Ephesians 5:1-2 (New International Version)
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
At an early age, brother Damien became captivated by the love of God. At the age of 23, with barely one year of seminary training, he left Belgium to be a missionary to the people of Hawaii. Now this may not sound like such a sacrifice to us, but in the 1800s, Hawaii was not the idyllic paradise it is now known as. By 1896, leprosy, as well as other diseases brought by white men, had decimated the Hawaiian population from 300,000 to barely 31,000.
Fear of leprosy led the king of Hawaii, Kamehameha V, to exile all lepers to the isolated island of Kalaupapa. Shocked by the living conditions of those destined for certain death, Brother Damien was the first to volunteer his services to this condemned island. He didn't pay attention to the advice of his elders either, who warned him to not eat with or touch any of these lepers. What did he have to fear? God was with him! Moreover, he knew without a doubt where he would be heading if for some reason his life was cut shot.
With the help of those lepers who were still able to work, Brother Damien built houses and a church, and even dug canals to bring pure, running water into the buildings. When someone died, which happened on the average of once every other day, Brother Damien, or "Kamiano" as he was known in Hawaiian, made sure there was a proper burial. His goal was that these men and women, rejected by society, would know beyond a doubt that they were not alone in their plight!
Oftentimes he would go to Honolulu and demand clothing, construction material and help. He was perceived mostly as a nuisance and a troublemaker. This didn't stop him however; as God's deep love had invaded his heart.
At all times his door was open for any and all lepers who came to visit him. Then one Sunday in 1878, he started service with the following words: "We, the lepers..." He had discovered dry spots on his skin. He has leprosy! This still didn't stop him from continuing to love his fellow lepers, however. He was fearless because he had put his utter trust in the One whose example he was following.
In those days, leprosy was thought to be the last stage of syphilis, and Damien was immediately accused by his church of having love affairs with prostitutes. He knew this wasn't true however, and he continued loving the unlovable until his death on April 15, 1889.
Half a century later, following a strange turn of events, his body was brought back to be buried in the place of his birth: Belgium. Sixty years later, Hawaiians succeeded in obtaining his right hand. This they buried where his body had originally been laid to rest. To the Hawaiians, his right hand was more important than the rest of his body, because it stood for all the work he had done among them. He was truly their hero.
Brother Damien was motivated to live like Jesus lived when He was on our planet. He became an imitator of God, living fearlessly amidst dire circumstances.
You see, there is no fear to those who put their full trust in the Lord. Then and only then can we make a real difference in this life!
Dear Lord we pray that today we would put our complete trust in You. We pray that no matter what comes our way we will not turn our trust from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.