Bible translators fight malaria head-on

By September 3, 2008

International (MNN) — An organization that supports Bible translation around the world is taking on a pest — the malaria-carrying mosquito.

President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates Bruce Smith says, "As Bible translation is going on in remote locations around the world, one of the major threats to the health and well-being of both the missionaries and the communities they serve is malaria."

Smith continues, "There's actually a local supplier here in our Orlando area for a repellent that's non-toxic, and it's a treatment that you can spray in your house. Obviously with people [staying] in their homes a good deal of the time, this reduces the probability of being bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito."

The product is called Suspend SC, and tests are being conducted in the South Pacific and Central Africa. The goal is to provide 1,000 villages with this life saving protection against the malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Estimated to kill over one million people a year, malaria is very prevalent in parts of the world where linguistic missionaries are translating and preserving languages with no written record.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that people living in Africa can be bitten on average between 60 and 300 times a year. Once infected with malaria, a fever develops and then blood cells start to die off. Within a couple of weeks, the victim feels achy. Three weeks more, and you're bedridden. Your body is on "red alert;" it simply cannot deal with all the decaying blood cells at one time.

Smith says this is a common problem facing Bible translators working in the field. "It's pretty debilitating, let me tell you. There are very few missionaries working overseas who haven't been affected by it. Tropical fevers wreak havoc with your body. I even know missionaries that have had to retire from service overseas because their body just can't fight off the next malaria onslaught."

Smith says there have been families who have lost children to malaria.

UNICEF reports that malaria kills a million people a year and infects at least 300 million. Malaria kills more children every year than HIV/AIDS. A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds somewhere in the world. And in Africa alone, some 10,000 pregnant women die from malaria and its complications each year.

Smith says you can help Bible translation move forward. "This time of year, there are mosquitoes outside pretty much across the United States. So maybe we can use mosquitoes as a prayer reminder. We certainly want to encourage people to consider including this in their stewardship. Contribution of $35 can make a difference for 20 families for a six-month period of time."

During 2007, some 1,341 Wycliffe Associates volunteers served in 35 countries as part of the worldwide Bible translation team. Wycliffe Associates plans to send more than 1,700 volunteers to 41 different countries this year to build and renovate facilities, construct roads and airstrips, teach Vacation Bible School, help with language development and office work, oversee projects, use their computer skills, and much more. For more information, visit or call 1-800-THE WORD (1-800-843-9673).

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