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That the life of Jesus may be manifested: An interview with Dan Izzett

Lathrop: In 1972, you discovered that you had a health problem. What was that?

… always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (2 Corinthians 4:10).

Izzett: In February 1972, I was diagnosed with lepromatous leprosy. At that time I was working on civil engineering construction projects, building large earth filled dams. This diagnosis only took place after a number of years of being wrongly treated for syphilis. These were difficult times for a newly married couple. But the blood tests kept showing a positive for syphilis and I was being given the wrong treatment.

It was a family secret for 28 years. We did let those who were close family and close friends know about our situation, but because of the stigma and fear of the disease we kept it to ourselves. It was not until 1999 that we went public about our disease.

 

Lathrop: How did you respond when you found out that you had leprosy?

Izzett: With veiled joy because it could be treated and that it was not syphilis. But also full of fear that we would have to go “outside the city gate and walk around ringing a bell and calling out: leper, leper and wear sack cloth”. I kept asking myself: Will everyone reject me? Will I still be able to work, have a family? There were many other negative aspects I thought about. Leprosy is a feared disease that few understand.

Dan and Babs Izzett

When we got home after the shocking announcement, I had a chat with Babs and put the following proposal to her: As we did not know that I had leprosy when we got married, I was prepared to have our marriage annulled so that she could rebuild her life. Her reply to me was that this was not an option. She said that she married me because she loved me and that in August 1970, before God and man, she had made a commitment; “for better, for worse, in sickness and health” and would not renege on that.

In 1977 my wife Babs was diagnosed with leprosy, when she was pregnant with our second son. She had pinkish blotches on her back, arms and face. Again, this began as another misdiagnosis. She was told that it was a hormonal imbalance because she was pregnant. But one day, she burnt her forearm and felt no pain. This alerted us and we went to the leprosy doctor. She also had contracted leprosy, and she could only have gotten it from me.

Babs has been my tower of strength, friend, lover, the mother of our two sons, and loves Jesus! What more could a man ask for?

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Category: Fall 2015, Living the Faith

About the Author: Dan Izzett has been serving churches, in southern Africa and around the world, since 1975. In 1986, he planted a church and pastored there until retiring in 2012. Dan is best known for his advocacy for those suffering from leprosy.

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