Alliance News Feed – Nets of Hope

by Tom Renaud

This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine.

One of Caleb W.’s earliest memories is handing out nets to security guards. These nets didn’t help catch bad guys. Instead they kept the guards safe. That’s because they were mosquito nets.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly half a million people died from malaria in 2016–91 percent of them in Africa.

Caleb has been giving away mosquito nets in West Africa nearly his entire life. The nets are treated with insecticide and placed over beds to keep out mosquitoes. Mosquito bites are itchy, but in this part of the world, they’re also life-threatening. Mosquitoes spread malaria by biting people, often when they’re sleeping. Left untreated, malaria can make people really sick and sometimes results in death.

“God loves and cares about everyone,” Caleb says. “Giving mosquito nets to people is one way we can show God’s love by sharing with others.”

Netted Together

Caleb began as a toddler by handing out 24 nets. After his parents posted a photo of him distributing nets in a missionary newsletter, their home church in Georgia got involved. Children’s Sunday school classes started collecting money for what they called “Caleb’s Nets.” Eventually several vacation Bible schools partnered with them to help raise funds, and Caleb’s Nets began to grow.

Today, this 9-year-old hands out up to 300 nets in a village at one time. Many families in these villages don’t have the money to purchase a net, even though they only cost about $2.50. For such a little amount of money, Caleb loves seeing people’s faces light up with excitement after receiving a life-saving tool.

Caleb loves handing out nets to other children.

Caleb’s parents have served in West Africa as missionaries [with The Christian and Missionary Alliance] since 1993. But his family’s connection to the continent—and malaria—goes much deeper. Caleb’s dad grew up as a missionary kid in Central Africa. He nearly lost his dad and youngest sister to cerebral malaria. He also knew many friends who didn’t survive.

“Through God’s grace, He spared both my dad and sister from death,” Caleb’s dad says.

When Caleb’s parents decided to serve God in Africa, they knew the best way to avoid getting sick was to not get bitten in the first place. Mosquito nets are a great way to prevent bites.

Since its humble beginnings, Caleb’s Nets has partnered with other ministries to raise awareness and to raise money. “Through this small project, we save lives physically,” Caleb’s dad says. “But our desire is to also save lives spiritually. With every mosquito net distributed, each individual has the opportunity to see God’s love in action and to hear of His love for them.”

Caleb has also found support at his school. He walks to school every day, across the dry ground. His classmates come from several countries around the world, but they all wanted to help. They raised money with car washes and cookie sales. In first grade, Caleb’s classmates even went with him to a deaf school, where they distributed nets to all the students. “We played games with the kids and did a demonstration to show how to use the nets,” Caleb says.

Not Stopped by Fear

Caleb has given away nets in prisons, hospitals, clinics, kids’ clubs, schools, neighborhoods, villages, courtyards and a youth center. Sometimes the crowds get so big that it can be scary. “Once I was in a man’s courtyard where everyone was pushing to be sure to get a net,” Caleb says. “I was getting crushed until the man pulled us into his one-room home to protect us.”

Caleb has given nets to save countless lives on the edge of the Sahara Desert.

Getting smashed by crowds isn’t the only thing Caleb had to overcome. He also had to deal with his fear of public speaking. When Caleb’s family comes back to the United States, he’s often asked to talk about his life in Africa and why it’s so important to give out mosquito nets. At first, this made him nervous. “I know I don’t need to be scared,” he says. “And it usually goes OK in the end.”

If Caleb ever does get scared, he just remembers his favorite Bible verse: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Caleb knows that verse is true—whether he’s speaking to a group of adults or delivering nets to the remotest parts of Africa.

Source: Alliance News Feed – Nets of Hope

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