Malaria is a dreaded word in many places in the world. Mothers watch their children burn with fever and shake with chills at the same time, aching and miserably ill. Everyone dreads the possibility of this common disease turning deadly as it attacks the brain—and either kills or brings irreversible brain damage. Fifty percent of children with cerebral malaria die.
Did you know malaria ravaged parts of the southeastern USA in the early 1900s? That was turned around by implementing a radical idea: ‘prevention is better than cure.’
In its first years as a mission, Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) sponsored local Christian physicians, enabling them to care for both the physical and spiritual problems of their patients. Malaria was treated with loving concern. But frustrated parents would ask, “Couldn’t something be done to prevent malaria?” MAI knew it needed to do something different.
We’re sure most of you know malaria is spread by bites from infected anopheles mosquitos. To prevent malaria, you either need to kill the mosquitos or keep them from biting their victims.
So…how do you kill the mosquitos? Chemical spraying for mosquitos is more complicated than it used to be. Some of the most effective agents (used in the USA in the 1900s) are now known to be dangerous toxins. Local governments sometimes cannot afford the alternatives. In other cases, they do not want to spray for mosquitos because their local crops (particularly cotton) will no longer be considered ‘organic.’
And…how do you keep them from biting people? In answer, let me report a story that came from western Kenya.
Malaria was a huge problem in the town of Kadol. Bed nets had been promoted by the government health department, but the information that came with them was sparse and not to be trusted, in the view of the villagers. In addition, Kadol had much poverty, and many people slept on the ground – not on a mattress. Unable to tuck in a mosquito net, their skin often was in contact with the netting and mosquitos could bite right through the net. Nights in Kadol are often hot, causing people to remove their stuffy nets. A survey taken by the local Community Health Evangelism (CHE) workers showed some people did not have bed nets, and many more who did have nets were not using them.
The CHE volunteers did not lecture in their training. Instead they asked lots of questions. They found people had many ‘good reasons’ to not use bed nets. But people also trusted the new information brought by their CHE workers, who pointed out most of the dangerous mosquitos bite at night while their victims are sleeping. Sleeping under a mosquito net could provide protection, especially if it were occasionally dipped in an insecticide solution—easily obtainable in local markets.
As they discussed how to prevent mosquito bites, they found people had many other good ideas—easy to trust and implement because they were their own.
- Wash and treat all mosquito nets, and mend any tears.
- Use your mosquito net, even when you are hot.
- Find creative ways to keep nets from touching the sleepers they cover.
- Clear brush away from your home.
- Drain all standing water, where mosquitos can breed.
- Remove trash and any other objects that might collect rain water.
- Cover all water storage places in and around your home.
- Wear long sleeves and pants after dark.
Then as the trainers continued to listen, they heard many stories about the evil spirits for which Kadol is famous. These people clearly lived in constant fear. The good news the CHE trainers shared about the love of Jesus was very different from the evil scheming and vindictive spite that these people expected from their ‘gods.’
People were uncertain at first, but then as malaria cases dropped and the kindness of those who chose to follow Jesus increased, more and more people accepted Jesus. The local church, that had been struggling, grew and thrived. An exciting process of Christian discipleship multiplied, and one of the nastier villages in Kenya was transformed.
Isn’t it great to hear how much good is coming from your support?! Thank you so much for your continuing generosity. Your contributions financially and in fervent prayer for CHE and MAI have made a huge difference in East Africa and around the world. In our (perhaps) biased opinion, CHE is one of the most effective strategies we know, not just because results are good, but because these results are sustainable and replicable.
May the Lord bless you abundantly,
Dr. Ravi I. Jayakaran, President Dr. John Payne, MAI Advancement Facilitator
Note from Dr. Ravi: for this first newsletter since I became President of MAI, Dr. John and I have agreed to write it together. Dr. John is not going away. Because his commitment to MAI is as strong as ever, he has agreed to volunteer his time to support MAI’s desire to stay in touch with you. We both appreciate you very much.
We appreciate your prayer and financial support. Without you as a member of the team, this ministry would not be possible.