New Hope Notes
The Power Of Compassion
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro
In the 1860’s and 1870’s, Kalaupapa, Molokai was a disorganized forced relocation community where there was no hope and only sadness for the victims of Leprosy. These unfortunate diseased people were forced to jump into the ocean from ships and swim to the Kalapaupa shore or drown. They were mostly left in isolation and had to fend for themselves and lived in makeshift grass huts.
Kalaupapa was cutoff from everybody else – even from the rest of the island of Molokai because it was bordered by the ocean on 3 sides and a steep mountain range on the remaining side. It was scenically beautiful though. Kalaupapa was said to be blessed by nature but cursed by disease.
In 1865, King Kamehameha V had passed a law forcing Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) diseased patients to be forcibly removed to Kalaupapa so that the disease would not spread throughout Hawaii. During these terrible times, over 8000 people were sent to Kalaupapa.
The Catholic Church decided to send missionaries. The Catholic Bishop knew that the assignment to Kalaupapa could be a fatal one so he intended a 3 month rotation for his clergy there. In 1864 Father Damien was ordained and on May 10, 1873 he arrived on Kalaupapa. Shortly though, after seeing the terrible need and feeling the overwhelming compassion in his heart, he decided to stay permanently.
The chapel he found when he arrived was a metaphor for his flock. It was in disrepair and seemed abandoned. But Damien was a skilled carpenter and rebuilt parts of the chapel himself. He organized building wooden homes to replace the grass huts. Father Damien was faced with the people’s unbearable sadness of impending death and no hope of ever returning home. But inch by inch and person by person he moved them to a life of hope. Kalaupapa was a place of sadness, hopelessness and death but God sent Father Damien to bring hope.
Damien brought back dignity and normalcy to Kalaupapa. He had them playing baseball again. He taught them to farm. Father Damien encouraged them to make music and sing again. They began playing sports even though some had no feet. It would take two musicians to play the organ because only then they would have enough fingers.
When Leprosy victims thought that God had cursed them, Damien showed them that God in fact loved them dearly. He embraced the Leper but not the Leprosy.
On April 15, 1889, Father Damien died from Leprosy himself – surrounded by the people he loved at Kalaupapa. He was buried under the tree that had sheltered him when he first arrived.
I wondered what compelled Damien to devote his life to a people others had abandoned and already considered dead. It was the power of compassion. He followed in Jesus’ footsteps before him.
As the Bible says, “A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’” (Mark 1:40) and “ … He reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. “Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” (Mark 1:41-42)
Not only did Jesus love all people, He touched them. Sometimes a leper loses feeling in various parts of his body. Are you like that in the parts of your life? Have you lost feeling in your marriage or your Faith? Let Jesus touch your heart and you will heal.
Sometimes I can hear Jesus speak to me but because of pride I refuse to let Him touch my heart. But when we let Jesus touch our hearts, our marriage or our life will begin to heal.
We all can become spiritual Lepers at times in our lives. We sometimes feel isolated from everyone around us. But always remember, Jesus is reaching out to you. If we can help you, come to us and let us know. Jesus is waiting for you.
1. Why were Lepers sent to Kalaupapa?
2. Why did Father Damien stay?
3. What should you do if you feel isolated?
4. What have you done when you feel isolated?
5. What can you do to make others feel less isolated?