I want to lead a church that is well-informed and healthy.
– Jacob Banda
Many of Rev. Jacob Banda’s congregants have tended to choose prayer over health services when they become sick.
But the pastor of Grace Ministries International Church in Nakonde, Zambia, was hoping to change that. He attended an event with 29 church leaders in October, 2019, to learn more about Breakthrough ACTION Zambia’s “Life is Precious” integrated family health campaign. The campaign, implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), is designed to promote healthy behaviors related to HIV, malaria, nutrition, maternal child health and family planning.
“Being part of the training with other church leaders helped me realize the information gap amongst our congregants, and that I can help share this information because people trust me with life concerning matters,” Banda says.
He realized at the event that many of his church’s 300 members did not have adequate or correct health information. To address this, Banda began shaving time from traditional Sunday services to include time for health talks. The church also installed a health desk that includes posters on malaria, adherence to HIV treatment and other health issues.
Now, when parishioners ask him to pray with them about their illnesses, Banda still does. But then he encourages them to seek medical attention at the nearest health facility.
“After going to the clinic, these people have confided in me that they tested positive for TB, STIs and malaria,” he says. “Many times, they attribute the symptoms of these diseases to witchcraft and it is the lack of information that leads them to such conclusions. I want to lead a church that is well-informed and healthy.”