When I was a kid, Sunday School hour consisted of stories from the Bible told on a flannel-graph board. For those of you not familiar with flannel-graph, which would be everyone 25 and younger, it is a piece of cloth (think flannel sheets) with a basic background printed on the back. Then, cut out characters made of paper are attached to the flannel background with a fuzzy-like substance which is stuck to the back of them.
It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds.
One of the stories I remember being told during Sunday School flannel-graph time is the story of the one thankful leper. In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus is travelling between Samaria and Galilee and when he enters a village, he is met by 10 lepers who stand off in the distance. The mention of distance in the story is significant, since lepers spent their lives ostracized from the group because they were infectious. They cry out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus tells them to go and visit the priest. The priest functioned as a sort of medical intermediary, and he would determine from looking at the leprosy whether it was infectious or was clearing up. In faith, these ten lepers agree to go, but while they are going to the priest, they realize that they are completely cleansed of their leprosy.
If we understood the kind of shame and loneliness that belonged to a leper, we would doubtless understand the magnitude of this miracle. These men have been transformed from beggars to blessed. They have won back all the friendships, community connections and family relationships that they had to abandon because of their illness. It must have been an overwhelming moment. Now, even though this momentous thing has happened, only one of the lepers returns to find Jesus and thank him for the miracle he performed on their behalf. I’m sure in the excitement of what happened, the lepers may have just forgotten to return to thank Jesus for the miracle he did for them.
I don’t want to be a thankless leper. And so, in the excitement of returning home and sharing with folks our memories of South Africa, I want to say my thanks. Thank you Fundamental Baptist Church. Thanks for giving us the funds and the time to go. Thank you, Dan and Karyn Hassman (and Kristianne, Alissa, Elianna and Annalisse) for your hospitality and openness. Thank you Paul, Merris, Alyce, George, and church family in Joburg for making us feel welcome and appreciated. Thank you Dave and Julie Rudolph, for your hospitality and friendship. Thanks for allowing us to invade you lives for 8 days. Thank you Phil and Kristen (and Rayna, Erin and Brinne) Golson for your hospitality and the introduction to sticky rice. Thanks to you Amy, for helping us learn why we should never eat McDonald’s in South Africa. Thank you Pastor Nelson, for being a encouragement. Thank you Colin, for an unforgettable testimony. Thank you, Pastor Cupar, for coming and showing us the Everglen Baptist Church. Thank you to all those people along the Garden Route who we met, who enriched our lives, increased our faith and helped to shake us out of our apathy. Thanks to Mike and Elva Farrell for rising early to come and walk Paris with us. We appreciated your tenacity and enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone who made this trip what it was. We are overwhelmed. We feel cleansed and excited, but we don’t want to forget to say thanks. We rejoice with all of you in all that God is doing. And we are grateful for your ministry to us!
And last, but not least, I want to personally thank John Daker for all the laughs (you had to be there).