Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Malaria: Invisible Disease

Bishop’s Malaria Log – 2

October 15      Mosquito bite #5 on right temple       
10 pm Luanda Pill #7

October 16      Mosquito bites #6 and #7 on left forearm

Make a joyful noise!

The district women’s choir in the Bom Jesus and Benga District sang at the opening ceremonies for the net distribution.   You have to imagine the scene.  New church building ½ built of concrete surrounded by aging, decrepit buildings that serve as parsonage, current church, and outbuildings. 

Toilets are open pit or broken plumbing.  Prop the door open an inch for light and flush with a plastic pitcher of water.  The ceremony is held in a wide, low round open air building of concrete welded beams and corrugated roof, overlooking the broad and verdant Kwanza River valley.  Life continues all around uninterrupted by our ceremony.  Pigs routing for food.  Women cooking and doing laundry.  Boys with a hoop and a stick.  In the valley below, a pick up game of basketball.

All around, in every draw and on every hillside perch neighborhoods of varying degrees of poverty.  Some are built of cement block. Really poor homes are built of sugar cane bags stretched over sticks.

As our driver drove us into the church yard, the road was lined on both sides by the district women’s choir, singing a joyous welcome.

One song was written for the occasion:

God is feeling fine because Bom Jesus is getting nets and a clinic!

Malaria – invisible disease

I believe the reports that someone dies of Malaria every 60 seconds.  And that it is first cause of death among the people of Bom Jesus.  But I can’t see it.  I don’t see people dying of the disease.  I don’t see people suffering from fevers or limp with exhaustion.  I don’t even see the mosquitos that bite me quietly in the night.  They are tiny.  They don’t buzz in my ears.  They are not like the mighty Montana mosquitos that keep you awake at night with their threatening hum. 

In the poorest neighborhood I saw, Margaret Novak and I learned from our interpreter, Rita, that many of the people don’t even recognize the early signs of Malaria.  They have a different name for the disease that causes cold symptoms.  They only call it Malaria when the fevers and sweats kick in.  Since they don’t recognize it as Malaria in the early stages, they don’t go for treatment until the disease is far advanced.  So, patiently, Rita explained to one woman how when a mosquito bites you, a parasite enters your blood and grows there.  At first it causes cold symptoms.  Later it causes more severe symptoms.  If you go to the doctor when the first symptoms appear, you have a better chance of curing it before it gets too bad.

Certificate Flags

When the activists were presented with certificates of their training, they held them up in both hands and waved them back and forth in time with joyful music. 

Burl Kreps

Burl served as a missionary in Angola for two years in the mid 1950s.  He is our guide for the Mountain Sky team.  Burl never looks so young as he does in Angola.  Somehow the long-limbed basketball coach of his youth shines through his 80-something body.  Everywhere we go Burl meets another old best friend.  He is truly beloved in the church here, even after 50 years.

Africa University

For decades I have heard that during the collapse of colonial governments in Africa and the rise of African self-rule, many of the African leaders that emerged in the 1960s and 70s were educated as Crusade Scholars funded by The Methodist Church.  Since arriving here I have come to suspect that the United Methodist Church is continuing to educate a new generation of African leaders through Africa University.  Time and again we have met bright, articulate, multi-lingual young leaders in Angola who are graduates of Africa University.  Slowly the picture emerges of an international network of leaders who shared a powerful university experience together and are now disbursed across the continent with a passion and a vision to transform their countries. 

One of them, Rev. Andre, Assistant to West Angolan Bishop Domingos, said today, “It is exactly God who appointed you [The United Methodist Church in the USA] to build Africa University. 

Sunday I preached at Bethel United Methodist Church in Luanda.  My interpreter was Angolan associate pastor, Rev. Ndalamba, mother of 3½ year old, Emmanuel.  Being Angolan, Rev. Ndalamba speaks Portuguese.  Her husband is from the Democratic learned English.  He now teaches theology at the Angola United Methodist University.  Emmanuel is growing up as a world citizen, speaking several languages, with a horizon as wide as God’s kingdom. 

360° Discipleship

Lately I’ve been musing that discipleship is a holistic process for people.  It isn’t fractured into pieces the way our programming in the church is.  Prayer and service, advocacy and worship are not separated in the lives of real disciples.  But too often the resources and training opportunities for disciples in these various areas are separate and can be even conflicting.

Today I met an integrated, holistic disciple of Jesus Christ.  Her name is Sara Neto.  She is known as Sister Sara.  She is a nurse, retired from the maternity hospital.  Now she volunteers in the tiny one-room clinic at the West Angola Annual Conference.  She volunteers because she wants to be useful.  We took pictures of her years old, well-worn and loved Portuguese issues of the Upper Room devotional guide.  She believes that every church should have a small room dedicated as a clinic and that medical professionals should offer services there to people in the community.  It should be a form of evangelism.

Is she an evangelist?
A pietist?
A social activist?

“Sara,” I said, “you make Jesus happy!”  And we shared a broad smile and heartfelt hug.

Angola Methodist University

Five years ago under the leadership of Bishop Gaspar Domingos the West Angola Annual Conference opened a professional university in Luanda in buildings and on land owned by the United Methodist Church.  Today 8,000 students are enrolled in 18 courses of study on two campuses.  Started as a partnership between the church and Universidade de Évora in Portugal, it recently graduated its first class of 25 students. 

Tuition?  $3,000 per year!

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