The most dangerous animal

This week is national mosquito control week in the US. Worldwide, controlling mosquitoes is a big deal because they are, in fact, the world’s deadliest animal. Every 40 seconds, a child dies of malaria transmitted by a mosquito. Dayle and I have had colleagues whose children died of malaria. Here in Ghana, our Ghanaian colleagues in Bible translation regularly take sick days because of malaria or take time off work to go get tested. Some of my African friends involved in Bible translation spend days every year in hospitals with children, spouses or other family members who are very ill with the disease.

In a 2011 survey, 72% of companies in sub-Saharan Africa reported a negative malaria impact, with 39% saying the negative impact was serious. Malaria not only kills, it reduces productivity. Translators’ work suffers when they are extra tired because malaria is depleting their strength but not yet making them sick. Malaria affects the education of their children.

One survey found some poor households spend as much as 25% of their income on malaria treatment. The link between malaria and poverty is widely recognized with malaria being the cause and poverty the result, whereas for many other diseases poverty is the cause and the diseases are the result. T. H. Weller, a Nobel Laureate in Medicine in 1958, wrote:

It has long been recognized that a malarious community is an impoverished community.

In Sri Lanka, an outbreak of dengue fever, another mosquito-born disease, infected tens of thousands and killed hundreds. Dengue is a debilitating illness. When I contracted it, I was not able to work for two months.

When you pray for national translators and others, pray for protection against malaria and other mosquito-born illnesses.

More irrelevant rejoicing

Anopheles mosquito

Anopheles mosquito. Photo: James Gathany (CDC)

It has never been done. There has NEVER been a vaccine against a parasite, any parasite. On the other hand, making a vaccine against a virus is difficult, but at least the general process is known. The researchers working on a vaccine against the malaria parasite are climbing one big hill. A few weeks ago, I blogged about a very promising research trial of a malaria vaccine. Now, researchers taking a different track have had very promising laboratory results.

Malaria causes many more deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS. Each year 225 million people contract malaria and 781,000 die. Most of the deaths are among  young children and 90% of the deaths happen in Africa.Most families in people groups without the Scriptures in Africa will have lost at least one child, niece, or nephew to malaria. National Bible translators lose days of work each year treating their children for malaria.  Working among the bibleless peoples of Africa, one cannot avoid the constant and sometimes deadly impact of the disease. We hare here to give people the Scriptures in their heart language, but we cannot ignore the other difficulties they face.

The Gates Foundation is funding malaria research, including the successful research trial. I admire Bill Gates, not because of his success at Microsoft, but because of what he is doing with the Gates Foundation.  My admiration is not simply that he giving away is money, but how he is doing that. He is targeting high priority items, such as malaria, which only very rarely get mentioned on the front pages. It is possible to give money in a way that creates a “name” for oneself. Instead, Gates seems to be doing it more in the spirit of Jesus words:

When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the poor, don’t blow a loud horn. That’s what show-offs do in the meeting places and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise. I can assure you that they already have their reward.  When you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know about it. Then your gift will be given in secret. Your Father knows what is done in secret, and he will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4 CEV)

You might not have a lot of money or expertise to throw into the fight against malaria, but you can do things that will be good for them – and for you! Give a sacrifice of praise for the progress being made. Pray for all the needs of the peoples still without God’s Word in their heart languages.

Fight narcissism. Be happy about something that does not help you or anyone you know. Pray for something that cannot help you or anyone you know.

Rejoicing over the irrelevant

Finally a command in the Bible that seems easy to follow!

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 ESV)

But what if I have no intellectual or emotional attachment to the thing that is making others happy? What if it just leaves me totally apathetic? What if it commits that most horrible of modern American sins – the sin of being irrelevant!



Recently a huge breakthrough was announced for a disease that affects more than 200 million people every year and kills 781,000, most of them children. The breakthrough  will not get rid of  the disease, but it will reduce the number who get it and the number of deaths. That disease is malaria and the breakthrough is the first successful vaccine trial.

You may not even have seen the news. It is a BIG deal where I live even though it will still be years before the vaccine is approved and widely available. Nevertheless, would you join with the African parents who are happy about this and rejoice with them before the Lord, even though it does not affect you directly in any way?

Fight narcissism. Be happy about something that does not help you.