NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, those involved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
The little fella pictured on the right is your basic East African mosquito. He looks harmless enough, but he’s got a dirty little secret that he’s all too willing to share. He can’t help himself; he gets hungry, like any other creature might, and he goes on the hunt—for blood. In the process, unbeknownst to him, he ends up spreading his disease to those from whom he feeds. Yes, that’s right, malaria.
For general consumption of this tale, I will omit the graphic details of what malaria can do to a person. I’ll just say that, when I contracted malaria, those were a few of the longest days I have experienced. However, I am thankful that it was detected early on and that I was blessed to have the means to pay for the doctor visit, lab fees, and treatment (about twenty-three US dollars.)
I will share a few other things about the day I went to the doctor, because I can laugh about it now. There I was, having been up for about thirty-six hours and doing the malaria mambo for a greater part of the night. With a delicate system, I boarded a crowded matatu (minibus taxi) for the “half hour” trip to the doctor. Mind you, anywhere you go, people will tell you it’s only “thirty minutes.” By the good Lord’s grace, the trip was incident free, and I made it to the doctor. No insurance forms, short wait-time, and pay-per-service! A quick blood test showed signs of malaria and they loaded me up with about 30 tablets to take and a needle shot for the road. This is where the story really starts to take off.
On the way back home, the fever was starting to kick in. I was sitting in the matatu dripping in cold sweat. Little did I know the driver was in a bit of a hurry this day and he ended up cutting off a couple other matatu drivers in the process. Usually this is not a big deal, but on this particular day, one other driver would have none of it, and he succumbed to road rage. We were taking a right turn around the bend when the one who had the rage building in him took his vehicle up to ramming speed and smacked us off the road and into a pole. Thankfully, it ended up being more of a glancing blow, and no one was hurt. At this point everyone was piling out of their respective matatus and yelling at each other. I just sat there, not really being able to process what had just happened. To make a long story short, I hopped on another, less dented matatu and made it home, cooked up a couple of big pots of water for a much needed bath and slept the whole night through, feeling three hundred percent better the next day. Three days later I was back at it, preaching and teaching on Sunday. There was an announcement made after church that Sunday that I had succumbed to malaria, and there was a round of applause as if it were some rite of passage and I was one step closer to becoming a true Kenyan.
This story may be humorous, and I can laugh about the idea of having a parasite in my liver to keep me company the rest of my days. However, there are many who are affected by malaria that simply cannot afford the treatment. For our brothers and sisters in Christ and all throughout East Africa and beyond, malaria and its attendant suffering is just a fact of life.
Michael Gurath is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and a visiting
missionary to Africa.