I’m grateful to be able to write about our last day in the DR, because it was a day that truly marked me. I wish that I had the space to write about every interaction with the people we met that day at the leprosarium.

Thursday morning we woke up to our extravagant breakfast before loading into the van and heading over to the leprosarium. We met our friends Alexis and Emmanuel inside the facility. Emmanuel spent a few minutes talking to us about the different types of leprosy and the effect that it has on its victims. He assured us that the people we would meet inside were not contagious and pleaded with us not to go in if we were going to stay at a distance and avoid touching the people there. My heart felt heavy walking into the facility. I couldn’t stop thinking of the stories of Jesus healing lepers outside the city gates. I kept thinking of Him embracing them for the first time in months, years. I thought of the joy that must have filled their hearts as they encountered love Himself and were finally set free from the disease that had taken almost everything from them.

We broke off into groups. Our musically inclined fellows sang and played music that brought joy and life to the entire facility. Emmanuel led Sarah, Morgan, and I to meet two smiling ladies sitting outside their room. We hugged them and enjoyed laughing and talking with them. I followed one of the ladies named Florinda into her room and she pointed to a door that led to another dark room. The door moved slightly and I realized that our two friends must have another roommate. I opened the door to meet the wide eyes a small, gaunt woman huddled on the corner of her cot. It was a shocking sight at first. She didn’t have any fingers. Her feet were shrunken and her legs were skin and bones. She sat there in her nightgown gesturing and speaking rapidly. Emmanuel came in and explained that her name was Julia. Morgan, Sarah, and I climbed on the cot beside her. Emmanuel said she was difficult to understand but that she repeatedly told the story of a fall she had 6 years ago that had been traumatic for her. Julia lifted up a comb that had been sitting on her lap and held it out. I started combing Julia’s short, almost nonexistent hair and rubbing her head. Julia kept talking about the pain in her knees and saying “how much longer”. This line struck me as a prayer that I have pleaded with the Lord over many times. I think this is a prayer that lingers in the heart of a follower of Christ. It is the longing for Him to come and make all things new. “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” (Romans 8:22-23)

Emmanuel told us that Julia is a Christian. He said she used to preach to him whenever he would come visit her. She kept saying “the Lord bless you” over us. I began to long for the day when Julia would be home at last. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I rubbed her head and pictured Julia running and dancing once again. I longed for Jesus to be in that room. I longed for Him to walk through that courtyard. To embrace His beautiful children and heal them with a single touch. To treat them with dignity. To kiss Julia on the cheek and say “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

And one day He will. One day every tear will be wiped away. Every broken piece will be made whole. Our bones won’t break. There will be no death. No darkness. No anxiety. No sorrow. No depression, no division, no confusion. All who have placed their hope in Him won’t have to hope anymore. Because all who lived to know Christ will finally see the Lord face to face.

But in the meantime we have so much to rejoice over. Our friends at the leprosarium get to see Jesus in people like Emmanuel, who come consistently to sit and visit with them, embracing them and showing them that they are worthy of love. I pray that the Lord will bring more caretakers to that community.

As for the rest of our day, we left the leprosarium and had lunch at Mission Emmanuel. Later we went to the market and people bought gifts. Patrick got tricked into buying everything there. This included some wooden tool for smashing bananas. Next we had a historical tour of Old Town. Hootie’s trip was complete. We went out to dinner in Old Town with Jose (our driver). That night we spent time in the corner suite reflecting on the many ways we saw the Lord that week. We finished the night dancing to live music at our hotel. It was the best.

Thank you to everyone who supported and prayed for us.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Ned Erickson

Author Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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