My friend Maria Fenty was in love with the people of Sudan. More than once she trekked there to encourage and serve people in the ravaged south, loving those whose lives were on the line daily. She told me that she hoped to go live there to serve the women and children struggling to survive, whose faith she found contagious, vibrant and thriving.
It was her nature to serve – her ‘real job’ was substance abuse counselor and she loved showing people the light at the end of the tunnel. It was no surprise to any who knew her that she discerned God’s call to serve the church as an ordained deacon, received the necessary training and was ordained just days before she led a team to Sudan in February 2002.
While in Sudan, Deacon Maria contracted malaria unbeknownst to her. She became ill after returning home and died of complications of the disease. It was shattering to face the loss, the cost of mission, the unthinkable loss of a friend to a disease so foreign to our homeland. (photo at right shows her parents receiving condolences from Bishop Dan Herzog upon the establishment of the Maria Fenty fund for Sudan)
If she had recovered from malaria and could speak to us today, I am 100% certain she would tell us about how vulnerable the people, especially the children, of Sudan and other poor countries are to malaria, and how infection can be so cheaply prevented today. Because she was the sort of person to look hardship in the face and find hope, she would be passionate about learning from her experience and working toward making sure no one else suffered needlessly.
Please investigate the links below, and do what you can to help solve a problem that needlessly puts so many of the world’s poorest at risk.
Nothing But Nets – http://www.nothingbutnets.net/
Roll Back Malaria – http://www.rollbackmalaria.org/worldmalariaday/
Malaria Consortium – http://www.mobilising4malaria.org/index.php
Gifts may also be made to the Maria Fenty Fund, which makes grants for initiatives in Sudan, by sending donations so marked by mail to the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, 68 S. Swan St., Albany, NY, 12210.