DETROIT — The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Baltimore, and the United Nations Foundation announced June 27 an unprecedented partnership to mobilize Lutherans in the United States in the fight against malaria in Africa.
The Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) campaign aims to raise $45 million to contribute toward the global goal of eliminating malaria deaths in Africa by 2015.
The Synod’s participation in this effort comes in response to 2010 Convention Resolution 6-04A, which resolved “that the LCMS through its agencies, congregations, schools, universities and seminaries support LMI … [and] join LMI in this effort.”
Malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, continues to devastate communities and perpetuate a cycle of poverty. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1 million people die of malaria each year, and every 45 seconds a child dies in Africa. In many communities where LWR and the LCMS work, extreme poverty creates conditions that allow malaria to take hold and spread with deadly consequence.
At a news conference held June 27 at Detroit’s Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, leaders of the LMI partnership joined representatives from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) to announce the campaign and discuss the crucial role of churches and faith-based institutions in the effort to end malaria deaths.
The news conference followed a “leadership launch” June 26 at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Dr. John Nunes, LWR’s president and CEO, opened the June 27 news conference.
“I am excited to be here today with the LMI partners,” he said. “This is a day that has been years in the making, and for which millions around the world have been waiting.”
Nunes added that 80 percent of malaria deaths are pregnant mothers and children under age 5.
LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison reminded participants that “the Lutheran footprint for providing care and mercy for those in trouble and suffering is enormous. One in 50 Americans last year was served in this country by a Lutheran social-ministry institution.”
Elsewhere, “for decades, we have been working with partners and fellow Lutherans at the ‘end of the dirt road.'” Harrison said. “Today, we are delighted to come alongside the LMI partners to take a huge bite out of this horrid disease.”
Nunes explained one of the ways in which LMI would be operating is through the distribution of mosquito bed nets. “For $10 an individual, a congregation, a youth group or school can raise money and donate that money,” he said. “For $10, a family can be protected for three years from malaria.”
Dr. Gloria Edwards, co-chair of the LMI National Campaign Cabinet, a member of the LCMS Board of Directors and a past president of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, offered insights on her reasons for becoming involved in the initiative.
“My husband and I believe in saying yes to the open doors God places before us,” she said. “We went to East Africa not long ago and saw a young woman in a malaria-induced coma. We also saw other young children who demonstrated how to use a bed net, and how to let their parents know when they are not feeling well so that they can be taken to the doctor. We are excited to be a part of helping more children and families know how to prevent malaria as well as what to do when they get sick with the disease.”
Edwards is co-chair of the LMI National Campaign Cabinet with Dr. Kurt Senske, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South, chair of the Board of Directors of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, and like Edwards, a member of the LCMS Board of Directors.
The third co-chair of the campaign cabinet is Dr. Scott Bruzek, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Wheaton, Ill., and a guest lecturer at Wheaton College.
At the leadership launch June 26, Lutheran Hour Speaker Rev. Greg Seltz based his opening devotion on Eph. 5:1-2: “I don’t know if there’s another verse that more fittingly describes what we’re doing here today. What is the ‘LWR Malaria Initiative’ if it is not the love of Jesus Christ in action,” he said.
Seltz also reminded his listeners that malaria most often hits the most vulnerable.
In closing the news conference, Nicolas Demey, corporate partnerships officer with the Global Fund, said, “It is an honor to work with LMI to help end malaria deaths in Africa. We have the tools and know what we need to do to end these needless deaths. We can do it.”
Following the news conference, Kathy Calvin, CEO of the UN Foundation, added the following: “Between 40 percent and 60 percent of health care in developing countries is provided by faith-based organizations, like our Lutheran partners. It is inspiring to see how the Lutheran community in the U.S. can help the UN reach families in rural villages on the other side of the world.”
On June 25, at its 34th Biennial Convention in Peoria, Ill., the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League adopted a $100,000 mission grant to support the work of LMI in Kenya.
The news conference is available online at www.youtube.com/lutheranmalariavideo.
Posted July 2, 2011