Missionary doctor Paul Brand is famous for his discoveries in the area of stopping leprosy, that dread disease that until recent years maimed and deformed so many, particularly in poor areas of the world. Actually, leprosy is not highly contagious. But because people don’t know that, out of fear they ostracize the leper, making sure no one ever touches him.
Dr. Brand tells that one day in India he was examining the hands of a man, trying to explain to him that he could halt the progress of the leprosy, and perhaps restore some movement, but that he could do little about the man’s facial deformities. Dr. Brand joked with him a bit, laying his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Your face is not so bad,” he said with a wink, “and it shouldn’t get any worse if you take the medication. After all, we men don’t have to worry so much about our faces. It’s the women who fret over every bump and wrinkle.” He expected the man to smile in response, but instead he began to shake with muffled sobs.
“Have I done something wrong?” Dr. Brand asked his assistant in English. “No, doctor,” said the nurse. “He says he is crying because you put your hand around his shoulder. Until he came here no one had touched him for many years.”[i]
The power of touch is so great. People confined to wheelchairs say that one of the hardest things for them is that people go out of their way not to touch the wheelchair. They miss human touch.
Jesus touched people—the blind, the disabled—and yes, people with leprosy, giving us an example, that we “should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Sometimes we just don’t realize how much someone needs our touch. Of course, it should be appropriate—the right person at the right time in the right way. But see if there isn’t someone in your life who needs a loving touch of encouragement today.
[i] Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, The Gift of Pain (Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature Inc., 2000), 106.
What act of service can you offer as a Touch from God?