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Evangelist Leonard Heatherly of Rockwood has grown tired of waiting.
Filled with passion and a sense of urgency, both Heatherly and his wife, Janie, are working hard to bring what could be a low-cost cure for malaria to the African people.
Heatherly has been working steadily and progressively to grow wormwood tea in Africa since he started hearing about it in 2006.
Also referred to as artemisia, this herbal tea is grown in China and has been used by the Chinese for thousands of years to control malaria.
During his visits to An Yang, China, Heatherly has researched the tea’s growth and usage by talking to both the doctors and farmers who grow it.
“Three thousand children die every day from malaria, but nothing happens,” Heatherly said. “Now, that don’t mean much until you know these kids. But if you’ve held them and played with them and that kind of thing, and you watch them die because there’s nothing anyone can do ... There was reason enough to want to do something.”
Wormwood tea has been known to act as both a preventative and a cure for malaria.
“You can drink this simple tea, and in 24 hours, the symptoms of malaria are gone,” he said.
Heatherly and his wife set up a ministry working with the Maasai people in Kenya back in 2002.
Primitive and generally closed-off to outsiders, the Maasai have been living the same way they have been for 3,000 years, Heatherly estimates.
The ministry they have created have already started growing the tea.
“The missionary work we do in Maasai land is what got me interested in the malaria problem,” he said.
Heatherly has found it difficult working around all the regulations and politics of malaria vaccines.
He said that only wealthy people in Africa benefit from the medications, but they make up a vast minority.
“I became extremely interested in bringing this tea to Africa,” he said. “And I also was quite interested about why isn’t this already done.”
When he proposed to bring this tea from China to Africa and grow it to give to people for free, various health ministers simply asked him, “How can we make money from this?”
In order for him to make this tea widely available, he has to have the financial means to do so.
Already, he has engineered an irrigation well made from two lawn mower engines that costs around $3,000 to make versus $65,000.
One engine drives the drilling bit, and the other acts as a mud pump. The drill digs 200-foot-deep wells in the dry land. He is already tax exempt from the $10,000 tax to dig.
Another problem he has run into is actually getting the well to Africa.
His list of necessities include a truck to transport and the gas to operate the truck.
Farm land in Burundi next to a river has already been offered to him. Heatherly states that all the pieces have been put into play, and all they need are the means.
The Heatherlys host “tea parties,” taking tea to various churches and congregations while telling them about their ministry.
“It takes a renegade like me to go in and say ‘let’s plant this tea, let’s grow it, and let’s give it away and let’s cure people of malaria. Let’s keep 3,000 children from dying every day and end this stuff because it has a simple answer,” Heatherly said.
“But people who make 1 billion a month don’t want me to do that. Can you imagine? And that’s not my worst problem.” he said with a boisterous laugh.