As Christians, we are a part of the body of Christ. Which means that we are not only connected to people in the United States, we also have brothers and sisters all over the world! In the Virginia Synod, we have recognize this global connectivity several ways, one of which is our formal partnership with the New Guinea Islands (NGI) District of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea
(PNG for short) is a country right off the coast of Australia that is slightly larger than California. Our relationship with PNG has been the Synod's primary global mission emphasis since 1990.
|A Classroom in Papua New Guinea|
Matt Wertman was introduced to PNG as a high school student when he traveled overseas with Bishop Mauney and a small team to visit with our global partners. Today he is part of the Synod's Papua New Guinea Task force.
"Our partnership with them transcends geographic distance," he said. "To know that there are always people praying for us and the Church is a comforting thought. Their church struggles with many of the same issues that we are faced with."
While many of our struggles are the same, we also differ in several challenges that we face.
There has been a huge level of success in the ELCA recently with the Malaria Campaign, an effort to raise $15 million to fight malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. The goal was reached this year and as we celebrated the success of this project, some in our Synod couldn't help but to question how Malaria impacts our partners in Papua New Guinea.
Tobby Eleasar is the President of the NGI District (similar to the position of our Synodical Bishop) of Papua New Guinea. President Eleasar recently visited Virginia so you may have had the chance to meet him last year. He has shared that Malaria is not just a problem in Africa.
"Malaria is one of the major deadly diseases in Papua New Guinea," he said. "Four of the five malaria species known to infect humans are found in Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea accounts for about 36% of all confirmed Malaria cases in the Western Pacific region."
After learning more about the impact of this disease, the Virginia Synod Papua New Guinea Task Force began to talk about how we could help.
Diane Giessler is the Coordinator of Companion Synod Program in Virginia and she has been in communication with President Eleasar about how we in Virginia can help address this health concern.
"It appears that prevention is the best approach, rather than us helping with treatment after malaria has been contracted," Diane said.
"The government has instructed people to purchase treated nets, however few are financially able to do this," she said. "Pregnant women who visit clinics are given nets but not everyone is able to visit a clinic because of the distance they must walk."
The Papua New Guinea Task force has set the goal to work to provide the funding for 5,000 malaria nets for the Lutheran church in PNG to distribute to their members and people in their communities. Each net only costs about $10, a small cost for potentially saving a life.
Bishop Mauney was so excited about this effort that he has already donated to buy the few nets and at our recent Synod event, Gathering of the Ministerium, the offering was dedicated to this project.
If you would like to join the effort to help provide malaria nets for our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea, you can write a check to the Virginia Synod with "PNG Malaria" in the memo line and mail it P.O. Box 70 Salem Va 24153 or you can give online