Hugged By A Leper

Photo shared courtesy of Jon Bennett.

This is a guest post from my friend Jon Bennett.

Being overwhelmed and shaken both emotionally and spiritually would be an understatement in describing the day I was privileged to experience. Have you ever been hugged by a leper? I thought leprosy had been eradicated. I found out differently today. Sam and I, along with Sonny and SK, drove into Nimba County, Liberia. We had some follow up at a college that we had installed a bigger water system and wanted to explore the area.

The previous trip at the same college I had met a man selling goods that had the after effects of Leprosy. Like most other family men, he was working hard to earn money to support his family. I knew there were Liberians that had been afflicted with Leprosy, but until today didn't realize there is an active colony. In his pushing forward kind of tone, Sam asks 'want to go check it out?' The decision was made to go immediately. And honestly, I was excited. Really, isn't that what we're supposed to be doing...loving the least? Can't imagine a more destitute and 'least' scenario than suffering from Leprosy in a 4th world country.
It only took about a 15 minute drive to reach the area. But, Sam always looking for great Liberian art noticed a small shop off the road selling wood carvings. It happened to be a shop owned and operated by men suffering from Leprosy.

First off, regardless of affliction or disease they were selling some of the best hand woven baskets I've seen. Add in the fact that the artisans were missing most of their fingers, the craftsmanship was astounding! As we spent time looking at their products, we had great conversations and all of us enjoyed the bartering going on. Liberians are legendary in bartering. Add in the fact Sam Wrisley may be the American-Liberian Heavyweight Champ, it was an epic battle of wits. One thing I love about Sam is he treats everyone the same...and these guys loved it! Sam has a gift of knowing people. These guys wanted to be treated normal and they got it. I'm so thankful to be part Hope 2 Liberia and to learn from Sam.

As the smoke cleared and the deals were made, we rounded up the products and loaded the car. One of the carvers came to me and graciously handed me two carvings as a gift. The sentiment was amazing. First reaction I had was to give him a hug. No thought. Just action. The surprising part...he hugged me harder than I've ever been hugged in my life! As we stood there embraced, all I kept thinking about was 'when was the last time he's been hugged?' He let me go and I looked up at his smiling face and he tells me this...'people think I'm a bad man because my hands are crippled.' Boy, are they all wrong.

Never underestimate the significance of a kind word. A smile. A wave. A hug. Share God's love any chance you get. This is a man that most have forgotten. He knew the significance of sharing love. He truly rocked my soul and because of him I'm better for it.

If you would like to join with Hope 2 Liberia in their ministry, head on over to their website.

If you would like to see a virtual tour of a mission trip to Liberia, here is one I made in 2012.