ELCA Malaria Campaign

Make Malaria History

Nothing too Gruesome

Posted on August 29, 2012 by jessicanipp

Many thanks to our Global Mission colleague Matt Bishop for sharing these reflections!

“Nothing too gruesome,” she said, smiling.

It’s been a long year since I started working in ELCA Global Mission, and in that time I’ve more than doubled my lifetime frequent-flyer miles visiting antimalarial programs in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa (where the offices of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa—or LUCSA—are located). Distance is only one of the ways that my job takes me a long ways from home. So I was excited when my home congregation invited me back to the ole’ stomping grounds to talk about the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

Matt Bishop highlights the sample net used by the Westlake VBS. The red dots are the “mosquitoes” that were removed as children brought in their donations to the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

Some of the churches in Westlake, Ohio run a community-wide Vacation Bible School each summer, and for this year’s mission project, this ecumenical consortium elected to support the ELCA Malaria Campaign. The community’s ELCA congregation borrowed a mosquito net from the synod office and pinned it full of mock mosquitos:  tiny cartoon bugs attached to clothespins. Whenever a child brought in a contribution for the Malaria Campaign, he or she would receive a mosquito-pin. The goal:  eliminate the mosquitos from the net just as the ELCA is helping its brothers and sisters in Africa to eliminate the effects of malaria in their lives.

My job was to introduce this theme and teach the children a thing or two about malaria—an illness with which they’ve probably never interacted. I got these instructions as I waited in the sanctuary for the young crowd to arrive, along with a little advice.

“Nothing too gruesome.” We don’t want to scare anyone, and these kids probably won’t really understand. “Nothing scientific, and maybe don’t even talk about death.” I understand the sentiment and I have no wish to betray my hosts’ hospitality, especially as I return home representing both my congregation and the ELCA to this community. While I’m not personally a fan of stereotypical suburban sheltering, there are plenty of ways we can do this.

Matt Bishop speaks with Vacation Bible School participants in Westlake, OH.

“So tell me, who’s had a mosquito bite before? One, two, three…okay so everybody! Good. How about this summer? One, two…okay I get it, still everybody. I just got my first one last weekend. And what happens when you get a mosquito bite? Yes, it itches. Pretty annoying, right? It gets red, good. Yeah? Ha yeah, your mom tells you not to scratch it or it gets worse! Okay, so it’s a little different in Africa. In some parts of Africa, a mosquito bite can give you malaria. Does anyone know what happens when you get malaria?”

As I scanned the room, a little girl sitting front and center almost lost her cross-legged balance, her arm shot up so fast.

“You die.”

Well, the cat’s out of the proverbial bag now, isn’t it? I would have accepted fever, headaches, or nausea. Or chills, vomiting, or body aches. Even loss of productivity and malaise. But, since you mentioned it, there’s also death. And that’s why we’re doing this. Because children just like the children in Westlake, Ohio get sick and miss school. Their parents get sick and miss work. And the effects are tragically multiplicative in a context of poverty. If you’re too sick to cook you can’t just order carryout; if you’re too sick to work you can’t just tap into the savings account; if you’re too sick to collect water then there’s just no water. Maybe your children can do it for you? Or if your children are sick then they can’t go to school and get the educations they deserve—these children who are especially vulnerable to illness, one of whom dies every minute in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Okay, so maybe a little gruesome today, sorry about that! But these Ohioan children know—at least a little bit—about what’s going on. I don’t know if they remember me, or what they remember about our brief chat at the very beginning of a busy Vacation Bible School week. But I do know two things:  first, that I’ll remember them; and second, that they responded. They earned each and every one of those mosquito-clothespins and raised $775 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. In this way they will always be connected to their brothers and sisters in Christ, even from thousands of miles away. And I think it’s safe to assume they’ll remember at least a little.

Standing in the Shadow of Kilimanjaro

Posted on August 27, 2012 by allisonbeebe
The Rev. Dr. Jack Horner  of the Metroplitan New York Synod recently climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro to benefit the ELCA Malaria Campaign. This story has been featured in previous blogs here and here. Below is his reflection on their journey.
August 06, 2012

I came to Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania in an effort to raise money for the Metropolitan New York Synod’s support of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  The mountain is the largest free standing mountain in the world and its peak, Uhuru, (Swahili for “freedom”) is the highest point on the continent of Africa. It took us 7 days beginning in the rain forests on the western slope to get us in position for the summit attempt.  The hiking was long, but not particularly challenging.  The summit day was another thing altogether. 

Pastors Wyvetta Bullock, Jack Horner and Carol Fryer together in Tanzania

We started at midnight following the long line of headlamp lights zigzagging up the steep mountain switchback trails.  The air got noticeably thinner, windier,  and colder the higher we went. I also became aware that we could see the stars, amazing bright in the sky, horizontally.  Around 6:30 in the morning, dawn began to break and we saw how far we had come and how much farther we had to go. As the air got thinner I needed to ask our guide a number of times to stop just so I could get a “full” breath.

 It took 8+ hours of slow and steady steps to make the summit of Uhuru Peak.  After a short break for pictures we made our way back down mountain for the four hour hike to basecamp. (High altitude, low oxygen, frigid air is not a hospitable atmosphere no matter how nice the view is!).  After lunch we were on our way again to our last camp,  content with our accomplishment but questioning our sanity for what was the most physically and emotionally grueling day for any of us. Why did we put ourselves through this?That night, I had a dream. I stood at he base of Kilimanjaro with an man and a child.  He asked me, “Will you climb this mountain so this child can live?”

I wanted to conquer Kilimanjaro. In the end I think Kilimanjaro conquered me.  But if one child can live because of our efforts to raise money and awareness to conquer malaria it was all worth it.

Pastor Jack Horner at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

New resource for congregations

Posted on August 1, 2012 by jessicanipp

Friends, we’re very pleased to let you know that a new ELCA Malaria Campaign resource is available!  It’s our Congregation Action Kit, a quick and easy tool for bringing the ELCA Malaria Campaign into your congregation.

Order a Congregation Action Kit today!

The Congregation Action Kit is a 20-page, spiral-bound resource that is chock-full of ideas and templates for ELCA Malaria Campaign activities.  For example, it will tell you how to create a “malaria infestation” in your congregation, and provide templates for thank-you notes to send to your congregational volunteers. It also provides some background on malaria transmission and prevention, helpful tips for putting together a malaria team in your congregation, and some great examples of “ideas that worked” in other congregations across the ELCA.

If you’ve been hoping to engage your congregation in the ELCA Malaria Campaign, this is a great place to start. You can order a copy of the ELCA Malaria Campaign Congregation Action Kit here. (It’s free!)

(Synod staff or synod malaria coordinators: how about encouraging every congregation in your synod to order a Congregation Action Kit?) 

We’ve been working hard to provide a variety of ELCA Malaria Campaign resources for your synod and your congregation. Check out our resources page for a list of all of the materials that are available!