Paul wrote instructing Timothy "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." (1 Timothy 6:6-8 NIV). He was instructing both Timothy and every believer regarding godliness and contentment when he made an interesting comment which begs our consideration. It was assumed that the basic needs of life were being met ... basic needs that are sufficient in order to find contentment. But, what about those who have no food and no way to earn a living to provide food? And, those who have no clothing ... what about them?
Leprosy continues to invade the lives of men, women, and children in third world countries including India. Known as "Hansen's Disease," leprosy first attacks the nervous system and the victim no longer can feel his or her extremities. Injuries, insect or animal bites, or deep bruises can no longer be detected; in their untreated condition, the area becomes infected and dies. While there is treatment to arrest the disease, it is not always readily available to those in impoverished areas. It's not uncommon to find people suffering from this dreaded disease missing toes, fingers, nostrils, ears, and other areas of their infected bodies.
Even though advancements have been made in treating leprosy and a great deal of effort has gone into educating people regarding this ancient disease, those suffering from leprosy remain society's outcasts.
Leprosy is a slowly progressing bacterial infection that affects the skin, peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes. Destruction of the nerve endings causes the the affected areas to lose sensation. Occasionally, because of the loss of feeling, the fingers and toes become mutilated and fall off causing the deformities that are typically associated with the disease.
The infection is characterized by abnormal changes of the skin. These changes, called lesions, are at first flat and red. Upon enlarging, they have irregular shapes and a characteristic appearance. The lesions are typically darker in color around the edges with discolored pale centers. Because the organism grows best at lower temperatures the leprosy bacillus has a preference for the skin, the mucous membranes and the nerves. Infection in and destruction of the nerves leads to sensory loss.
The loss of sensation in the fingers and toes increases the risk of injury. Inadequate care causes infection of open wounds. Gangrene may also follow, causing body tissue to die and become deformed.
Because of the disabling deformities associated with it, leprosy has been considered one of the most dreaded diseases since biblical times, though much of what was called leprosy in the Old Testament most likely was not the same disease. Its victims were often shunned by the community, kept at arm's length, or sent to a leper colony.
The challenge facing these lepers in India is that the treatment is not readily available to them. Treatment can cause the arrest of the disease so it no longer spreads. However, there is no medication that will reverse the damage and deformity of the body. Very often the treatment is out of reach because of proximity or it is only available if one has the money to pay for the medicine through illegal sales of medication.
Encyclopedia of Medicine. Answers Corporation, 2006. Answers.com 12 Aug. 2009. http://www.answers.com/topic/leprosy (Search term: Leprosy)