Feature

Sunset in Gabon

Nets help to prevent malaria

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When darkness settles on Gabon, Africa, so does the threat of death. From dusk to dawn, mosquitoes transmit the deadly malaria virus as they bite unprotected victims. Malaria is the second leading cause of death in Africa, after HIV/AIDS, and one child in Africa dies every minute from malaria. But the disease is also 100 percent preventable.

Vision, Inspiration, Action

Three years ago, these staggering statistics pierced the heart of a young woman named Sarah Lewan. Sarah, then 19, was outraged at the high cost of providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets to such an impoverished country and decided to pursue a special project that God would bless for His glory.

Sarah’s initial goal was to sell T-shirts to raise enough money to send 50 mosquito nets to Gabon with a missions team. But, in Sarah’s words, “God had a different idea.” Sarah named her endeavor Project Sunset, targeting the peak time when mosquitoes bite—after sunset. She enlisted the help of Tim Crecelius, a childhood friend from her church, who created a bold design displaying the name of the project against a glowing silhouette of Africa.

“I started selling the shirts on my college campus, Saginaw Valley State University [SVSU],” Sarah says. “The first 50 shirts were sold out before they were even made, so I ordered 50 more, buying them with my own money. My friends thought I was crazy to risk my money on this, but I knew that God would use it for His glory. All 100 shirts were bought as soon they came in!”

In June 2012, God provided an opportunity for Sarah to travel to Gabon with a missions team from her congregation, Bridge Community Church (C&MA), in Troy, Michigan. A faith-based nonprofit organization called E4 Project, founded by Eric Schmidt, a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary, became the missions team sponsor. The organization adopted Project Sunset as a program affiliate in order to raise malaria awareness in its health-care ministry to the people of Gabon. On that missions trip, Sarah and the team distributed 56 mosquito nets at three mobile medical clinics, leaving behind about 50 more nets to be distributed at future clinics.

Ongoing care

Project Sunset continues to provide resources for Alliance personnel to battle malaria in Africa. “We raise the money here in the United States and wire it to our C&MA partners in Gabon, who then buy the mosquito nets there to support the Gabonese economy,” Sarah reports. “Our Gabonese partners thought it would be best to sell the nets at the medical clinics for a very small fee, because if we give them away the Gabonese might use them as fishing nets or not value them as a way of protection against malaria. Without Project Sunset, the nets cost more and people don’t get educated about malaria.”

As the teams sell the mosquito nets, they share the gospel of Christ and then describe the dangers of malaria and explain how the nets will protect the people and their children from the deadly disease. The minimal fees that are collected from the net recipients are then used to buy more nets, so the investment always benefits the Gabonese people at any stage of the process.

Light and hope

Since that first trip in June 2012, Sarah has returned to Africa twice. To date, she reports that more than 1,200 mosquito nets have been delivered to Gabon through Project Sunset. Sarah, now 21, is a full-time student in her first year of the SVSU nursing program, with plans to graduate in December 2015. She loves nursing “because it combines science and serving others into one profession. I am open to using my nursing training in any way God leads—whether here or in Gabon.”

Today, a beautiful work continues by God’s mighty hand—a vision propelled into action by a young woman with a heart for God and the Gabonese people. When darkness falls again on Gabon, a light of hope now glimmers—the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of protection from malaria.

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