From Pastor Mark:
As I was preparing for my Christmas Sermon a colleague of mine shared this story with me. This preaches more than anything and I could say.
- You have probably never heard of the island of Molokai. Well, it's located in the state of Hawaii. And it has quite a history. You have to go way back to the late 1800's to understand its significance. You see, back then, there was no cure for the highly contagious and deadly disease called leprosy. A disease that would attack the extremities of the body, the ears, the toes, the nose, the fingers. A horrible dreadful disease which today is curable, But, it wasn't back then.
- So, in order to keep the disease at bay. In order to keep it from spreading and creating an epidemic, the government would send lepers to a colony on the island of Molakai where they would be secluded and isolated from those who were not infected with the disease.
- Well, in 1873, there was a young, brave Catholic priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the people secluded on the island of Molokai. When he arrived, he was was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically, but socially, and emotionally, and spiritually. In the leper colony he saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and an overall sense of hopelessness. What he saw were people who desperately needed to know the answer to a question we all ask... where is God? They needed God's presence in their life.
- And so, in 1873, Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers. Knowing the dangers, realizing the inevitable results of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and built some 600 coffins. And the whole while he was giving them the answer to that question... where is God?
- And whenever a church service was held. He would stand up in front of the lepers, and he would warmly, and lovingly address them as "my dear brethren." But then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of "my dear brethren," he began with, "My fellow lepers, I am one of you now."
- You see it was out of love that a humble priest became one of the them. Out of love he gave those lepers a gift that would change their life for all of eternity. He shared with them the answer to the ever present question... "Where is God?" And the only way he could give them the answer is by becoming one of them.