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ELCA beginning anti-malaria work in Liberia
Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) extended their observance of “World Malaria Day” from April 25 to May 1 with a goal of raising $200,000 to help end death from malaria. Gifts to the ELCA Malaria Campaign will allow the church to expand its anti-malaria work to include Liberia.
Malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, is a leading cause of death in Africa, claiming the life of a child every 45 seconds. In Liberia, malaria accounts for 30 percent of all deaths seen in hospitals.
Through the ELCA Malaria Campaign, rolled out by the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, ELCA members are working with Lutheran churches in Africa to prevent, treat and contain the disease by 2015. A goal of the campaign is to raise $15 million and support the anti-malaria efforts of Lutheran churches and organizations in eleven African countries.
“World Malaria Day invites all of us to reflect on the global companionship that is vital to the identity of the ELCA,” said Jessica Nipp, coordinator of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. “We are a global church, accompanied on our faith journey by our Lutheran sisters and brothers in countries around the world.”
“Malaria is a medical injustice, and God calls us to fight against injustice,” said Nipp. “Working together, we can equip our Lutheran companions to treat, prevent and educate about malaria in ways that will make a life-saving difference. We are a church that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work. It’s time for us to take the next step in the ELCA Malaria Campaign,” she said.
“I believe that, as a Lutheran Christian, taking care of the physical body should be a mission of the church,” said Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, Liberia’s minister of health and social welfare and a member of the Lutheran Church in Liberia.
The ELCA and the Lutheran Church in Liberia are members of The Lutheran World Federation. The ELCA is the federation’s only member from the United States.
The ELCA Malaria Campaign raised $203,000 during this special campaign, surpassing their goal and raising enough to begin engagement in Liberia. More information at http://bit.ly/JysxDq
Called into the world, ELCA young adults put their faith into action
Two years ago Stephanie Berkas set out to Cape Town, South Africa, to work in a Lutheran congregation and an elementary school there. Having lived in Minnesota for the majority of her life, she knew she would be stepping out of her comfort zone but did not anticipate just how life-changing her experience would be.
“My experience in South Africa was formative in that I grew up as a person, but it was transformative in that there was a death and resurrection for me – part of my identity died but a new life” surfaced before me, said Berkas, who today is a first-year student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, one of eight ELCA seminaries.
Berkas volunteered in South Africa as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) churchwide ministry for young adults serving overseas. Participants, ranging in age from 19 to 29, are appointed to serve in Argentina, Uruguay, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Hungary, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Service opportunities range from congregational ministries to health and development, from education to social ministries.
More than 55 young adults will begin service in August 2012. They will undergo orientation in Chicago and leave from here to their respective destinations.
“It’s a unique opportunity that allows young adults to concretely link their faith with action,” according to the Rev. Heidi Torgerson-Martinez, director of the program. “For almost all of our participants, faith and action are inseparable.”
The ELCA began this work in 1999 with 10 participants serving in the United Kingdom. Nearly 400 young adults have participated in the ministry since, said Torgerson-Martinez, adding that about 80 percent of these young adults go on to graduate school. Of the 80 percent, 31 percent entered seminary, while others have pursued graduate degrees in human rights law, medicine and social work.
More information at www.ELCA.org/yagm.
One participant this year is from the Southeastern Minnesota Synod: Kaia Duffus from Trinity Lutheran Church, Owatonna, Minn.