Thanks to Lutheran Malaria Initiative programming, lives are already being changed in Africa. Through education, LMI can help change the behavior of the population thereby eliminating the risk of malaria deaths, giving Africans a chance at life and the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
by Martha Mitkos
Hidden along a dirt road deep in the rolling hills of Tanzania is a community of believers. This group of Christians feels so blessed by what God has done for them that they walk over five kilometers in the pouring rain to hear God’s Word preached in their native tongue. They sit on a cold, dirt floor for four hours, praying, praising and giving thanks. They come bearing gifts of bananas, eggs, beans or sugarcane, presenting their firstfruits as gifts of thanksgiving for the blessings God has bestowed upon them.
As part of the delegation from the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), our goal during this, my first trip to Africa, was to witness firsthand the work that LMI has done through its generous supporters in the United States. Meeting these Christians was all the proof we needed. But there was more. These same people, who live on less than $1 a day (1,500 Tanzanian shillings), presented us with gifts of appreciation for the mosquito nets and malaria-prevention training LMI has provided their villages. The value of their gifts would have easily provided each family with sustenance for five days, but their gratefulness for the love shown by their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world was undeterred.
Just two years ago, the pastor in the Kashenye parish in the Kagera region of Tanzania told us he was burying an average of one child a month. Thanks to LMI programming, which was implemented by the Northwest Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, the people of the parish are celebrating restored health and hope, both of which were evident in the smiling faces of their children.
Kashenye is just the first of 13 dioceses to receive LMI programming. There are hundreds of communities just like Kagera throughout Africa where care for those suffering from malaria costs 1018 percent of a family’s annual income. Yet throughout our time in Tanzania, the LMI delegation was thanked profusely by the church, its members and their families for the care and concern shown by Lutherans in the United States.
When we arrived at the Kagera church, children lined the road singing, “Wanachi tutumie chadaruwa” or “Community take precaution” in welcome. Inside that same church, the children have learned and can now recite the dangers of malaria, taught to them by their diocese pastors and teachers. And still the education continues. In Mwanza, Tanzania, 55 pastors from the East Lake Victoria diocese are eager to begin their LMI training and implementing programs in their home communities.
John Fulli, country coordinator for LMI in Tanzania, shared, “When we can change the behavior of a population by just 50 percent, the number of malaria cases will decrease by 80 percent.” Behavior modification includes sleeping under bed nets nightly, identifying symptoms and seeking diagnosis and treatment immediately for malaria. Through education, LMI can help change the behavior of the population, thereby reducing the risk of malaria deaths and giving Africans a chance at life and the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
Each of us has the ability to provide care for our neighbors in Africa. Each of us has the ability to give Christians and those who do not yet know Christ a chance at life. Each of us has the ability to help pregnant women and children under the age of five, those most susceptible to malaria, live full lives.
To date, LMI has, with your help and by God’s mercy, raised $2 million for LMI programming in Africa. We are still striving to reach a $45 million goal by Dec. 31, 2013. Fifteen districts of the LCMS have already committed to raising funds for LMI, and 1,700 congregations, schools and other Lutheran organizations are engaging in fund-raising activities. Using their talents and gifts, congregations are raising funds through benefit concerts, bake sales or simply filling prescription medicine bottles with 40 quarters. These gifts are used to purchase bed nets and assist with educating, diagnosing and purchasing the medication needed to treat malaria.
With only 24 months remaining until the end of the campaign, please consider raising funds in your church, school, LWML or small-group Bible study. Through LMI, you, the people of the LCMS, have the unique ability to show the people of Africa the church’s three-fold emphasis of witness, mercy, life together. Please join with the LCMS and her members as we work together to bear witness to Christ, show mercy to those who are suffering and come alongside our neighbors in our life together.
> Every 45 seconds, a child in Africa dies from malaria.
> Ask your pastor if he has received or requested an LMI starter kit for your congregation.
> Go online to www.lutheranmalaria.org/ for more information.
> Interested in LMI? Call the campaign office at 314-996-1322.
About the author: Martha Mitkos serves as campaign director for LMI.