Happenings

How leprosy patients came to know Christ

Mar 2003    

The mission to the lepers was a regular feature of the women missionaries. Mrs A. J. Amery gave a graphic account of the work that she, Miss Edith Hemmingway and other women missionaries were doing. Their example is worth emulating.

‘THE Lord’s crops spring up in queer places. It takes a spiritual expert to calculate the result by the soil. Few would have expected to see fruit a hundred-fold in this particular plot of ground, where it is certain that whoever did the planting and watering, God has given the increase.

There are about 30 women in the two leper sheds. Six years ago, when the writer first became associated with them, those that feared the Lord were fewer in numbers than now. But they were patient in tribulation. We often went to give help and gained more than we gave.

There was Mrs Brown on her plank bed in the corner, her body little more than a stump and always full of sores and flies, but how that woman’s face would light up at the name of Jesus. “She alluded to brighter worlds and led the way” for the others, always patient and full of love for the Master. In those days we used to gather around her bed for our little services and she would interpret for those who did not understand the dialect. Mrs Brown knew each one’s story.

One day she pointed out a young woman newly brought in and told how this poor girl of 20 was breaking her heart. A young wife of six months and an expectant mother, she was found to have contracted leprosy; her husband left her at once and here she was, her face turned to the wall like Hezekiah.

We won her by love and took her child away at once when it was born that it might the less readily contract the disease. The day after her child’s birth, she wept all night, repeating over and over, “She touched my filth.” Her heart was broken by a little human kindness. Later when her tiny son was brought so that she could espy it through a crack in the wall, this poor woman well nigh tore down the wood work in her agony to see more of her child, and wept unceasingly for two days afterwards. A few months later she was with Christ. Five years later her little son joined her.

Mrs Waddel was another of the King’s daughters that it was a privilege to know. She was an inmate a year before her death and her witness for Christ was much blessed. Mary McGregor is one of the very few soul winners who remain to this day.

For many months past Miss Hemmingway has held a little service weekly on Sunday mornings and several have been won for Christ. Four have joined the Church and one has been baptised since conference; another awaits baptism. One communion service has been held.

Two of the women have lately passed from their sufferings. One was a heathen almost up to the time of her death. When in concern about her soul she asked, “Will God hear me if I pray in my own language as I don’t know Malay?” She was told He would and she seemed to obtain peace as the result of her prayer.

One Sunday morning the gate was locked and a guard stationed outside. On enquiry it was found that a young woman had been brought in from the Native States and was endeavouring to escape. There she stood within the gates, a pathetic figure, her little belongings held in a basket, her figure shaken with sobs. For a week or two she would not listen to the gospel message. She had not sufficient clothes, so some were found for her and so by kindness she was won to hear and now she believes and her face shows the inward calm.

Dear Mary McGregor … is blind, and has lately had small pox. Think of it – leprosy, blindness, small-pox. Her poor marred body trembles like an aspen but her witness is shining and her faith unwavering. A canvas chair was given a little while ago for which she was very grateful.

Plank beds are hard to lie on week after week. The writer was able to secure the gift of 23 patchwork quilts which have given great pleasure. We all sang “Happy Day” over them when they were opened up …’ – MM July 1911, page 73.


Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.

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