40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
Matthew 25: 40
Okay, aside from being Star Wars Day (If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand), today is a pretty cool day in Christian history as well. This was my gem from J. Stephen Lang’s Christian History Devotional for the day.
On this day in 1873, a Catholic priest named Father Damien won a free trip to Hawaii! That’s not as glamorous (nor as trivial) as it sounds. At that time, the island of Molokai, Hawaii, looked like the setting of a horror movie. It was home to a large leper colony. The church had asked for volunteers to minister to the lepers, knowing that the assignment would likely be a death sentence for anyone that volunteered. But the 33 year old Damien, a handsome, healthy Belgian, took the job. When he arrived on the island, he found the conditions to be literally inhuman. Not only was the disease rampant, but the lepers seemed to have forgotten they were human beings. Rape was pervasive, and stronger lepers were throwing the weaker ones out of their shelters and taking them over. In time, Damien helped them build new huts, a cemetery, schools and farms. Most importantly, he led many of them to Christ.
Inevitably, the priest contracted leprosy himself. But rather than heading back to the
mainland for treatment, he stepped up his activity, wanting to do as much as possible before he died in 1889. 120 years later, he was made a saint by the Catholic church.
The comparisons to Jesus don’t stop with the fact that Damien was 33 years old when he came to Molokai. Jesus stepped into our world and showed us a better way. He took our disease of sin upon Himself, and it killed Him. I am so challenged by Damien’s example of incarnational ministry.