Written by Peter Walker, Head of Fundraising Development.
“In his name the nations will put their hope.” Matthew 12:21 NIV
I sat a little precariously in the large open canoe. The wooden vessel had seen better days but it was the only way to cross the broad free-flowing Niger river to the island. This island is the home of a large community of people affected by leprosy. I noticed the young woman smiling. She exchanged a few obviously pleasant words with the canoe owner, and boarded to cross over with us. Her name was Maimouna. She came to live on the island when she was pregnant with her youngest daughter.
Maimouna sought medical help when she noticed she could not grip things around her home. She was diagnosed and belatedly treated for leprosy. As a result of nerve damage, she sadly lost the use of her right hand.
This was more than a physical setback for Maimouna. Her clawed hand became an outward sign that she was leprosy-affected. The stigma was great. Her husband and mother-in-law forced her to leave their home and village and a heartbroken Maimouna had to leave her three children behind.
So how did this lady, with so much tragedy in her life, get into the canoe smiling?
The Leprosy Mission has helped Maimouna regain hope in her life. With reconstructive surgery she will be able to grip objects again and she received agricultural training so that she now grows and sells yams for a living.
Although Maimouna still desperately misses her three older children, she is able to smile and demonstrates the power of hope.
As we approach this Easter, we too have a hope. Our hope in Christ gives us an assurance for our future.
Peter Walker is Head of Fundraising Development at The Leprosy Mission International Office. He visited Niger in November 2014 when he was National Director at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales.
This story also appears in a Lent Devotional series produced by TLM England and Wales, available here.