The Rev. Dr. Leo Garcia is a missionary, pastor and medical doctor from Cuba serving with the East Angola United Methodist Church at Quessua Methodist Mission. His partner in this ministry is his wife, the Rev. Dr. Cleivy Benitez Rivalta.
Volunteer facilitators, trained at the health center in Quéssua, give health education in the village of Mufongo. PHOTO: COURTESY EAST ANGOLA UMC HEALTH BOARD
Family in Christ, I greet you from the Quéssua Methodist Mission in eastern Angola. I continue to serve the Lord in this African land through my contribution as a medical doctor, performing internal medical consultations at the Reference Health Center of Quéssua, in Malanje Province, Angola.
In these difficult times, the COVID-19 pandemic has invaded the world, even reaching to Africa. Therefore, the health team of Quéssua Central United Methodist Church requested support from Global Health of Global Ministries, to help us protect ourselves from this terrible disease. With a preventive health program, we can avoid a rise in people infected with the novel coronavirus in this country. We applied for a Global Health solidarity grant for the Project of Community Prevention of COVID-19, and God granted us approval.
Training key leaders to spread the word
Beginning in April 2020, the health team, together with the leaders of the community, began to prepare for COVID-19 prevention by conducting various health education seminars. Pastors, the United Methodist Church Quéssua Youth, the Sobas (kings of the villages of the various ethnic groups that live in Quéssua) and health authorities from the Malanje municipal and provincial government of Angola all took part.
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Training the voluntary facilitators has been, for me, a powerful experience of sharing in fellowship, knowledge and solidarity. They are ready to influence the transformation of the inhabitants of Quéssua into families that take care of their health through faith and new knowledge about how to prevent COVID-19.
We purchased 1,000 buckets, which we then modified by placing faucets on the side for better use. Families can use them to store water in households in communities that don't have this precious liquid directly in their homes. The material resources were available and so was the Angolan Christian youths’ willingness to work to promote health prevention.
To make sure our efforts comply with the best preventive measures to combat COVID-19, we purchased enough soap to ensure that all family members in the villages could wash their hands frequently. The combination of the two resources, 1000 buckets and bars of soap, was delivered even to the most deprived households in vulnerable communities.
In the “Education and Prevention” stage of the project, we shared the preventive health measures in Kimbundo, the ethnic language of the region, early in the morning. Support was offered by local pastors who used loud speakers to promote health among their community members.
The families, listening to the loud speaker, left their homes and complied with the social distancing measures outlined by the country's health authorities. All families received the guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
Once in the villages, going from house to house, the volunteers offered health education on disease prevention topics, as well as on hand washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing.
Implementers of God’s plan
Dr. Cleivy Benitez teaches health education to the children of Mbango village, Quéssua mission, East Angola. PHOTO: COURTESY EAST ANGOLA UMC HEALTH BOARD
Along with my wife Cleivy, who is also a pastor and medical doctor, I have witnessed this miracle that the Lord has implemented – the Community Prevention Project against COVID-19. We’ve reached the following villages located in the Quéssua Methodist Mission vicinity: Mbango, Cassucina, Mufongo, Tierra Nueva, La Manga, La Paz, Kula Moxito and others.
The volunteer facilitators have a divine call to continue the project in the villages of Quéssua. The challenge is enormous: to transform vulnerable populations into families that know and can protect themselves from diseases like the novel coronavirus through faith and health prevention.
I confess that, at times, it seemed impossible for us to implement this ambitious project, but God made it a reality. The health teams even offered health education to the smallest children of Aldea village. They learned about the importance of keeping a safe distance of up to a meter between them.
Today, many of the families have water to wash their hands at home.
Even before the health team left the villages they visited, women were going to the nearest river to get water, so they could use the donated soap and buckets.
Cleivy and I thank God for all our brothers and sisters, that through your prayers we can feel the Lord's company on our missionary journey, day by day, in the land of Africa.
Let's all fight COVID-19
Keep in your heart the promise of Jeremiah 33: 6
Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it, I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. (NIV)
The Rev. Dr. Leo Garcia was ordained by the Methodist Church in Cuba in 2009 and also holds status as a pastor in the United Methodist East Angola Annual Conference. He and his wife, the Rev. Cleivy Benitez Rivalta, went to Angola in 2011 as the first Cuban Methodist missionaries in Africa. Leo holds a degree in sacred theology from the Methodist Evangelical Seminary in Cuba and also a Doctor of Medicine degree from the Higher Institute of Medical Sciences of Camagüey, Faculty of Medicine of Ciego de Avila, Cuba.