Though they consistently faced death for following Christ, they persisted. They had tasted too much of His sweetness to refuse to commune with Him again.

Twenty minutes. That was all the marines would allow me. Understandably so, as having Caucasian, freckly skin and a United States passport in the territory where ISIS is now focusing their rabid, militant energy can have its disadvantages. Security was tightened because of the bombings that week. My tribal friend and I buzzed down a narrow concrete path on the back of his 150cc motorcycle without so much as a tinted visor to conceal my identity from the militant cells that lurk within the impoverished villages we passed through. We pulled through the gate of a vast compound and proceeded into the stilted hut community within. This is a modern day leper colony inside a conflict zone. Chickens and ambiguous tan dogs scuttled out of the way as we wound between banana trees and past confused, brown faces. I felt like I stood out like a lightbulb. Eventually we stopped in between some small, wooden dwellings on stilts. I hopped off the bike, removed my helmet and followed my friends up some narrow steps into the nearest home. I am sure that what I encountered inside will stay with me for the rest of my life. A circle of kind, smiling people were seated on the wooden plank floor waiting for us. As I looked around the room I caught a powerful, pure light that glinted in their eyes as they smiled to greet me. Each one of these people had been plagued with leprosy. Some of them were missing fingers and noses. Or so I was told. As I looked around the room, I could see nothing but healthy, whole people looking at me. Each one had been healed by Jesus. Missing digits were restored by His miraculous power. This is the reason they came to follow Him. Since their healing, they had formed a house church right there in the leper colony. The other residents and even the local government had taken notice of what happened. Though they consistently faced death for following Christ, they persisted. They had tasted too much of His sweetness to refuse to commune with Him again. This was like finding a mysterious name scrawled in wet cement before it dried. Jesus of Nazareth had been here as truly as He’s ever been anywhere. The beauty of Christ flooded my consciousness. It was apparent also that as surely as He had been there, leaving a trail of miracles of biblical proportions, He had remained; as evidenced by the familiar light I saw shining in the eyes of these saints. Signs point me to Him. With increasing clarity I can sense His rough, scarred, but profoundly gentle hand extended toward me. His haunting invitation echoes in the deep places of my soul, “If you want to come after Me, take up your cross and follow Me.” 

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