I’ve never given feet much thought. Mine are mercifully far away, rarely cause trouble and spend most of the day out of sight. As for toes, those weird little worms, I’ve tried not to think about them at all. But 2 weeks in Nepal have given me a whole new appreciation of all things sub-ankly.

I was part of a team from Nepal Leprosy Trust Ireland (nlt.ie) visiting NLT’s workshop in Kathmandu and Lalgadh Hospital in the south east, a region that suffers a mysteriously high incidence of leprosy. Groundbreaking work at the hospital and in surrounding districts is curing the double disease of leprosy: the physical sickness and the social stigma that can force people from their homes to live and die alone.

15 years ago her husband tried to kill her on learning she had leprosy, which is traditionally viewed as a divine curse. The bacterial infection damages nerves, leading to loss of feeling and muscle activity, especially in the feet, hands and eyes.

Laxmi found her way to Lalgadh, the busiest leprosy hospital in the world. After treatment and cure, NLT helped her set up a small business. That’s now grown to 3; she rears goats and sells incense and lemon juice, and her son attends school. She also runs a group in her village that supports other people affected by leprosy. Members meet regularly to share advice and wash their nerve-damaged feet to prevent infection.

After visiting such hot, dusty villages and returning to our guest house at Lalgadh Hospital, my own feet craved a drink. Forget coffee, whisky or Red Bull – it was a good old soak that did it. And at the risk of forcing a metaphor, the whole hospital is the bowl. The staff demonstrate amazing servant leadership, that revolutionary, upside-down lifestyle modelled by Jesus. The doctors who’ve sacrificed their status to work in the field of leprosy, the field staff who touch the ‘untouchables’ in surrounding villages, the drivers who serve you lunch, the nurses who cook you dinner. Talk about washing feet.

Jesus got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. …  Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer.’                                                             

John 13