The heroes I know don’t have names or faces. You may never hear their stories. They are unassuming misfits and ragamuffins whom the world has overlooked. They fade into the background of mainstream Christian media and priorities. They are nobodies.

But today, allow me bring to light for you one of these unknown heroes.

His name is Brother Zhang. He is a 5’4″ Chinese man who lives in Southwest China. He has a gleaming smile and a jovial, magnetic spirit. But few would ever dream of doing what Brother Zhang do.

You see, he ministers among China’s penurious community of leprosy victims.

Week after week, he rubs shoulders with people who are missing limbs and fingers; whose bodies and faces have been marred by a terrifying, degenerative disease. He holds hands with them. He smiles with them. He treats them like people, not crippled victims and tragic projects.


I met him today in our Chinese house church. He told me about his ministry. I was amazed at his faithfulness in leaving his occupation to serve the leper community.

“There are 20,000 lepers in [this province],” he told me. “And though their bodies are marred by disease, what they need more than anything else is healing of the heart.”

Many of these leper victims have been shunned by family. They have few friends. But Brother Zhang has become a friend to them. Even more than that: he has become Jesus to those who are in need of divine love and mercy.

“I have personally shared the gospel with over 1,000 lepers,” Brother Zhang told me. “Over 100 of them have given their lives to the Lord!”

As Brother Zhang shared his ministry with me, I was suddenly struck with the reality that I was standing in the presence of a hero. He is a hero of the faith that you will never notice. He stands on the sidelines of the facade of Christian celebrity, blending into the crowd. He stands so far off to the sidelines that Jesus is allowed to take center stage. All eyes focus on the true Healer—one who heals body, soul and spirit.

After the Within Reach Global church ended, I hugged Brother Zhang and told him, “You are my hero!” He, of course, made little of my praises. “I am just doing what God has called me to do,” he replied.

But Brother Zhang is, in fact, a hero. You may never see his name in lights. His face will never be front and center on a New York Times bestseller. But I often wonder at the stories his life is penning among the poor. I believe time will reveal the tremendous impact this man has made upon the world. Perhaps we will only remember his story on the other side of this transient life.


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The heroes I know are unassuming misfits and ragamuffins whom the world has overlooked. But Brother Zhang is not overlooked. He is one of many Chinese Christians who are giving their lives for the sake of the gospel, even through the most tragic of events.

Please pray with us for those who serve “the least of these”. May you too be inspired to play your part in fulfilling the Great Commission among those who have never heard the gospel.


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David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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