By The Rev. Carrie Craig
Those of us who direct and coordinate Christian formation programs have stories of successful and energizing outreach projects. One that continues to impress me is offered through Episcopal Relief & Development. This easily accessed program is called NetsforLife® . It provides mosquito nets to protect people from malaria throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2006 valuable creative resources have been produced for a variety of settings complete with images, outlines for lessons and suggestions for discussion.
My work with the NetsforLife® program was during the time when Episcopal Relief & Development was just beginning to form the teaching tool they offer today, which features a wonderful character called Rita Mosquito. With input from several people, we decided to offer this program during Lenten season. By design, one country in Africa was introduced during the Sundays of Lent. Each class was given a brief description of that country, its population and livelihood and images of nets arriving to the people of that country. By doing this, children and youth had a chance to see and hear about people in different parts of the world. While listening to brief stories each week, children created outlines of their hands on multicolored construction paper. These outlines were then cut out and placed on a single mosquito net, which hung in a shared space outside the classrooms. By the end of the Lenten season, the mosquito net was filled with hands of every color and size. With much excitement, the children carried this net as part of the Palm Sunday procession.
Sometimes we see the fruit of these programs in surprising and delightful ways. On the first Sunday a fourth grader approached me after church. When asked what she had learned that morning in Sunday School, she replied – “We decided that after we collect money for mosquito nets, we want to collect money for shoes. They all need shoes!” The children of one group in a village waiting for mosquito nets were barefoot. Seeing their feet exposed inspired the children with another idea for outreach.
This experience is witness to the core mission of Episcopal Relief & Development. The resources that are now available provide a multitude of ideas and materials. Throughout Lent we used components of the NetsforLife® curriculum and we were excited with our outcome. If you have not had a chance to look at it, go to the site and learn more. The nets are badly needed and the experience for each faith community binds us to the greater world.
Click 'Expand' to view a storybook from the NetsforLife® curriculum.
The Rev. Carrie Craig, now retired, was the director of Christian Formation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC.
This article was previously published in Building Faith, a blog by Church Publishing.
Graphic: Real Heroes versus Rita Mosquito, from the NetsforLife® curriculum.