Mercy Moment

Grants Aid African Churches in Stemming the Spread of COVID-19

Churches in 14 countries benefited from your donations, through grants for education and handwashing facilities.

Handwashing has been touted as the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But for people who don’t have regular access to soap and water in public places, this can be a challenge.

In April, the LCMS approved a grant of $6,250 to the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church—Sierra Leone to help combat the transmission of COVID-19 by increasing public awareness of the need for safety measures such as handwashing and by providing funds to build 154 handwashing stations (one at each church and school). Part of the grant also was used to print and distribute educational materials on good hygiene amid the pandemic.

The LCMS first began working in Sierra Leone in 1983. Since that time, the country has been ravaged by civil war (1991–2001) and an Ebola epidemic (2013–16). There are currently 126 Lutheran congregations with about 4,000 members, 28 schools, 156 teachers and 5,159 pupils.

The Rev. Daniel F. McMiller, executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission, said the Lutheran church in Sierra Leone “has suffered greatly … grown quite well and is living at peace. It is also minimally supported from the outside, which is a great blessing and no small factor in its peaceful nature and its focus on the establishment of sound teaching and practice rather than political interests vying for power and influence over material assets coming from the U.S. … This [grant] is a great endeavor at modest cost that will save money and — most importantly — lives in the future.”

As part of this educational effort, members of the Sierra Leone church are using the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) curriculum, which pairs health concepts with the Gospel.

“The church leaders there have translated the COVID-19 lessons that the CHE website has shared into several of the local languages and are now in the process of installing handwashing stations and providing training both on how to use them properly as well as how to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Stephanie Schulte, an LCMS missionary nurse who serves as mercy medical coordinator for West and Central Africa.

“I just love seeing them take this project to heart,” she continued, “and it perfectly aligns with the CHE philosophy.”

Because you choose to give generously, the LCMS is able to supply similar grants, of varying amounts, in Burundi, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo.

In Madagascar, the Malagasy Lutheran Church used the grant to help prevent COVID-19 transmission in its North of Nania Synod region. This area has a high incidence of people impacted by malnutrition and undernutrition, which makes them particularly susceptible to contagious diseases.

Since churches in Madagascar had been closed since March, the awareness campaign helped pastors and church workers serve their communities in a new way by distributing informational flyers. As they shared the guidelines from the World Health Organization, they also were able to share the Word of God.

In addition, a few of the grants given out to these African churches also included food provisions, since people in some areas — especially urban areas — were finding it difficult to feed their families amid the lockdowns, curfews and travel bans that some countries put in place.

“Churches are concerned for their congregants and the surrounding communities who are suffering. The grants will assist them in providing some relief … while also preventing the spread of the virus,” said Shara Osiro, an LCMS missionary and regional communications specialist for Africa.

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Megan K. Mertz

Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.

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