While listening to the Gospel reading, Mark 1: 40-45, for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary time, I relived a beautiful story…

The beautiful story of Zilembo, the leper

Zilembo is part of the history of the Sisters of Poli.  She was attacked by an incurable form of leprosy.  She would come on a regular basis to the community so that the Sister who was a nurse could change her dressings.  The leprosy was eating away at her hands and feet so that little by little she was left with only stumps.  After a few years she was unable to travel.  The Sisters would go right to her house.  They would care for her and we would bring her some food as well.

In spite of her suffering and her isolation Zilembo was always in a good mood.

A few memorable events: Six years ago, the Bishop came for confirmations at the parish and Zilembo asked him to stop by her place and give her his blessing, which he did.

On another day, Social Services asked her to come to their office.  It was impossible for her to go by foot or to get into a car.  But I wanted to try.  I ran into 4 high school students and I asked them to help me.  They carried her and put her in the car.  They told me, “Sorry we can’t help anymore because people are waiting for us.” ….  The social service worker met with her in the car.  When we got back, I again found some good Samaritans to carry her!  When I meditate on the Gospel of the healing of the leper, I can’t stop thinking about Zilembo.

About 4 years ago, I was alone at the house, and one morning on my way back from mass around 8 a.m. I found Zilembo in front of our house.  How was she able to drag herself for more than 600 meters?  The neighbours said she was starting to lose her mind and that she would go outside for no reason.

What to do? I set her up on a mat in a brand-new centre across from our house.  This centre was built with the help of the Raoul Follereau Association to welcome the sick.  Alone at the house with no medical training, I spent a restless night.  Luckily the next morning I was able to get in touch with her cousin who came and picked her up on his motorcycle.  He put her on his bike and away they went for fifteen kilometers on a chaotic trail.

When I went to straighten out the mat: big surprise!!  There was a snake underneath it.  What a mystery!!  How did the snake get in?  The bigger question was why didn’t it bite the patient?