— by Sarah Kanoy RN, BSN
With the global Corona Virus COVID-19 pandemic, we are all living in strange times. Things are rapidly changing all around us; however, some things are the same.
Many communities in Africa suffer from preventable diseases. In fact, prior to COVID-19, it was estimated that up to 1 million deaths per year could be prevented if everyone routinely washed their hands. Many of these deaths occur in Africa among children less than 5 years old.
Throughout the Gospels we see examples of Jesus providing care for both the body and the soul. Based on Scripture, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) recognizes that we are called to provide both physical and spiritual care for God’s people around the world. This is reflected in our International Mission emphases to: 1) Spread the Gospel; 2) Plant Lutheran Churches; and 3) Show Mercy.
As LCMS Nurse Missionaries in Africa, Stephanie Schulte and I are walking alongside local churches to do just this—providing care for the precious bodies and souls of God’s people in remote places. One of the most important ways that we are doing this is through Community Health Evangelism (CHE) teaching and training. Each CHE lesson teaches a health concept, alongside sharing the Gospel.
One popular lesson explains what germs are and how they can make us sick. It includes teaching when and how to wash our hands. In addition, as not everyone has access to indoor plumbing, it includes instructions on how to build a hand washing station at home using locally available resources. However, the lesson doesn’t end there. It also teaches that because of sin, all of our hearts are “dirty” and we all suffer from the sickness of separation from God. Out of his great love for us, God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross. It is through the blood, death, and resurrection of Jesus, that we are cleansed from all our sins and receive the gifts of life and salvation. We are made “clean” in the eyes of God.
Recently, Stephanie and I collaborated on teaching these types of lessons during a week-long CHE Training of Trainers seminar in Kahe, Tanzania. We trained 15 local church leaders, including Rev. Godson Mlay of the Lutheran Church in East Africa. These leaders learned many lessons, but the most important thing they learned is how to teach others. These newly trained CHE leaders are now going around their communities and teaching others these lessons. As a direct result of their hard work, approximately 20 new “Tippy Taps” (hand washing stations, pictured above) and 10 new latrines have been built. Thanks be to God for these leaders!
In addition to increasing the health knowledge of their communities, they are sharing the Gospel and inviting people to their local Lutheran churches. It is our prayer that through this ministry, not only will the overall physical health of the community improve, but most importantly, that by God’s grace, the church will also grow!
In these trying COVID-19 times, I thank God for the ways in which he allowed Stephanie and I to help prepare his people. In February, Stephanie taught several CHE lessons in Dapaong, Togo, including a lesson on how to prevent the spread of colds. In addition, in Kahe and Mawala, Tanzania, 20 more families have a newly built hand washing station. Even as we celebrate these preparations, we rejoice in the knowledge of something much greater: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Hebrews 13:8, Ephesians 1:7 ESV). Thanks be to God for all the pastors, evangelists, and missionaries around the world who continue to teach about the cleansing of our sins through our Savior Jesus Christ!
Sarah Kanoy serves as Community Health Nurse and Educator for East Africa
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