Waddup this week #4: ‘Actions speak louder than words!’

Peter Waddup, CEO. The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

‘We love because he first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19 (NIV)

Most of us cannot have failed to notice that it was Valentine’s Day on Wednesday! A day to celebrate romantic love, friendship and admiration. Like Christmas, Valentine’s Day can stir up a host of emotions. While many enjoyed cooking a special meal for their valentine, it was an unwelcome reminder to others that they were alone and didn't want to be.

I believe Valentine’s Day is not a day to simply focus on romantic gestures, however nice it is to receive flowers! I see it more as an opportunity to be awestruck by what love can do. As Christians we are called to love one another. And, as the Covid pandemic truly reminded us, love knows no distance, barriers or borders.

When I visit our projects in Asia and Africa, I am often moved by a person's reaction when they first meet one of my amazing colleagues. They can be visibly perplexed! This is usually a person who has no money and is likely to have been rejected by their spouse, family or community. And all because of leprosy. People affected by leprosy can even be seen as cursed. (I realise this is non-sensical as leprosy is now a completely curable disease. Yet this is the legacy of centuries of fear, misunderstanding and prejudice.)

People whose bodies show signs of leprosy can sink to the very bottom of life’s cruel pecking order. So when an outreach worker approaches them, smiles and offers to help, unsurprisingly they are left wondering ‘what is the catch?’.

There is no catch! This is unconditional love in action. It is heart-wrenching, however, that all too often it takes a person affected by leprosy by surprise. Someone who has been without love for far too long. One of my favourite sayings, often attributed to St Francis of Assisi, is ‘preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words’. It throws a real challenge down to all of us. Implicit in the quote is that the most powerful of sermons are unspoken. Actions really do speak louder than words. And when we follow Jesus’ example, people sit up and notice!

At The Leprosy Mission, we help anyone who needs us. This is regardless of race, age, colour or religion. Our services are offered unconditionally and free of charge. We cannot preach the gospel. And yet there is no need to as it's all there in our actions. Jesus healed a man of leprosy and told us to follow His teachings. He told us to love one another as He loved us. Which is exactly what my incredible colleagues in Asia and Africa do tirelessly each day. This life-changing work is fuelled by our wonderful supporters here in the UK.

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It is a real honour to see this chain of love played out. Highly skilled medics who turn down far more lucrative jobs to serve those neglected by society. And the selfless giving of a UK supporter to someone they have never met or is unlikely to ever meet. Yet it is done with trust in their heart that the world will seem a little less broken for a special someone out there. This is true love in action and definitely worth celebrating this week.