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His name was Joseph Damien, and you’ve probably heard his story before, but it bears repeating. A Belgian priest, he was sent in 1873 to minister to lepers in Hawaii. As soon as he arrived on Molokai, he began trying to build friendships with the residents of the leper colony, but they rejected him. He poured himself into this ministry, building a small chapel and holding worship services. But hardly anyone came.

After 12 long years, he gave up. While standing on the pier about to board the ship that would take him back to Belgium, he looked down at his hands. The white spots he saw could mean only one thing. He had contracted leprosy. So instead of going home, he returned to his work in the leper colony.

The news of the missionary’s disease spread through the community within hours, and soon the lepers--hundreds of them--had gathered outside his hut. They understood his pain and despair. The following Sunday when Damien arrived at the chapel, the small building was filled to overflowing. That was the beginning of a long and fruitful ministry.

What made the difference? Now the lepers knew that he understood their condition. There was no question about whether he cared or not.

In the same way, we have a God who has identified with our situation. Though without sin, our Savior experienced all the pain and frustration of earthly existence in order to bring us life.

[Adapted from Moments for Pastors by Robert Strand. New Leaf Press, 1994. Day 11.]

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