Have you ever had an experience that flat-out changed your life? Looking back over past posts I wrote during the fourteen months on our mission adventure, I came across this personal favorite, the story about Sisay, who changed my life.
I have often wondered what it would be like walking back in old testament times and witnessing the miracles of Jesus. One of my favorite bible stories is the healing of the lepers when only one came back to thank Jesus. (Luke 17:11-19)
I believe with all my heart, that God ordained my time with this precious man to change the way I view the world. I never would have imagined in my lifetime spending time with someone who had leprosy, much less a leper colony, but I cherish ever moment I spent serving this special people group.
It’s hard to share what it’s like to touch someone with leprosy or hug or kiss someone with this horrific disease without people looking at me with a disgusting look. But, I understand and want to help open the eyes and hearts of others to love out-of-the box. Go. Love. Big. God allowed me the honor of leading Sisay to salvation and I can’t wait to see him someday in paradise.
(July 2012) I visited Sisay on his last day. I didn’t know that God has something very special planned for Sisay on this day. I had the opportunity to take one of the Visiting Orphans team on a tour of the Alert Hospital in Korah. I liked this gig … being a tour guide for the lepers. The structure has been there over 80 years and the artisans, mainly elders, work on their trade of weaving, embroidery, and many other beautiful creations.
On the walk back to Great Hope church, I invited the team to meet my friend, Sisay. He looked weak, but clean and peaceful, moved to the other side of the bed, so I knew his neighbor had been there today. We greeted Sisay and he whispered his familiar greeting.
The team sang him a song of hope and joy. Wesley Sellers prayed an emotional blessing and we gently laid our hands on his quiet body. Someone on THAT team had a divine appointment to meet Sisay… I don’t know who they were, but I know in my heart God will use the testimony of Sisay’s life, pain, and salvation to impact THAT person.
(Saturday) My friend, Murad called me this afternoon and told me that Sisay had died. It was a shock to hear the news I had anticipated the past many weeks. Sisay was gone. We quickly called our driver, Dougu and asked him to take us to Korah to support his family and friends. As soon as I started walking down the familiar muddy road to Sisay’s home… I started to cry.
Every day for the past 2 months, I have brought him water, eggs, bread, oil, charcoal, and 1 onion. We made sure his sores were clean with medication and bandaged. It was my duty to bring him new friends and fellowship from mission teams. We sang songs and prayed for healing. Our three P61 boys, Senti, Baby, and Tuloosa helped me buy the items from a tiny “Suk” near Sisay’s home.
They showed great respect for their elder. It broke my heart that this precious man was no longer here, but my heart was also relieved. My friend would no longer suffer in pain, but was celebrating in his new home. Today, Heaven welcomed Sisay. Oh, what a party Sisay’s having with his new feet and new hands and perfect new body in Christ dancing with the angels! He no longer has leprosy… he is finally healed.
The daughter of Sisay came around the corner and started sobbing when she saw us. God had softened my heart toward this woman and helped me look at the situation the past few months without judgement. Culturally, it was unacceptable for her to abandon taking care of her father’s needs, but God allowed us to be there to care for her father. She hugged me and we both cried for her father’s death.
She invited us inside and it hurt my heart to no longer see his bed. Sisay had lived in this home for over fifty years. The tiny mud home was filled with benches and visitors, but we honestly had no idea what to do. We sat down next to his friends who were grieving the death of their neighbor. It was very emotional for all of us. I was amazed at how our family just fit in. We were truly a special part of Sisay’s last extraordinary days and his friends were so thankful for us being there.
(Sunday) Today we went to Sisay’s funeral. It started at 9:00am in the morning and the P61 mission team decided to join us. We walked through the rain and mud almost a mile through Korah. We made it to the Orthodox church as they were covering the grave with dirt. At first, I was a little disappointed we didn’t make it there on time, but we joined the procession through each step of the ceremony.
The daughter of Sisay carried his photograph and we followed. The family set up a tent next to his home and literally hundreds of people were there to pay their respects. I was so proud to have known Sisay and to feel the love pouring from his community. Roger and I secretly helped the family pay for the funeral, injera, wood, and maze for their guests. The cost … 500 birr ($25 US)
A few weeks ago when I asked Sisay what he needed most, he told me, “I don’t need anything, just bring me visitors.” I want to thank the team members who visited Sisay this summer, who ministered to a very old leper who needed big love and prayer. I’m grateful that God allowed us to hold Sisay’s hand when he asked Jesus to come into his heart. I will always cherish the friendship God gave me with this extraordinary man! Goodbye, dear friend!
You can see Sisay on the Man Up and Go movie.
As you listen to birds calling to one another, hear also My Love-call to you. I speak to you continually: through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, Scripture. There is no limit to the variety of ways I can communicate with you. Your part is to be attentive to My messages, in whatever form they come. When you set out to find Me in a day, you discover that the world is vibrantly alive with My Presence.
You can find Me not only in beauty and birdcalls, but also in tragedy and faces filled with grief. I can take the deepest sorrow and weave it into a pattern for GOOD. Search for Me and My messages, as you go through this day. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with your whole being. (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young)
Photos I took from Sisay’s funeral processional in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.