By Adriane Dorr
“We are ready to break the silence of awareness about malaria,” said Archbishop Christian Ekong, president of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN).
Following his attendance at Concordia Theological Seminary’s annual Symposia in Fort Wayne, Ind., Jan. 17-20, Ekong traveled to St. Louis to meet with staff from the LCMS Office of International Mission Jan. 26. On the agenda: an action plan for engaging the work of Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) in Nigeria.
The LCMS began work in Nigeria (www.lcms.org/nigeria) in 1936, and some 75 years later, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria and the LCMS are sister/partner churches and are now working together through LMI to combat malaria.
“We started [talking] some three years ago,” said Ekong, “looking at some of the areas of operation in our churches and deciding … how to fight the scourge of malaria.”
Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable. “We know that if pregnant women have malaria, the baby will also be affected,” noted Ekong. “When the baby is affected with malaria from the womb, the chances of survival are quite slim.”
Some 140,000 members comprise the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
“There is no Nigerian who is not affected by malaria,” said Ekong. “There is no escaping the mosquitoes. They are everywhere.”
The church has been proactive, he added. Delegates to the last Lutheran Church of Nigeria convention voted to adopt the LMI program, and a free medical malaria clinic was opened in conjunction with the convention. Now the church is looking to move forward, and the LCMS is eager to help.
“The LCN is making a powerful impact in the lives of Nigerians,” said Kama Bernabo, LCMS director of ministry mobilization and a member of the LMI program committee. “[The LCN’s] talented and dedicated members are on the front line in the fight against malaria. What a blessing to work together through LMI.”
“The initial funding that we are looking for … is to bring up those outlets that will be used to target our education, our distribution, our medication,” Ekong explained. “The LCMS is a support effort, which we appreciate greatly.”
Ekong and the staff of the LCMS Office of International Mission are already putting together a schedule for “personnel from the LCMS to come help us as volunteers,” said Ekong. An encouragement to the Nigerian people, such a visit would also “excite the folks [of the LCMS] to be involved in the work that we’ve begun so fully in Nigeria.”
But the medication and education are not offered alone. “It is a holistic health care,” explained Ekong.
A principal focus of LMI is to reach people at “the last mile” – in remote communities where the LCMS and the Lutheran Church of Nigeria already have a presence. Beginning with that foundation, the initiative can then reach out to other communities in mercy, “so that the Nigerian people may understand that all we have has been given us by Christ,” Ekong said.
Excited about the future, Ekong requested “prayers for our members to be committed to the confessional teachings of the Gospel. In Nigeria, people feel they are running out of miracles. They are running toward a prosperity gospel. But my prayer is that the Lord should keep our members focused on confessional teachings and on the Gospel.”
LMI is a partnership of Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, and The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod to mobilize U.S. Lutherans in the global effort to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. LMI is made possible through support from the United Nations Foundation.
Posted Jan. 27, 2012