Amar is a person affected by leprosy. He was born to a poor family in a remote village—inaccessible by roads and without electricity. When Amar turned ten, he noticed pale patches appearing on his body. His health deteriorated day by day. His family took him to traditional healers, but this didn’t help at all. A relative convinced his family to get an opinion from a doctor at least once. His parents took him to clinics throughout his district. A physician in Kathmandu suspected it was leprosy and advised Amar to seek a diagnosis at Anandaban Hospital. They followed his advice, and at last, Amar received a diagnosis: it was leprosy! He was too young to understand the implications of the diagnosis. But the expressions on the faces of his parents scared Amar—he thought he was doomed. When Amar returned from hospital, his relatives shunned him.
“No one was willing to come near me; no one would extend a hand to hold me… I was an outcast in the midst of my own people. I wept bitterly.”
Even his parents would not touch him. His siblings became out-of-bounds. Amar’s life turned into a series of sleepless nights and restless days. When the wider community uncovered that Amar had leprosy, he wished his life would end. They forbade him from joining social gatherings and functions. His teachers and peers were frightened of him. No one talked to Amar. Overwhelmed by the isolation, Amar left school. He stayed at home. He wept and cursed his life, praying each night: “let this night be my last!”
Amar returned to Anandaban Hospital so that health workers could track his progress and manage his ENL Reaction. This complication only affects patients with the severest forms of leprosy. Though Amar despaired, he reflects on his stays at Anandaban fondly: “I received great motivations, love and encouragements from the staff of Anandaban Hospital… the hospital was the single ray of hope for me.” It was during these stays at Anandaban where Amar first heard stories about Jesus.
One day, Amar’s father told him he was ready to get married. His father found a suitable girl from a distant village. They were happily wed until she learned that Amar once had leprosy. Her behaviour changed immediately and she later divorced him. The Leprosy Mission has met countless people affected by leprosy who believe leprosy caused their divorce—in one study in Nepal, a third of leprosy patients were abandoned by their spouses! Amar says: “That was probably the worst moment in my life. I felt like committing suicide.”
But Amar would marry again. Today, he is happily married with a 19-year old son and 15-year old daughter.
Amar becomes a Christian
In 2015, Amar was invited to join the Annual Country Learning of The Leprosy Mission Nepal. It’s an opportunity to learn from one another and help build the capacity of staff and your projects. When listening to the devotional session by The Leprosy Mission Australia’s CEO, Sheldon Rankin, the love of Jesus for people affected by leprosy inspired Amar. At that time, he wanted to raise up his hand and say, “Yes, I want to believe in Jesus”, but thought it wasn’t a suitable time. Immediately after the session, Amar shared his feelings with Pastor Ashok who invited him to his church. With his help, Amar accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour and was baptised.
“What I am today, this is due to the amazing grace of my Lord. I thank the Lord for transforming and giving me a new life, the life that is full of dignity, peace, harmony and blessings. … I have got the confidence in Christ Jesus that no more I am an old creation but in Him and in His glory I am a new creation”
Since becoming a Christian, Amar says: “I have been living more for others than for myself.” Now Amar feels as though he’s better able to share in the joys, sorrows and stigma of others:
“The people I have met, especially those affected by leprosy, have made me realise that compassion is the biggest binding cord in the world, and the surest remedy to any ailment on earth.”
Amar is currently the President of IDEA Nepal, an organisation of people affected by leprosy, a Director of The Leprosy Mission International and is on the advisory panel for ILEP (the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations). He will be speaking at events around Australia for World Leprosy Sunday.