My Hopper great grandparents became missionaries in Korea in 1920. Joseph Hopper’s first sermon preached in Korea was to a congregation of 250 in a leper colony:
As the service began, a strange and wonderful feeling came over me. I had never seen that many people at a preparatory communion service before—and they were Korean lepers! What an inspiration to hear them sing.
O, for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my Lord and King,
The triumphs of his grace.
The words were foreign to me, but not the tune, nor the spirit in which they sang it.
My grandfather, Joe B. Hopper, became a missionary to Korea in 1948. He wrote:
Some of the happiest experiences have been in churches where all the members have leprosy. More than once I have served communion to men like this where the bread had to be placed in palm of his hand because he had no fingers with which to pick it up, and where the cup had to be held to his lips for the same reason!
Doesn’t this illustrate what our Saviour has done for a dreadfully sick world, doomed to die, separated by the disease of sin from the presence of the Heavenly father?
I once heard of one of these people at the Wilson Leprosy Colony who publicly thanked God for giving him this dread disease because otherwise he might never have been cared for in a mission hospital and heard of the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Elsewhere he wrote of the great love of the lepers for the Word of God:
In Korea it has been my privilege to help start churches in about a half dozen villages where all the people have the dread disease of leprosy. Because few others dare help them or love them, the appreciation and response of these lepers is beyond description. A couple of years ago, while visiting one such colony, a blind leper besought me: “Cho Moksa, hear my petition. Get me some Braille scriptures so I can learn to read the Word of God.”
The Bible Society supplied the Braille Scriptures in Korean. We were able to get a young student in a school for the blind about 15 miles away to come and spend his summer vacation teaching Braille to the blind leper. Now that blind leper can read the Bible, and then in turn is teaching other blind lepers whose fingers are in such condition that they can learn to read. Isn’t this a case of “the blind leading the blind?”
Last summer when I visited their church I found a dozen or so blind lepers in the church one afternoon. I discovered it was the Scripture memory class held every week-day afternoon. “What are you learning?” I asked.
“We are on the seventh chapter of Acts, having started from the beginning.”
“What else have you learned?”
“We have memorized all of the book of Revelation, all of one of the Gospels, all of the johannine letters, and the Shorter Catechisms.”
These people have learned the word of God not only for their own spiritual nourishment but so they may share it with others.