Magazines 2018 Mar - Apr The profound beauty of foot washing

The profound beauty of foot washing

25 March 2018 , 2018 Mar - Apr By Melissa Yue Wallace

It starts early. Cries of “me first, mommy!” ring from my kids’ bedroom. Our 3 ½ year old twins sleep next to each other in separate cribs, and both want me to pick them up. Then it’s a fight over who gets to use the washroom first or who will be first to go downstairs. To a toddler—and especially toddler twins—being second means losing, and it’s the worst possible thing. This week, we reflect on the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, someone who put others first, at great cost to Himself. Not only did He choose to associate with people whom society shunned, He also physically touched those with diseases and disabilities who were in desperate need.

By Melissa Yue Wallace

It starts early. Cries of “me first, mommy!” ring from my kids’ bedroom. Our 3 ½ year old twins sleep next to each other in separate cribs, and both want me to pick them up. Then it’s a fight over who gets to use the washroom first or who will be first to go downstairs. To a toddler—and especially toddler twins—being second means losing, and it’s the worst possible thing.

This week, we reflect on the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, someone who put others first, at great cost to Himself. Not only did He choose to associate with people whom society shunned, He also physically touched those with diseases and disabilities who were in desperate need.

Team member Sunil (left) shows a man with LF how to clean and care for his feet which are prone to ulcers. Special stretching exercises will help boost his lymphatic system.

As a Christian and as a parent, I should follow Christ’s example of an “others-first” mentality, but it’s hard. I could let that car into my lane, but that will cost me extra time. My time.

I’m reminded of the passage in John 13:1-17 when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15).

For the past two years, a small team of health workers in central India has been caring for people suffering with leprosy and Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), and part of that care includes helping people wash their feet. Leprosy and LF are not only physically painful diseases, they also carry heavy social stigma. I’m sure you have heard of leprosy from the Bible. Similarly disfiguring, LF (also called elephantiasis) causes an individual’s limbs to swell until they mimic those of elephants.

The team is supported by effect:hope (www.effecthope.org), a Christian development organization based in Markham, Ont., that has been providing life-saving care, access to medicine, surgeries, education, and hope to people with leprosy and other diseases of poverty since 1892.

As the group ventures into poor and neglected communities to find and treat people with leprosy and LF, they show dignity, grace and compassion to patients. This sends a message to other members of the community that there is nothing to fear and that everyone has value.

For some of these patients, it has been years since they felt a kind embrace because the stigma of their disease can be so isolating. Many have been cut off from their families and forced to live on the boundaries of the community.

At a recent workshop where they learned self-care techniques, patients met each other and spoke openly about their struggles. Mr. Nonelal suffered from leprosy in the past. He received medicine and underwent reconstructive surgery through effect:hope. Though he is healed, he continues to experience significant stigma in his community. He says that people stay away and don’t talk to him. At the workshop, he beamed when a team member showed genuine care and sat right beside him.

Jesus is our ultimate example of humility. He washed the feet of His followers and served people from all spectrums of society. This Easter, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, may we be challenged to step forward in servanthood and consider others first and above ourselves.

Melissa Wallace is the digital engagement associate of effect:hope,  The Leprosy Mission Canada.