‘Our place in time’

Peter Waddup, CEO. The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV)

At The Leprosy Mission we are marking our 150th anniversary this year. I have mixed feelings about celebrating this landmark anniversary. Despite the incredible generosity and hard work of millions of people, leprosy still exists. I wonder if our founder Wellesley Bailey ever pondered on how long the work of the mission would be needed for? This is a sobering thought. But then I look at how far we have come in ridding the world of this cruel disease and I realise it is a race of perseverance. Looking back in time, it is clear how God has had His hand on each generation and has protected The Leprosy Mission.

In the January edition of our New Day magazine, we asked our amazing supporters for their stories. We wanted to hear why they chose to support people affected by leprosy. We also asked them to nominate their Leprosy Heroes! I have been absolutely staggered and deeply moved by the response to this simple request. In the weeks that followed our inboxes and in-trays have been deluged! Many people said the baton of caring for people with leprosy had been passed to them by their dear parents. Others were prompted to take up caring professions after hearing the plight of people affected by leprosy! The stories we heard were both humbling and inspirational. You will be able to read a selection of them in May's New Day magazine and I feel certain you'll be as moved by them as I am.

I have recently returned from India where I spent time at Salur Hospital in Andhra Pradesh. Because of our incredible supporters, something very special is happening on this hospital campus. India's first leprosy nursing college - Salur Nursing College - opens its doors in September! In a country home to more than half of the world's leprosy cases, this college couldn't be more essential. One of the responsibilities of those heading up The Leprosy Mission today is to future-proof its work. We must not only react to the immediate need but make wise decisions for the long-term gain. In short. we must recognise our place in time in the long and rich history of the mission.

The Leprosy Mission runs 14 hospitals in India, all of which need specialist nurses. At Salur Hospital I met Head Nurse Irene, a wonderful and inspirational woman of God. Irene has served at the hospital for 38 years! But as you can work out, this makes her close to retirement age. Without a leprosy nurse training college, there will undoubtedly be a skills shortage. We are so thankful to our supporters for meeting this need closing in on the horizon.

Future-proofing the work of The Leprosy Mission is a constant challenge. Our new focus is how we can overhaul the staff quarters at our hospitals, many of which are in a poor state of repair. Our hardworking medics work six days a week for very modest pay and at least deserve a clean and safe home. We recognise these improvements need to be made to attract and retain a new generation of staff. The path ahead can seem overwhelming but it is then we need to dig deep into our faith and run the race set out for us.

God is the author of every movement and His plans always prevail. Yet He gives us free will and an intellect so that we can make wise decisions. I pray that we will always hear His voice and follow His calling when it comes to decision making. Although it may seem daunting at times, it is exciting! I look forward to one day looking back and seeing the fruits of our labour today. Then we - supporters and staff - can truly celebrate our own unique place in God's mission.