Waddup this week #6: ‘Search me God and know my heart’

Peter Waddup, CEO. The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

Any photos posted from our field visits with ourselves included bring the potential of white saviour accusations, do I see myself ‘rescuing’ those less fortunate than me?

I am flying back from India today having spent two weeks meeting superstars working in our hospitals in India and of course many people affected by leprosy. The recent criticism of charity workers has led me to the prayer in Psalm 139, Search me God, and know my heart. This desire to test our motives must be a constant in our lives.

My desire to make a difference comes from being bullied as a youngster, and a prompting from God many years ago. When I first got involved with The Leprosy Mission as a volunteer, it was difficult to know how much of my motivation came from an ambition to feel better about myself, or a sense of calling and a passion for justice. I do know that with every year that passes, my love has grown for staff working overseas in such difficult circumstances, and for the many people I have met struggling with the effects of leprosy. Sometimes it overwhelms me.

Last week in a remote village in India I was asked if I would cut away the dead skin, clean and bandage an elderly woman’s ulcer. She had injured herself because leprosy had been treated too late to prevent losing all the feeling in her feet. You can imagine how easy it is to cut your foot walking barefoot or in sandals. This was something I had never done before, but a daily task for Leprosy Mission nurses around the world. I picked up the scalpel with trepidation and followed the instructions of the doctor. Almost straight away I felt a connection with this lady and a sense of intimacy as I gently cleaned around the wound and rubbed ointment on her foot and into her ulcer.


I looked up to see the lady smiling at me. In sharing this photo today, I have to say that it is something I am proud of. I felt a love for this brave woman, and I know this feeling is shared with thousands of Leprosy Mission supporters across the UK. It is because of them that we can do this work. Their love and generosity uphold staff and patients. It is so humbling that they love these people even though most will have never met anyone struggling with the effects leprosy.

On this trip I was travelling with some of my colleagues, Sath who works on our data software and Rachel who takes calls from supporters and ensures they feel valued. They have worked for TLM for many years but had never sat with someone affected by leprosy. Both said that their time in India has changed how they feel about the work that they do. Will they share their stories and photos with friends and family? I hope so. Because the people we’ve met have asked for their story to be told so that more people will learn about leprosy.

Our time in India is a reminder of the great need faced by some of the most vulnerable people in the world. It drives us on in our vision of leprosy defeated, lives transformed.