A Very Personal Response to Malaria…

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by: Matthew Larsen, Senior Soccer Player, Wayland Union High School

Every night, 2,000 children die of malaria. This is my story…and why I am doing what I am doing.

In 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti and devastated that nation. That earthquake changed my whole family’s life forever.

Hundreds of thousands of people died in this earthquake. Children were left orphaned as their parents died. Seeing this situation as it happened on the news was a horrific sight. After this happened, my parents decided they wanted to help the cause. They started out small by donating and doing the World Vision child sponsorship program, but soon began to feel like it was not enough. A friend of my mom’s had adopted a child and told her to look into adoption. My mom felt that God was telling her to adopt – as did my dad – but they didn’t say anything to each other at first. My mom started checking it out. She got onto adoption agency websites and got some information. A while later, she brought it up to my dad who had actually been doing the exact same thing that she was doing! After a couple weeks of praying, they finally brought up the idea of adoption to me and my two younger siblings. Adoption would have a huge impact on who we were and could potentially change our whole life. A week later, we talked about adopting at the dinner table. We all decided to give adoption a shot.

We looked into adopting from Haiti at first but God redirected our path towards Africa. More specifically, we chose the country of Ethiopia. On September 8, 2010, we were given a referral for two children in Ethiopia. Bizu, who was six at the time, and Dergaso (also called Dahlki), who was 4. Bizu and Dergaso had no past relationship whatsoever. The two hadn’t known each other till they were put in the orphanage. My mom and dad fell in love with the two just from looking at the pictures, while my siblings and I still tried to wrap our minds around the fact that we were actually going to do this. After just over three months of waiting, my parents made their first trip to Ethiopia. They were in Ethiopia for 2 weeks. A month later, we got an email saying my parents could go back and get Bizu and Dergaso. Plane tickets were ordered and within two weeks, my parents were back in Ethiopia picking up the newest members of our family. On March 10, 2011, Bizu and Dergaso were finally home. My parents fell in love with the country, and in 2012 they began the adoption process for a girl they met on their first trip. Her name was Bizuayehu and she came home on April 4. I got the privilege to go to Ethiopia along with my parents and biological siblings. I also fell in love with the country. That trip over my spring break opened my eyes to things I didn’t know actually happened in our world.

I had the idea to do a charity benefit match before the 2013 soccer season even started. I brought up a couple possible charities to my co-captains including non-profits that donated to veterans, cancer research, adoption agencies, and the fund for a much-loved teacher that died in the district a couple years ago. We decided on the Wounded Warrior Project. We were making no headway in our efforts to help, and a few weeks later, decided to switch our charity focus to cancer. No real progress was being made, and we started getting frustrated. I had been hoping for a while to play soccer in college and Cornerstone University was one of my top choices. One Saturday, I went up to meet Coach Bell (Head coach, CU men’s soccer) to introduce myself and talk about potentially playing soccer at Cornerstone. I then met Assistant Coach Huber who told me about Night of Nets, a campus initiative at CU that bought bed nets to help fight and prevent deaths from malaria.

Finally, there was now an issue that I could personally relate to. I have never had a relative wounded in war and I’ve never had a relative with cancer, so it was hard for me to relate to those issues. But both Bizu and Dergaso’s biological mothers died from malaria; I finally had a cause to be passionate about. We had to get this charity game planned out ASAP if we wanted it to happen. So the next time I saw my team, I brought up our charity game and how the new cause would be malaria. We started making progress. I contacted Coach Bell and Coach Huber and got information that I could use for a foundation for this game. Three days into planning, I had shirts designed and ordered, flyers created, people spreading the word, the game date chosen, and a couple sponsors. It was amazing to see God’s hand work in the very quick planning process! I am so excited to be a part of this event.

Every night, 2,000 children die of malaria. Three of the 2,000 could’ve been my siblings. But they didn’t. God brought them into my life and no matter what, I love them.

Wayland Union High Schools Night of Nets soccer game will be held on Monday October 7, 2013 in Wayland, MI.

Night of NetsA Very Personal Response to Malaria…

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