Waddup this week #1: From humble beginnings, our place in God’s incredible mission

Peter Waddup, CEO. The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

It’s World Leprosy Day on Sunday, a day to amplify the voices of some of the world’s most marginalised people. It’s hard to believe in India, the country where The Leprosy Mission began its lifechanging work, there remain 750 leprosy colonies to this very day. They are a throwback to a time when leprosy was uncurable. Yet despite being entirely curable for 40 years, many people affected by leprosy are still banished to these communities. We have come so far yet have a long way to go!

2024 marks 150 years of The Leprosy Mission! Back in 1874, there was little that could be done for people with leprosy. There was no cure and people were exiled from their families and communities as soon as their bodies became disabled by the disease. For the early part of the charity's life-changing years, the work was limited to showing care and compassion to people who had been outcast.

The Leprosy Mission's work today is extensive. It includes diagnosis, cure and rehabilitation, as well as providing water, sanitation, housing, education and sustainable livelihood opportunities. Pioneering research is also a core activity. However, caring for those who have been mistreated because of leprosy is the beating heart of the Mission.

As we reach the 150-year milestone, I am very much reminded that now is our time, our place in history. Life is fleeting and we must use our time and resources well. Looking back, it can feel a little daunting to follow in the footsteps of some momentous Leprosy Mission stalwarts. I'm thinking of the likes of our former Patron, Princess Diana, and pioneering orthopaedic surgeon Dr Paul Brand. Just the work of these two individuals single-handedly changed the lives of millions of people affected by leprosy. I then need to remind myself that God does not call the equipped but equips the called. If we listen to Him and faithfully serve Him in whatever way we can then, together, we will reap an even more amazing harvest!

I have been looking at the story of the founders of The Leprosy Mission and it has been a huge encouragement. It is awe-inspiring to see how God has used the lives of a seemingly ordinary couple growing up during the potato famine in Ireland. Yet Wellesley and Alice Bailey's lives became extraordinary when they followed a calling to help people with a mysterious disease in India. Of course there was no cure for leprosy then, but they did whatever they could to help these ostracised people living in terrible poverty.

Looking back at the Baileys' story it is very clear to see God at work in every high and low. The couple were devastated when they had no option but to return to Ireland in 1874 because of Alice's failing health. But it was this change in circumstance that birthed The Leprosy Mission!

On their return to Dublin the couple were asked to give talks about their time in India. A family friend volunteered to raise money so that they could help more people. From such humble origins the charity has since cured and transformed the lives of millions of people!

This story shows that whether it is a doctor venturing into the African bush to cure leprosy or an elderly couple giving a couple of pounds, together we are an incredible force for good. God blesses every act of service with a pure heart. The gifts of time and money from our incredible supporters are just as important a service to the doctor prescribing a person the cure for leprosy. One cannot exist without the other.

There have been tumultuous times throughout The Leprosy Mission's 150 years. I have no doubt there will continue to be until the very last person has been cured of this cruel disease. Yet God has sustained the charity through wars, financial crises, pandemics and natural disasters. I am incredibly proud to be a part of it here and now, and to be able to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a vital cog in God's mission.