By Sarah Carson
“Hey, what’s that buzzing?” one student asked.
“Aw, it’s just a little mosquito. No big deal,” another replied.
The congregation was soon to find out that “a little mosquito” could turn out to be quite a big deal.
“For the last three years, we’ve had a tradition of doing a Sunday School Lenten Project, organized by the education committee with assistance from the older Sunday school students and their teachers,” says Kathy Buzza, a member of Good Shepherd’s education committee and the author of the sketch the students performed.
In the past, the Sunday School Lenten Project had collected books to send to high schools in Namibia. Another year they used piggy banks to raise “Pennies for Peace.”
For 2012, the committee chose to raise funds for the ELCA Malaria Campaign, designed to provide mosquito nets, insecticides, medication, health care, education and more to help eliminate deaths from the disease for good.
“The ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod hopes to raise $250,000 over the next three years for the ELCA Malaria Campaign, and our congregation wanted to be part of that, as well as the larger ELCA Malaria Campaign,” Kathy says.
They called the project “Take a Bite out of Malaria,” and for several weeks they put on activities to help raise awareness among the congregation.
“We had a wicker bassinet by the altar covered with mosquito netting and 50 pipe cleaner mosquitoes clinging to the netting, each mosquito representing $10 of our $500 goal,” Kathy says.
The most memorable part of the project was the surprising performance the Good Shepherd students used to kick it all off.
“In Africa,” they explained in their skit, “it only takes one bite from a mosquito to cause malaria, a disease that can make you really sick!”
About “800,000 people die from malaria each year,” another student continued, “and nine out of 10 live in Africa.”
Next the students went about spelling out what the money raised would go toward: medicine, training, bed nets and water treatment. And they hung posters in the sanctuary to remind the congregation about the project.
The following week when it came time for sharing the peace during worship, the students coated the palms of their hands in aloe vera and glitter and went around the sanctuary shaking hands with as many people as they could.
“(We) passed out the aloe vera infused with gold glitter in baggies to them,” Kathy says.
“The people they shook hands with then shook hands with others, and the glitter got passed on that way.”
The shock of the wet, aloe vera handshakes made for quite a reaction from the congregation. “There really was a wave of a reaction that spread throughout the sanctuary as more and more people shook hands and ended up with glitter on them,” Kathy says.
Then when sharing of the peace was over, the students returned to the stage.
“Take a look at your hands. Do you see any glitter on them?” they asked. “If you have glitter on your hands, please stand.”
Nearly the entire congregation rose to their feet.
“It means you’ve been bitten by a mosquito and now have malaria,” the students continued. “Think about this,” the sketch concluded, “What if our make-believe mosquitoes had been prevented by a vaccine or bed net from shaking hands with you?”
“They’re a great group of students and willing to tackle anything,” Kathy says. “Since we raised so much (money), we ended up with three bassinets by the altar this year.”
The money they raised will help make a lasting impact on communities affected by malaria. And their creative method of raising the money has certainly made a lasting impression on their congregation.