Wow, it has been a long time since I have posted. I had such good intentions but Life has HAPPENED!!! Since I wrote last, my brothers have come and went and various projects have been completed. It’s been the achieving of some of these that has kept me from writing. Not just this site but other aspects of my life have suffered as well. No worries though, I have survived this past 6 weeks of relative tranquility. Next month is the beginning of the end of our peace. Visitors arrive. New staff will come. But enough of this. I have said I would post about our staff day and here it is. For us as staff, it was interesting to visit where others minister. A lot of times we have visitors; this time, we were the visitors. So, here’s the write…
Outcasts from society, not just here in the Paraguayan society but throughout all the world, they are outcast, shunned, reviled and separated from their friends and even family. Why? Because they carried a disease that most people feared. Leprosy…the very thought makes one shudder with revulsion. The stigma that dreaded pronunciation carries is one of the worst in the history of the human race. The onset of the disease, physically, is not as terrible as we often assume. Leprosy essentially is a loss of feeling from nerve endings. And with the loss of feeling, there is no way to judge if a fire is hot, a knife has cut the flesh and other things like that. This opens up the way for a plethora of other diseases to enter. Infection and gangrene are common, leading to the loss of flesh. But these afflicted bodies still are human, they still have a soul. Too often, they’ve been thrust aside for more “glamorous” ministry opportunities. However, today, with advances in the medical field as well as a better understanding of skin diseases, leprosy is no longer as dreaded as it once was. It is possible to halt the spread of leprosy, if caught soon enough.
Here in Paraguay, about 2 hours west of here, there is a hospital that had it’s start as a leprosy clinic. A group of the Mennonites from the Chaco saw lepers, and leprosy, as a area of ministry and even though they themselves didn’t know much about the disease, began doing what they could to alleviate the suffering of these outcasts from society. For the first 13 years, they weren’t given official approval to operate a medical clinic as such. Today they run a very efficient and modern hospital. But they still specialize in leprosy. A interesting side work of theirs is the making of shoes for those with deformed feet. For this work, they have achieved a country-wide recognition. They are staffed by a mix of volunteer and paid staff. I was impressed. This hospital had it’s start in helping the poor and needy. From the looks of it, they are still doing that today. But their outreach is more than just medical. They conduct “charlas”, mini expos in various towns and neighborhoods, educating people on disease, specifically leprosy and TB. I have mentioned their shoe ministry. Besides all this, they operate a farm. This helps supply the needs of the hospital but they also sell milk, cheese and other products at their own store for a cheaper cost than most supermarkets. To all this and to what I saw, I give 2 thumbs up and say, “You Go!”.
For the second part of the day, we went to a local hill. Rumor had it that there was a statue of a Jesus or a saint on the crown of the hill but it was a rumor. We climbed, packing a lunch with us, but didn’t see any statue. The lack of a statue didn’t detract from our lunch. It was a warm sunny day and we soon left the open part of the hill and climbed back down through the cooler woods. Our plans were to go to a internationally famed cathedral that was close by. This cathedral is called El Santuario de Caacupe…or something like that. In the first part of every December, there is a annual pilgrimage to this cathedral. Devout Catholics from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and other countries come to worship at this place. But this afternoon, when we got there, there was hardly anyone around. It was impressive! The acoustics were superb! Marble, stained glass and a dome ceiling tend to do that. We paid the $0.50 required to climb the stairs that led to the top. We sang for about 45 minutes and reveled in the reverberations that the dome had. Ah, what glory! To my amusement, the music that had been playing in the cathedral when we entered quit when we started singing. We finally descended back to the main floor. The desire is there to return when we have more help to fill up that dome with music. Finally, feeling the weariness creep into us, we headed back to Camp 9, sorta exhausted but feeling good nonetheless.
A chart, detailing various feet problems. This aspect of their work was fascinating, watching them make custom shoes for those with misshapen feet.
A plaque of recognition that I found out back. From what I’ve seen, it’s well-deserved.
A little favorite of mine that went along as well. He’s cute!