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Forgotten in West, Leprosy Still Infects, Maims Hundreds of Thousands in Asia

Ministry to Victims Highlights Work of Gospel for Asia on World Leprosy Day, Jan. 26

Contact: Taun Cortado, 972-300-3379, tauncortado@gfa.org

CARROLLTON, Texas, Jan. 30, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Leprosy is a largely forgotten disease in the West, but it's still greatly feared across Asia, where each year it infects and maims hundreds of thousands. Even for those fortunate enough to find treatment, the social stigma associated with this ancient disease makes life nearly impossible for its victims. Through its leprosy ministry, Gospel for Asia (GFA) reaches out to these victims with the transforming love of Jesus and brings awareness to this highly-curable disease on World Leprosy Day, Jan. 26.

Photo: Thousands of leprosy victims, like the one pictured here, are still forced to live in leprosy colonies across Asia.  But GFA-supported national missionaries demonstrate the love of Christ to these victims throughout the year and on World Leprosy Day, Jan. 26.

"While this ancient disease may be largely forgotten in many parts of the world, it's an everyday reality for many in Asia," said Dr. K. P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia founder and international director. "Through our leprosy ministry, we are reaching out to these forgotten victims and giving them hope, the hope found in Jesus and his 'good news.'"

In 2012, more than 166,000 new cases of leprosy were reported in SE Asia, 135,000 of them in India alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the disease can be easily treated by modern medicine, many poor and isolated regions -- where leprosy is most prominent -- lack sufficient resources, knowledge and prevention tactics that could ward off this disfiguring disease. Begun by French philanthropist Raoul Follereau, World Leprosy Day serves as an opportunity to educate people about leprosy's symptoms, understand ways to limit exposure and learn effective treatment options.

For many leprosy victims in remote locations, getting access to the cure in time is difficult. Victims who do not have easy access to the cure -- or those who receive treatment after deformities have set in -- unfortunately are forced to live in leprosy colonies, ostracized from their families and the rest of society. Tens of thousands of people live in 1,000 of these colonies throughout SE Asia.

Through its national missionaries and aid workers, GFA's leprosy ministry (gfa.org/info/leprosy) provides practical relief services to these victims, including food distribution, medical aid, health and hygiene awareness programs, adult education and tuition centers for children.

The ministry also offers Sunday school and fellowship groups to those forced to live in leprosy colonies, giving sufferers the opportunity to hear about Jesus' unconditional love for them.

During the week surrounding World Leprosy Day, GFA missionaries will demonstrate Christ's love through special one-day programs. Beyond their routine care for these leprosy patients, they will also clean leprosy colonies and individual patient homes. Doctors will also visit the colonies to provide much-needed medical care. In addition, missionary teams will provide patients with gifts, such as blankets, shoes and goats, which can be used for individual or community income-producing opportunities. 

"Life can be utterly hopeless and desperate for those forced to live in leprosy colonies," said Dr. Danny Johnson, director of medical outreach for GFA. "While most of society has run away from these victims, GFA has run toward them, not only sharing with them the latest in medical treatments and personal care, but also the message of Jesus' never-ending love. We are communicating hope and demonstrating love where previously there was none. That's life-changing."

GFA provides a variety of opportunities for people to become involved in its leprosy ministry. To read about them, visit gfa.org/info/leprosy.

To schedule an interview with a Gospel for Asia representative, contact Taun Cortado at 972-300-3379 or tauncortado@gfa.org.