Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kalvarinagar Leprosy Colony

"I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, 
I feel I am nursing God himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?"
-Mother Teresa

It was an honor to spend the morning in the Kalvarinagar leprosy colony. I cannot adequately convey the thoughts and emotions that reside within me because of it. Even though society has forgotten these people, God has not. I felt His perfect love for them as I played my small role in their comfort and healing today. 

When I returned to Rising Star, I was thrilled to receive a perfectly timed message from an LDS seminary class in Waxahachie, Texas. They wrote me the following:

"We are studying the New Testament this year and are interested in why, of all the diseases and afflictions that were among the people of his day, Christ chose leprosy to teach about healing, gratitude, and even as a symbol to represent how sin affects us. (Just to note, we are not suggesting that those who have leprosy have it because of sin - just that it is used as a symbol of what sin does to us in the New Testament.) We know you will have some real experience with this disease on the day you work in the clinic and we will be interested in hearing your thoughts."

I'm so glad you asked. I posed this question to a couple of the wonderful "seasoned" volunteers here, Anita and Erin, and we had an insightful discussion over lunch. The more we talked, the more lessons we unveiled and I was grateful to add even deeper meaning to the experience today. I know this is kind of like answering a question with a question but I'd like to lay out my thoughts, share pictures, and then invite your class to discover the rich symbolism contained in this scripture.  


In this story, the gift was not dependent on gratitude. 10 had leprosy, 10 were healed. As for the one who showed gratitude, the greater gift was possible. When someone truly possesses gratitude and appreciates his own limitations, his dependence on God increases, which in turn invites God into every aspect of his life. How tragic for the 9 who didn't fully partake of the gift.


Developing slowly, leprosy is a disease whose onset is almost imperceptible. The first noticeable symptoms are loss of feeling in the fingers and toes. They become desensitized, thus becoming susceptible to further injury. Burns, cuts and sores go unnoticed because natural pain receptors are no longer communicating properly with the brain. Fragile and injury prone fingers and toes often become mutilated and fall off. The disease also attacks the facial nerves and destroys the ability to blink. This leaves the eyes susceptible to infection and ultimately leads to blindness. 


Leprosy is a curable disease. If caught early, a patient can enjoy a full recovery with no evidence the disease ever existed. In cases where early treatment is not sought, complete physical healing in this life is not possible. But comfort is. Although scars remain (as a consequence of ignoring early warning signs), physicians can utilize incredible modern medicines to limit suffering. As we drove through the colony today, we passed those whose bodies had succumbed wholly to the disease. We were eager to help them, but some never came. I wonder why. Are we like that sometimes?

Christ's message to us is that no matter what wounds we have obtained in this life, faith in Him can make us whole. 

And finally, the most beautiful thing I saw today:


  1. Wow. My heart is full and I cannot help but be moved to tears. You said that society has forgotten them, but God has not.. do they feel that way. Do they feel rejected by their society, but feel God's love for them? There is a light that shows through in their eyes. I love the "Jesus Loves Me" bracelet. Are you able to communicate somewhat with the patients? Are you learning some Indian? This world is so giant and beautiful and full of life and stories all around and I want to know them all. Thats part of what I feel when I read about your journey. Faith, you look like such a natural healer. We are seriously getting some great family teaching moments out of this! I love you ladies dearly! XO

  2. I can't imagine the experience you had here. When I taught seminary, I got very interested in leprosy and the details of it so I did a lot of study into it. I, like you, was very much taken by the comparison there is to life and sin. What a lesson. And how amazing for you both to have experienced something like that. So grateful that you are sharing this experience with those of us who will never have it. Love you both!

  3. Thank you for your insight and experiences. These are invaluable insights that I will never forget. I can't wait to share with the seminary students in the morning.

  4. Although I've never thought about the symbolism in the story of the Ten Lepers, I'll not forget it now. Profound! Today's pictures are so touching and tender. My mind literally goes back to the streets of the holy land where Jesus encountered similar scenes and served in like manner. Faith and Tara, you are practicing the pure love of Christ as angels of mercy in the truest sense. Help me understand the connection between the school and the leper colony. Are they two distinct Rising Star projects? Love you! Nanny

  5. Tara, nice stories and pics. I spoke to your husband tonight about some equipment issues. Make sure you go and walk the village early in the morning (6 am). Watch the girls paint the dirt with chalk etc. Say hi to Naharaj(sp) the tall guy who does IT at the school. Let me know how equipment and supplies look. Scott

  6. Oh my goodness, what a great experience! Love the pictures! So inspiring! Thanks Tara for uplifting my day with such insightful lessons on the Saviors teachings! I just love this!