever in our lives.
I am in Charlotte, North Carolina, with our Moses production to raise funds for that new home in East Timor. It takes place on November 4-6 and information can be had on the website: mosesincharlotte.org. Please pray for us!