Labels. We may not like them, we may even hate them, but we all have them — tall, short, married, single, smart, skinny, needs improvement, overrated. Just hang out with a kid, they’ll label you in a second. “Your nose is too big!” shouts one snotty-nose child. “You dress funny!” sarcastically screams another. My latest claim to fame, ”You’re bald on top” (thanks for that one). Whether right or wrong, labels stick to us like unwelcome glue. They define us. They influence us. They shape us.
Thankfully, they are not always permanent. There were many men in the Bible with undesirable, unwanted labels — thief, beggar, blind man, adulterer, crippled, hypocrite. The good news is that each one was radically changed by the gospel.
How would you like this label — hunchback? Or worse, demon-possessed hunchback? This atypical label was given to one young boy in the nearby village Mandrosoa. Misguided by fear, the people of his village approached the Quasimodo mass growing on his back with prejudice, anxiety, and horror. In a culture infiltrated with fear, his rare deformity instigated ridicule and the label demon-filled hunchback. Isolation was his fate.
He did not play with or sit near the other kids during our hour-long meeting, but chose or possibly was more comfortable sitting next to me…the foreigner. For over an hour I sat next to this sweet boy wondering when he was going to manifest some sort of demon spirit. It never happened. Instead, he just smiled a pleasant and inquisitive smile that seemed above all, normal.
He made an impression on me that day. His memory is embedded in my thoughts and prayers exaggerated by the fact that we visited his village over a year ago on a survey trip, but haven’t had the resources or workers to follow up since that very first visit.
We’ve been working with a local church near his village teaching them how to go and make disciples and challenging them to share their faith with new villages. I am pleased to announce that starting April 29, 2016, this church will be sending a team each Friday afternoon to share the gospel with this boys village. Please pray for the team as we go together to shatter the darkness and witness labels radically changed.