ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 15, 2013
ELCA members journey to southern Africa for malaria campaign
CHICAGO (ELCA) — Embarking on a “journey of listening and learning,” a group of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) members will travel March 16-25 to southern Africa to visit Lutheran companion churches working to help contain the deadly disease of malaria.
“This is not just about going on a trip but entering into a long term relationship that will change all of us,” said the Rev. Philip Knutson, an ELCA regional representative in southern Africa. “What people need most, and that is true for guests and hosts, is for us to listen to each other and learn how to walk together. It is good to know that by God’s grace we will be walking together for some time learning what it means to participate in God’s mission of transformation, reconciliation and mutual empowerment for the sake of the life of the world.”
Although malaria is preventable and treatable, each year more than 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa become infected with the disease and more than 600,000 people die, many of these children under the age of 5.
ELCA members have committed to raise $15 million by 2015 to help Lutheran churches in Africa in their efforts to prevent and treat malaria and to educate communities about the disease. To date ELCA congregations have raised $6.5 million to help bring an end to malaria-related deaths. The ELCA has partnered with 11 churches across Africa through its ELCA Malaria Campaign.
“The accompaniment of our global companions through the malaria campaign provides an unparalleled opportunity for ELCA members to connect with our brothers and sisters who live the health challenges of malaria on a daily basis in the countries in which they live,” said Dr. Carl Stecker, ELCA director for diakonia and a participant on the trip.” We are part of something larger that neither the ELCA nor our global companion churches could do without the other. Without this partnership it would be unlikely that ELCA members would know the extent to which malaria affects our global companions.”
Rolled out by the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the campaign provides mosquito nets, insecticides, medication, health care, education and more.
“I think it’s pretty amazing when you think about raising $15 million over five years,” said Christina Jackson-Skelton, ELCA executive director for mission advancement. “This campaign is supported by the whole churchwide organization. It’s supported by 65 synods and almost 10,000 congregations and by our 4 million members, because of the commitment this church has had around hunger and diseases of poverty, reaching people in a different part of the world and changing lives and being changed in the process. And not just changing their lives today, but together creating solutions so that all might live the life God had intended for them.” Jackson-Skelton is joining the journey with other churchwide colleagues.
“Synod malaria coordinators, and the synod malaria teams that they lead, have been absolutely crucial to the fundraising success of the ELCA Malaria Campaign so far. We are thrilled that the synods of the ELCA have taken ownership of the campaign, created synod fundraising goals and even, in a few cases, met those goals already. This really is a campaign of the whole ELCA, led by passionate volunteers and committed congregations,” said Jessica Nipp Hacker, ELCA Malaria Campaign coordinator.
Contributions of any size do make a difference in the lives of those most vulnerable, according to Nipp Hacker. In response to the campaign, ELCA congregations have taken part in a wide range of fundraising projects, all of which have an impact.
ELCA members Mary Wennes, co-chair for the Malaria and Hunger Task Force of the ELCA Southwest California Synod, and Pam Galster are leading the fundraising efforts at Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and will accompany the group to southern Africa.
Ascension has raised $175,000 to support the ELCA Malaria Campaign. A portion of these funds, matched by the Zimbabwe government, helped bring electricity to a rural clinic in Burure, Zimbabwe. Wennes and Galster will have the opportunity to take part in the opening celebration of the clinic while on their visit to Zimbabwe.
Wennes said she’s thrilled to visit southern Africa. “More of God’s people will be able to experience hope, healing and freedom from malaria because of ‘God’s work. Our hands.’ We are proud and grateful to be a part of the ELCA Malaria Campaign,” she said.
“We’re hoping that the participants on the trip will come to a deeper understanding of how our relationships abroad work, — our relationships with other Lutheran churches, — and also come to a deeper understanding of the problem of malaria in Africa and the impact that preventive and treatment programs can make,” said Nipp Hacker, who is also a trip participant. “And then we’re hoping that there will be a ripple effect that when the participants come back they’ll be so excited they’ll want to work not only in their congregations but also potentially in their regions, their synods to increase the excitement around the malaria campaign.”
Gus Gustafson, the chief transformation officer at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa, and his son, Grant, a high school junior, are also on the trip and will visit programs in Malawi. Their church’s Lenten offerings have been designated for the malaria campaign, which so far total $181,000. The trip provides the occasion for father and son to witness faith in action and bring back their stories to their congregation.
“We’re excited for the trip because it is a unique opportunity to be a part of the effort to eradicate one of the world’s deadliest diseases. We love experiencing different cultures, and this experience will allow us to do that while serving others and growing in our faith,” said Grant Gustafson.
“From this juncture within our life-long journey, may we learn to better listen to each other, to better walk together, and to seek to understand, rather than judge,” said Dr. Rebecca Duerst, ELCA program director for health care, another trip participant.
“What we can do today is have an impact and I think that’s where the church should be — caring for people and helping to make a difference in their lives while seeding work that will be sustainable over time,” said Jackson-Skelton.
For more information about the ELCA Malaria Campaign, visit http://www.ELCA.org/malaria.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com