Tracy Paschke-Johannes’ grandparents were Lutheran missionaries in Za Za, Liberia, from 1945 to 1953. During their years of service there, Walter and Delila Weind faced many hardships, including watching one of their daughters suffer from malaria, a disease that claims the life of a child every 45 seconds.
My grandparents “were unsure that (my mother) would survive,” says Tracy. “My grandmother often talked about their fear for their baby’s life,” she says.
Malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, affects 800,000 people every year, and 90 percent of them live in Africa. Working with more than 12 Lutheran churches in Africa, the ELCA Malaria Campaign is uniquely positioned to provide mosquito nets, insecticides, medication, health care, education and more to help eliminate deaths from this disease for good.
With the help of ELCA members like Tracy, who has contributed to the ELCA Malaria Campaign, this church is working to make malaria history.
Pain, hope and a living faith
As missionaries from an ELCA predecessor church body, Tracy’s grandparents served in many roles in the lives of the Liberian people. Walter and Delila were teachers, preachers and translators. Walter, an ordained pastor, was responsible for sharing Scripture, for the first time, with the people in their own language, and Delila taught, helping children learn how to read, says Tracy.
Walter and Delila were newly married when they arrived in Liberia. They received missionary training in New York City as World War II drew to a close and traveled to Liberia via ship. During their eight years there, the couple welcomed three children, including Tracy’s mother. Delila delivered her children with the help of a midwife in a small, unlit hut with no running water.
Many women in Liberia were forced to bury their children at young ages due to malaria. The Weinds struggled with the health issues of their own daughter for the first three years of her life and remained faithful until she was healthy.
“Delila spoke of watching her small daughter suffering from fever and pain as a result of malaria,” says Tracy. “Despite these struggles, both my grandparents spoke with joy as they shared stories of their years there. They loved the people, the culture and, most importantly, their shared faith.”
“The family returned to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where my grandfather served Christ Lutheran Church for 30 years, and Delila continued working as an elementary school teacher,” says Tracy.
After their return to Canada, as “my grandmother watched the events of the civil war (in Liberia) unfold on television, she said, ‘perhaps our work wasn’t all undone. Maybe it did indeed make a difference,’” says Tracy, who attributes her grandparents’ steadfast faith as an example to many who knew them.
“God wasn’t done — the faith of the Liberian people, a faith that my grandparents helped to nurture, was alive amid the ruins of civil war. In the early 2000s, it was the faithful women of Liberia who worked to bring peace to the country,” says Tracy, adding that the best way to honor her grandmother is through a contribution to the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
“Pastor Tracy’s story is a story of living faith — the faith of her grandparents as they served as missionaries, of her own faith that guides her in her pastoral ministry and in her family life,” according to Jessica Nipp, who is coordinator for the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
“As Pastor Tracy was inspired by her grandmother to support the ELCA Malaria Campaign,” says Jessica, “we hope her story of living faith will inspire others as well.”
Delila Weind died April 21, 2012.