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India 2011: Part 2

Well, we’re back! Most of you already knew that. As always, we’re so grateful to return home with a renewed understanding of how blessed we are in this country. We’ve been so busy since our homecoming (patients to see, relatives to visit, BSU football games to catch up on – what do you mean we lost?!) that this post is now two weeks late, but late is better than never… or so I’ve been told.

This was our fourth medical mission trip with Chapel Missions India. In many ways, this tour was the same as previous ones, and there are some things I’ll probably never get used to. Homeless children are as common (and treated worse) than the feral cats we have here. Women are still viewed as property, and daughters are essentially worthless if the family doesn’t have at least one son. And everywhere you can see evidence of an easily-treatable or easily-preventable medical condition that has been allowed to progress to debilitating levels.

But this trip was also very different than the others. Our total focus was treating lepers. We spent five days at the Scheffelin Leprosy Institute & Research Center, the world’s most premier leprosy facility (I was seriously geeking out), while the remainder of our trip was spent in two different leprosy communities – one government run, the other sponsored by Calvary Chapel.

Since many people in India go their whole lives without ever seeing a doctor, we are usually welcomed with open arms, but I was not prepared for our greeting at the Calvary Chapel leprosy community. There was music and dancing, banners and food – we were even adorned with flowers. The lepers broke out the best of everything they had just for us. It was a wonderful celebration, but at the same time, it was very humbling.

I’ve never seen ant hills that reached 6-8 feet tall before! And there were mongoose everywhere – big mongoose. We were told they grew so big because there were “many cobras to eat.” That must’ve been very true; in fact, we were forbidden to walk the grounds after dark because of the danger of encountering the deadly snakes.

Despite their poverty and crippling condition, the lepers at the Calvary Chapel community were joyful. They had good food and good facilities, but they also supported, prayed, and cared for each other. The government-run leprosy community, however, was startlingly opposite. Patients lay dying in horrific pain, alone, receiving only minimal medical care (or none at all). It was pretty much the worst situation I could imagine.

Leprosy is a condition which affects, among other things, peripheral nerves, such as those in the hands, feet, and face. As sensation is lost, it becomes harder to realize when you have hurt yourself, and once injury does occur, the healing process is difficult and complicated. As expected, the wound care portion of our medical team was overwhelmed with the number of patients needing treatment, but physical therapy was just as in demand.

In addition to the residents of the two leprosy communities we visited, we treated an incredible number of people who traveled from a leprosy community 10 hours away, most of whom had already had their legs amputated. We gave away 75 wheelchairs (courtesy of Free Wheelchair Mission), as well as many canes, crutches, and walkers.

As always, we feel blessed to be given the opportunity to go across the world to help those in need, and we feel just as blessed to be able to come back. Thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes. We’ll need them again next year! Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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