West African Christians help neighbours prevent COVID-19

By Tianna Haas | West Africa

SIM workers are partnering with churches in West Africa to help Christian families and their neighbours take preventative measures against COVID-19.

Along with a partner children’s ministry association, they have already distributed soap, handwashing station instructions, posters with healthcare tips, face masks and devotions based on Psalm 62:7 to 100 families in eight of the city’s 12 neighbourhoods.

SIM member Lauren*, said: “Our goal was to empower the church here to help them reach their neighbours.”

Many families do not have handwashing stations, so the leaders of the initiative shared step-by-step guidelines to set up handmade stations, like the Tippy Tap model.

Lauren said: “We wanted to find a handwashing method which people could create using things they already had at their home, rather than purchasing new, more expensive items, such as faucets.

WSSCC_Florio_-3634

"WSSCC_Florio_-3634" by WSSCC is licensed under CC BY 2.0
This is an example of a Tippy Tap handwashing station in use.

“The cheapness of the materials, simplicity in its creation, and the effectiveness of their usage are clear. For example, with Tippy Taps there is a place for soap to be attached, which is often a forgotten part of handwashing here.”

The idea began when Lauren considered the success of past community health training done in conjunction with biblical lessons for the area. When she pitched the idea to Henoc, Sunday school superintendent and head of the children’s ministry association which SIM works with, she found he had been mulling over a similar plan.

Lauren said: “As we were speaking, a huge grin came over his face. He said, ‘I have been praying how God might be opening doors for us to love our neighbours and respond proactively.’ … Henoc’s vision was bigger than mine!”

Henoc and a partner WorldVenture missionary have worked in local middle schools for years, teaching character building, personal care and spiritual formation. The programme was a springboard for the response to COVID-19, and they divided up the responsibilities of collecting necessary materials, gathering funds and organising a team.

Henoc and David, another church leader in the area, were not content with only helping Christian families. They wanted to use this opportunity to share the gospel with the people in the city who do not know Jesus.

After preparation, the team started visiting a trial group of homes. Lauren said: “We began with a Christian family and then asked if there were any neighbours with whom they had good relationships and were willing to introduce us.”

Neighbourly relations have allowed the team to assist more people. Henoc said: “We were able to connect well with Christian families and provide solid Bible teaching to the children and at least one parent in each location. In several places, the families were in communal yards, which meant that their neighbours were engaged in the whole lesson.

“We were encouraged to see many church families have positive relationships with neighbours who follow other religions.”

“We were encouraged to see many church families have positive relationships with neighbours who follow other religions.”

     

The team has been deliberate in sharing helpful tips while striving to not become conduits of the coronavirus, especially in communal yards. Lauren said: “We have specifically discussed the danger of community health trainers being the ones spreading the disease unknowingly yard to yard. That is one reason we are only advancing the project one step at a time and evaluating each week.”

As they proceed with caution, the team has already witnessed preventative measures catch on. Last week, Lauren, who works with children, saw families from a kids’ club, and through them, a rewarding response. She said: “Kids have started implementing the ‘distance greeting’ I showed them [a long distance high five with an exaggerated tongue click]. And a parent commented that her kids would now wash their hands with soap because ‘Teacher said so.’”

The initiative gives these West African Christians the means to rely on the Lord and care for their neighbours in an uncertain time.

Pray for:

the training to help children, parents and communities respond to the physical threat of disease and the spiritual and emotional needs of children.

direction from God for the initiative and for the team to respond to the Spirit as they consider their next steps.

this to be one of many steps in relationship building, as Christian families continue showing love to their neighbours.

God to end the spread of the coronavirus and heal those with COVID-19.

Support SIM's response to COVID-19

SIM workers worlwide are assisting their communities during the pandemic and shining the light of Christ. Can you help us respond to the crisis? Our medical ministry network is working to meet urgent needs and provide healthcare facilities with essential supplies. Donate today by finding the nearest office to you and using project number 99753.



*Name changed.