(I’m proud to share this article by Jeff Cours, who is one of the coordinators of the ELCA Malaria Campaign in the ELCA’s Pacifica Synod, which encompasses parts of Southern California and Hawaii. ~Jessica)
By Jeff Cours
In December, Bishop Ambrose Moyo traveled the United States to talk with people about the ELCA Malaria Campaign. He spoke at Hope Lutheran Church in Temecula, CA about some of the challenges Southern Africa faces and how the ELCA is helping to address them.
Ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, Bishop Moyo was later elected its presiding bishop. For a time, with the country in turmoil, death threats forced him into exile. Later, he served as executive director of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA), one of the expressions of the Lutheran World Foundation in Africa. Currently, he serves as Facilitator for Accompaniment and Capacity Building in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa through the ELCA’s Global Mission Unit.
To understand how a program like the ELCA Malaria Campaign works, you have to understand the role of the church in Southern Africa. Christianity runs deep in these countries; Zimbabwe is 70% Christian. Religious organizations operate most of the schools and hospitals. The Malaria Campaign’s approach of working through partner churches fits into this structure. Local churches understand the needs of their communities and how best to address them, and they provide a natural focal point for getting the help where it will do the most good.
And these countries definitely need the help. Eight hundred thousand die of malaria each year, the vast majority of them African children. Sixty percent of preschool-aged children, forty-nine percent of school-aged children, and nineteen percent of pregnant women get malaria each year. In some Southern African countries, malaria is the third most deadly disease.
Some rural clinics do not have anti-malarial medicines. Others do not have the equipment necessary to diagnose the disease properly, which forces them to try to diagnose people based only on symptoms, an approach that risks breeding drug-resistant strains of the disease. And imagine trying to transport a desperately ill patient over rutted dirt roads by donkey cart.
Malaria also interferes with education. During peak malaria season, there are times in the schools when half the children are out with malaria. Or the children might be there, but their teachers are absent because of the disease.
However, the ECLA Malaria Campaign is making noticeable progress. One of the Campaign’s strongest effects is hope. People are starting to believe that someone cares about what happens to them, and changing the way they act. People in rural areas are clearing brush and removing standing water from around their houses and churches. In the past, when the government came to spray mosquitoes, many people would lock their houses and disappear for the day. This year more people are letting the sprayers come in. Bishop Moyo toured a school that normally loses 5-7 students a year to malaria. This year, they lost none. The Campaign is working. Things are getting better.
The Campaign works in a quintessentially Lutheran way. LUCSA coordinates with Lutheran churches. Those churches’ bishops and pastors identify elders and interested people within each congregation, and those people act as the congregation’s focal point for the Campaign. Think of them as their congregation’s Malaria Campaign Committee. They receive training in malaria prevention, help to identify and assess needs, and coordinate activities—and there are people alive today because of them.
And because of us. The Pacifica Synod has raised over $106,000 so far. We’re planning a big push to reach our $250,000 goal, focusing on Lent and Easter. With God’s help we’ll be able to commemorate Christ’s gift to us with a deeply meaningful gift to our African brothers and sisters.
We are being called to change the world in a way that will touch millions of lives. Come help us make malaria history.