Hearing Maya's story was very hard for me. It doesn't have a "happy" ending. She made it to the hospital, this alone makes her one of the "lucky" ones. She is having shoes made, and may be able to walk. She now has knee pads*. She began treatment so the leprosy will no longer be growing. Knowing this didn't make me feel any better. It didn't make the tears any less bitter.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Leprosy doesn't have a "pretty" face. There isn't poster child for leprosy that you can broadcast to gain tons of support and start a social justice movement. Helping a "leper" may not seem quite as glamorous as rescuing a young teenage girl from the sex trade, or wearing "RED" to help with the fight against AIDS. There isn't a simple quick fix. It takes months of treatment, often times surgery, and training for a lifetime of self-care to even touch the surface of what these people need. Not many people want to sign-up for that. Not many people want to address the shame, fear, and humiliation these people have dealt with for a lifetime. Not many want to invest into someone who is often past their "prime" in life. It's not easy.
After sharing her story with me the only words I could find were, "Tell her she is beautiful. She is so beautiful to me." With tears in my eyes and the biggest smile I could offer I watched as these simple words were translated to her. Smiling she returned my gaze and shrank back in shyness. In earnest to make her know the truth of these words, I placed my hand on her knee and affirmed in my juvenile Nepali, "Deri ramro, deri ramro." ("Very beautiful, very beautiful.") She looked up and smiled.
My prayer for Maya is this, that as she came to Anandaban, she also would come to Christ. That the refuge she found in the hospital would be just a glimpse of the refuge she may find in Christ. That she would find rest not just for her body but for her soul. That she would know the deep, abiding love of our Father.
*Imagine just for a moment what it takes to put on knee pads with no hands. There is no thumb to pinch the elastic to stretch it for a snug fit. It takes both "hands" to even get the elastic around her leg much less awkwardly "pull" it tight enough for it to even stay for 5 minutes. Imagine the effort to brush your hair. (Putting it in a ponytail by yourself is not even an option.) It's just easier not to get undressed than to dress every morning.