The last time I visited my mother’s farm in Minnesota, I remember her laughing hysterically as we carried in the groceries, luggage and items we had just bought in town.
My mother and I were inching our way from the car to the front door, each trying to balance about 10 grocery bags in addition to rolling suitcases, when my mother turned and said, “We come from a long line of German women who refuse to take more than one trip from the car.”
We laughed for a long time wondering why we thought we needed to do everything all at once.
I remember this story often when I find myself trying to take on too much, or more than my share.
Today, I’m remembering this story because I think it speaks to our beloved ELCA’s malaria work. I tell it now to remind myself, you dear readers and the ELCA that sometimes when we do less, we can do it better or focus on what is the most important.
So, while it may seem strange to celebrate a decrease in financial giving to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative on World Malaria Day, I’m excited about the ELCA’s revamped efforts to fight malaria.
Why? First, as a pastor who works mightily to create free projects that promote justice, I believe the less we spend on a project, the more likely it is that congregations and individuals across the country who are struggling to pay their bills, keep their houses or church buildings and who are downsizing staff will be able to replicate the project.
Second, when there is so much poverty, hunger and lack of health care in our own backyards it’s hard to justify sending tens of millions of dollars to other countries.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly and biblically, stuff cannot solve our problems.
Jesus reminds us that stuff rusts, breaks and gets eaten by moths (Matthew 6:19).
Sometimes it feels good to give stuff to poor people, or to fill our lives or stomachs with stuff, but the problems, feelings and issues typically come back or leave us wanting more stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not advocating that we ignore those in need of medical attention. But, knowing that other partners in the malaria project will continue to provide the nets that many of our African sisters and brothers need to stop the spread of malaria now, we must do what we can do best: use our Lutheran gut to advocate for justice!
This World Malaria Day I urge you and all who will listen to you to stop talking about nets and start addressing hunger and poverty, the root causes of malaria.
By addressing the root causes of malaria, we not only help to prevent the spread of the disease to future generations, but we also help to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS, malnutrition and the other symptoms of the global pandemic called poverty.
Here are some ways that you can help:
1) Educate yourself and your congregation about malaria.
2) Become a Malaria Griot or storyteller who is trained to be a spokesperson for the issues around malaria.
3) Support the ELCA World Hunger Project.
4) Share this blog with your Facebook, Twitter and other social network friends. It’s as simple as clicking “like” at the top of this blog!
While I began with the story of my mother and I doing too much, don’t let it be an excuse for you to do too little.
It’s because you are helping, that I can do only what is mine to do. Do as many as you can. Do some research and find more things you can do. Put your trust in the fact that we all have a different part to play in the battle against malaria.
While the ELCA may have downsized it’s malaria response, the truth is that the ELCA is made up of individuals like you and me. What we choose to do today, this year and for the rest of our lives is the true Lutheran malaria initiative.
Megan M. Rohrer is an ELCA pastor called by five congregations, who has served as a missionary to the homeless in San Francisco since 2002.