We are grateful to Pastor Tracy Paschke-Johannes of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Muncie, IN for the story that we’re sharing with you today. It’s the story of her grandparents (Lutheran missionaries in Liberia) and her mother, who contracted malaria while she was just a baby living in Liberia. And it’s the story a of living faith that transcends war and even death. Many thanks to Pastor Tracy for sharing this inspiring story with us for World Malaria Day!
Pastor Tracy writes:
Walter and Delila Weind at their 1945 wedding, just weeks before embarking on their missionary journey.
“Rev. Walter T. and Delila Weind were missionaries to Liberia from 1945-1953 and worked in Za Za, Liberia. During this time, Delila worked as a teacher, helping children learn to read, while Walter worked as a pastor. His work included translating the Bible from English into the written Pele language. This was the first time the people of this region had received the Holy Scripture in written form in their native language. The couple was newly married, and, after they received missionary training in New York City as World War II drew to a close, they traveled to Liberia via ship. During their eight years of ministry in Liberia, the couple welcomed three children, including my mother. Delila delivered her children with the help of a midwife in a small, unlit hut with no running water.
“My mother developed malaria as a baby in Liberia and they were unsure she would survive. My grandmother often talked about their fear for the baby’s life. I am certain she had many Liberian friends who buried children who died of malaria. Delila spoke of watching her small daughter suffering from fever and pain as a result of malaria. Despite these struggles, both my grandparents spoke with joy as they shared stories of their years in Liberia. They loved the people, the culture, and most importantly, their shared faith. The family returned to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where my grandfather served Christ Lutheran Church for 30 years and Delila continued working as an elementary school teacher.
“After their return to Canada, Delila and Walter watched on television as civil war and conflict took over Liberia. While I can’t confirm, I believe they thought that the church they built was destroyed, and they feared that all the people with whom they shared ministry were killed in the conflict. When I asked my grandfather if he was still in contact with anyone from Liberia, he sadly and simply answered, “they are all dead.” I believe they may have felt their work and the church they helped to build were leveled, and the children they helped educate were dead. There was a deep, unspoken grief for my grandfather at the end of his life, believing their work had been undone.
In a more recent photo, Delila delights in her great-granddaughter.
“But God wasn’t done—the faith of the Liberian people, a faith that my grandparents helped to nurture, was alive amid the ruins of civil war. In the early 2000s, it was the faithful women of Liberia who worked to bring peace to the country. When my grandmother watched these events unfold on television, she said ‘Perhaps our work wasn’t all undone. Maybe it did indeed make a difference.’
“Today, you are working to bring an end to malaria in Liberia, and I believe the best way to honor my grandmother is through a contribution to your efforts. She is connected to this program—as a woman who helped share the Gospel in Liberia and as a mother who watched her daughter suffer from this disease. And now, as she is joined the company of the saints–those glorious Liberian saints, who by faith, built churches and then, when civil war broke out, were taken into those same churches and killed. Delila is now joined with these faithful saints.
“We give thanks to the saints on earth who will carry on the work she began 60 years ago. Work that will bring an end to the suffering and death of children in a country she loved so dearly.
“May God bless you in your work. To God be given all honor and glory.
“For All the Saints, who from their labor rest….”
(Delila Weind died on April 21, 2012. This story honors her remarkable life.)