"Malaria has a face for this congregation."
There are many reasons that we, as ELCA Lutherans, support a Malaria Campaign. We see it as a part of our Christian calling to love and care for our neighbors. We seek justice against a disease that disproportionately affects those living in poverty. We believe that no one should die from a disease that is both preventable and treatable. For the congregation of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, MN, it was a personal connection to malaria that motivated them to work against this medical injustice.
As Incarnation Lutheran prepared for an Advent 2013 Malaria Campaign, their newsletter informed the congregation, "You may not realize that malaria has a face for this congregation. In 2004, one of the theological students that Incarnation sponsored at Tumaini University was named Wema. After she graduated, she became the pastor at one of the schools supported by the Iringa Diocese. In March of 2010, Wema died of malaria. She had just been married and she was only 27 years old."
Wema's story is tragic. She was a young, Lutheran pastor; a member of our global church communion, The Lutheran World Federation. She was a newlywed. She worked at a school, inspiring children to grow in their faith. She received a scholarship to go to seminary thanks to the generosity of members at Incarnation. Her young life ended too soon. It is the hope of the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and our Lutheran partners in Africa, that someday there will be no more untimely deaths from this preventable, treatable disease.
During the Advent season, the focus at Incarnation was to "give the gift of health" by supporting the ELCA Malaria Campaign. The congregation joined the effort against malaria with an Alternate Gifts Fair. People could purchase gifts to support many good causes, and the ELCA Malaria Campaign was one of them. The children's ministries had their own effort which they called "Nickels for Nets". It was an intergenerational effort, involving the whole congregation.
As we work to reduce the rates of malaria in this world, we remember Wema, and pray that tragic stories like hers will someday be no more. We are grateful for congregations like Incarnation Lutheran Church, who join us in the hope of a bright and malaria-free future for all.