Effect Hope is a 127-year-old Christian ministry, working to free people from tropical diseases in India and west and central Africa.
Peter Derrick is retiring after 27 years leading what used to be called The Leprosy Mission Canada, based in Markham, Ont. Faith Today invited him to share some ministry memories on our blog.
I was walking along the streets of Vizianagaram, India, with Dr. Rajan Babu, a doctor from our field team, when a man began shouting, “Dr. Babu! Dr. Babu! It is so good to see you! This man saved my life!”
As we walked about 100 feet to the man’s fish stall, he began excitedly telling his story. Years ago, Gagan (name changed for privacy) suffered the tell-tale signs of leprosy—clawed hands, ulcers and nerve damage. He didn’t know what was happening to his body and felt depressed and isolated.
Dr. Babu and his team found Gagan, diagnosed him with leprosy and provided him with the cure free of charge. We were able to heal him and restore function to his hands. Today, he is happily married and is able to earn a respectful living for his family.
What struck me most about Gagan was his unbridled passion, shouting at the top of his lungs over the success of his healing. Sort of like the blind men in Matthew 9:27-31, who called out to Jesus. They were told to keep it quiet, but no, they spread the news far and wide.
I’ve met countless people with amazing stories like Gagan’s in my 27 years as executive director of effect:hope, The Leprosy Mission Canada. But I’ve also met people who suffer; people who live in isolation, shunned from their homes and communities because of leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases. It’s motivated me to do my part and work with our field staff to help patients discover their inherent value and dignity as God created them.
The journey to eradicate leprosy has been a long one because of a few challenges. Leprosy has a long incubation period, typically 2-10 years, and finding and diagnosing people affected by the disease can be difficult when they’re hidden away or cast out from their communities. Many live in remote communities with no access to health care. We also don’t know how the disease is transmitted, but we have invested in research scientists and laboratories in hopes of solving these questions.
What we can take solace in is that the number of people affected by leprosy is lower than it was 20 years ago. Many programs we previously invested in are now self-sufficient, such as a vocational training centre in India (pictured) where students affected by leprosy study alongside those without and develop livelihood skills. By integrating them into the community, we are reducing stigma and restoring dignity.
(Side note: Last year, the centre received an award from the Government of India for being one of the country's top 10 industrial training institutes! Amazing!)
I reflect on the many stories of Jesus healing people affected by leprosy. A simple word from Jesus could heal anyone completely, but He chose the intimate expression of love through touch. Oh, what a Saviour! And as I prepare for retirement and pass the baton to my successor, I will be praying for God’s hand on the ministry of effect:hope and that God would continue to touch every soul that seeks Him. May people affected by leprosy find hope and healing and the saving grace of Jesus, so they would have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
In His service,
At the end of August, Peter Derrick is passing the baton to Kim Evans, former VP of advancement with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada. The photos above were provided by Effect Hope. The two older photos from 1999 show Derrick with students studying sewing and auto mechanics.