International Ministries

Helping Hearts in Africa

February 13, 2006 Journal
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Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.Matthew 5:8

In the African health context, the first thing that comes to many people's minds is HIV/AIDS. A July 2004 UNAIDS report estimated that 7.5 percent of sub-Saharan Africans are infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. This past year we trained lay health builder students in HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and home care.

When people think of health problems in Africa, few people think of heart and artery disease. In the majority of African countries, AIDS deaths are roughly equal to deaths from heart and artery disease.Yet few resources have been directed towards this growing killer. Because of urbanisation and an increasing standard of living, heart disease is predicted to become the biggest overall killer in Africa over the next 20 years.Africans who are living in areas which are increasingly more industrialized are eating more fats, sugar and meats.In our area of South Africa, the traditional African diet consists mainly of dried corn, beans, curdled milk, a root called madumbis and sweet pumpkin.We witness how industrialization is beginning to affect the eating patterns of local Africans. We see local African workers in the stores buying white bread, beer, potato chips, French fries and sugary drinks.

In Africa more than 20 million people suffer from high blood pressure.According to a June 17, 2005 report issued by the World Health Organization, currently between 25 to 35 percent of African adults aged 24 – 65 have high blood pressure.This puts them at higher risk for coronary heart disease, heart failure, kidney failure, dementia and stroke. Black Africans are particularly vulnerable to stroke.Prevention and control of high blood pressure could avoid at least 250,000 premature deaths per year.

This past summer and fall, we trained lay health builder students through the William Carey School of Mission.Some of the students had never seen a blood pressure cuff before taking our course.After completing one year of missionary training, 43 students graduated in January 2006 and most returned to their home countries of Zambia, South Africa, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Malawi.Your donations made it possible to provide each of them with blood pressure cuffs of different sizes, a stethoscope and an educational DVD on heart and artery disease as a graduation present.

During our outreach into the rural community next to the William Carey School, we encountered a man with high blood pressure who is homebound due to a stroke. His wife explained to us that she could not transport him to his doctor for the past two years.The basic medical screening tests that we provided for him in his home provided his doctor with much needed information on the status of his medical problems.

Stroke is a major cause of death worldwide and the biggest single cause of disability in Africa and worldwide.Each year around the world, 15 million people suffer a stroke.Of these, five million die and another five million are left permanently disabled, placing a heavy burden on individuals, families and communities.

We conclude that it is a most worthwhile investment of our time and skills and your resources to train up lay missionaries who are also equipped with practical medical skills here in Africa.Together, we have an excellent present and future in our battle against disease in the body and in the spirit.We have found that we can disciple men and women for Christ and train them to also address these physical problems as a manifestation of the mercy and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your brother and sister in Christ,

Rick and Anita Gutierrez