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Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15b-16a ESV)

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5/04/2004

Today in Church History 

Taking a Stand.

On this day in 1873, a Catholic priest known simply as Father Damien purposed in his heart that he would not take the easy way out -- he would, almost literally, enter hell to witness to the people there.

Father Damien was a missionary to Hawaii. I met some missionaries to Hawaii while in college; I expected lots of pictures of people on the beach, accounts of Christian luaus, the works. What I saw shamed me. Poverty, disease, things that the tourist board doesn't want people to know about. And above all, lost souls hungering for Christ.

Father Damien faced similar conditions in Hawaii, specifically in the leper colonies that he went to. Leperous men attacked young girls whose condition had not yet deteriorated. Living conditions that rival the worst third-world nation today, huts filled with filth -- this is what Father Damien faced as he began his ministry to the lepers.

He was given opportunities to give up and leave, but he refused. He managed to get fresh water to the settlement. He taught the people there how to farm, and helped set up many farms there. He helped build new houses, tearing down the hovels that were there.

He made a difference in the lives of people. He showed that he cared, and the people saw Christ in him. His evangelism efforts saw much fruit. The authorities on the island tried to get him to leave, even making up stories about him. He stayed, until he finally became one of the lepers that he was ministering to. He was dead four years after contracting the disease.

But his testimony lives on, an example for us to follow.


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