Dr. Rodney T. Hard

A small Korean leper church where my father had preached. The one pot bellied coal briquette stove was the only source of heat on cold winter days. The buildings were drafty and had no insulation.

The women sat on the floor on one side and the men sat on the other side.

Korean leper in late 1950s

Leper woman with worn down fingers.

Lepers in Christian church in mountain village.

                                 A RUDE AWAKENING

By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

My father, Reverend Theodore Hard, had a deep commitment to bring the Word of God to the disenfranchised leper population in Korea.  Those with leprosy lived in villages way up in the mountain sides away from the rest of the population.  Any contact with them was greatly feared, so, they were shunned by society and sequestered away in their own communities to fend for themselves with little to no help from the government.

The lepers were a sad lot and most were dirt poor farmers, eking out a living in the mountainous, rocky soil.  The disease severely disfigured them.  The cartilage broke down which was most noticeable in the face where the nose caved in.  Wounds and infections did not heal.  Many had oozing sores and fingers worn down to a nub from the tissue not regenerating. 

Many of their children lived with them, and many of the children eventually ended up with leprosy.  Some children of lepers were kept in orphanages away from the parents.

My father helped establish churches in the leper colonies.  He eventually helped in the development of a Christian seminary for lepers so that the churches would have trained, ordained ministers to shepherd their flocks.

My older brother Sterling and I accompanied my father on many occasions to these far away leper villages when he went to preach at a Sunday service.  I helped my father with the visual effects when he conducted Sunday school before the service.  I sometimes did several magic tricks that my father would tie in with some kind of Biblical lesson for the kids.

As depicted in the following photograph, people sat on the floor with the women on one side and the men on the other side.

On one particular trip, we arrived on Saturday night and my father stayed overnight at the pastor’s house.  The Korean country houses were small and had one room in which the whole family slept on the floor.   There was no room for Sterling and me, so we slept in sleeping bags on the floor of the church that night.

I remember a similar trip in the past when we all did stay at the preacher's house overnight.  That trip was memorable in that in the middle of the night, the preacher’s wife woke up screaming.  She had been bitten on the head by a poisonous centipede.  Her head swelled up immediately and she was in horrible pain but there was nothing that could be done for her.  There were no phones, no ambulances, no 911 system, and limited medical resources in the remote village.

Anyway, back to my story.  Having arrived Saturday night and having gone to sleep in the church, we awoke suddenly early Sunday morning to the sound of many voices praying.  Actually, Sterling woke up first and I was awakened immediately afterward by his loud frightened yell. 

The Korean services had a time of prayer when everyone would pray out loud at the same time until the preacher finally took over the prayer and finished up at the end with a loud, “Amen!”  Many worshippers prayed fervently while sitting cross-legged and rocking forward and backward, bowing their heads almost to the floor.  Sterling awoke suddenly out of a deep sleep and was startled by the  horribly disfigured face of a leper woman, amidst fervent prayer, rocking down to within inches of his face

We had gone to sleep on the floor in the women’s section of the leper church and woke up in the middle of a bunch of  terribly frightening “monsters”.  The parishioners had quietly assembled for the daybreak service which was before Sunday School and before the main service. 

Both of us frantically started to get out of our sleeping bags, but realized that we were only wearing underpants.  When we soon recovered from the initial shock of such a sudden and rude awakening, we wormed and wriggled our way to the back of the room while still in our sleeping bags.  There, we recovered our clothes and dressed while still inside our bags. 

We then sat down in the men’s section and finished out the service.  That was a very memorable trip to say the least.