A VISIT I’LL NEVER FORGET!
When I finished college, I was invited to play basketball on the Venture for Victory Basketball Team, which traveled throughout Asian countries, playing basketball and presenting a Christian witness. We played about 75 games in ten weeks. Several of them were against Olympic teams from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, and Hong Kong. Thousands of people came to know Christ through that program.
One of my most unforgettable life experiences occurred in Taipei. We were playing each night against their Olympic team. Some missionaries invited us to visit a leprosarium that was run by Mrs. Lillian Dickson. She was a marvelous Presbyterian lady who had a remarkable ministry to lepers.
Basketball is really big in that part of the world. Even the leprosarium had a basketball court. It also had loud-speakers throughout the compound so that people could listen to the ball games. We gave a basketball demonstration at the court. Some of the residents not too badly affected by leprosy were able to walk to the court. Others brought their buddies on their backs.
We saw how leprosy affected people at different stages. Some were severely afflicted, while others were in the first stages. I met a man named Chhoe who had been a skilled wood carver. Leprosy took his fingers, so he strapped the chisel to the heel of one hand and the mallet to the heel of his other hand, and carved water buffaloes. He gave me one.
Mrs. Dickson invited us to go to the top of the compound to what she called the “ward nearest heaven.” The most severely afflicted lepers were there. There were eight lepers in the room. None of them had arms or feet. Someone had to feed them and care for them. It was a dimly lit room. None of these lepers would live very long, but the remarkable thing was that each of them had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They knew the real meaning of life, and their lives were effervescent with the hope of eternity.
I have been in a lot of prayer groups and religious settings in my life. Never had I been in any room where I felt the power of God so much as in that leprosarium. Mrs. Dickson called on one of our players to lead in prayer. Gary Cunningham, All-American basketball player from UCLA, began to pray, with the use of an interpreter, “Oh God, we thank you for Jesus Christ.”
All-of-a-sudden, the lepers started saying in English, “Hallelujah, hallelujah. Amen, amen.” They started praising God. Gary was unable to continue the prayer. It was just an outbreak of genuine praise to God.
Mrs. Dickson took us outside and explained that when Gary thanked God for Jesus Christ, he thanked God for the only hope those men had. Their focus was not on a basketball game, or earning money, or trying to establish a vocation–none of these were important at all to these lepers. Knowing Jesus and where they would spend eternity was the greatest news they could hear and share!
My life would never be the same after that experience. Today, what are you most thankful for? Where is your hope? What do you love more than anything else in the world? In what are you putting your trust? What is your focus in life today?
Learn from these lepers about real living!