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Imagine No Malaria

Our Ministry Moment this past Sunday was for Imagine No Malaria, an effort of United Methodist churches across the globe to end   the malaria epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. As a denomination we are trying to raise $75 million, and our own Tennessee Conference of the UMC has pledged $1 million. We are well on our way. (To find out more, you can visit www.imaginenomalaria.org.)

Kathy Noble, who spoke on behalf of this ministry, shared some compelling statistics. Just a few years ago, one person in Africa died every 30 seconds from malaria. Because of many of the efforts of The United Methodist Church, including bed nets, medical clinics, health education and advocacy, that number has been cut in half. That’s good news, but we can do better.

If you’re like me, it’s easy to hear numbers and statistics like these but not actually listen to them. We, myself included, can quickly become numb to problems that are so far removed from our own daily lives. But when I was in Uganda last summer, the problem of malaria became very real to me.

Our mission in Uganda involved spending a week in Bwassandeku, where Raise the Roof Academy helps to educate hundreds of children in poverty. We hosted a Vacation Bible School for kids, a medical clinic and leadership sessions for pastors and community leaders. On the first full day that we were in Bwassandeku, I was helping with the leadership sessions for adults. During one of the sessions led by Chip Higgins, I sat in the back with some of the folks from the village. There was a woman next to me holding an adorable little girl who was staring at me and periodically smiling. An older woman on the other side of her gestured to me, as if to ask if I wanted to hold the little girl. I smiled, and the mother handed her to me.

I held the little girl on my lap as we sang worship songs and listened to the presentation. After a while I realized that her mother had left her seat. I didn’t worry about it too much because people were milling around the campus freely, and it wasn’t too difficult to find people. I was sure her mother would come back soon.

But time continued to pass. Half an hour became an hour. Slowly it dawned on me that the little girl was getting hotter and hotter. As a mother, I know a fever when I feel one, and this sweet child had a fever. And it was rising. She became listless and groggy, so I decided to take her up to the medical clinic.

In the clinic were doctors and nurses from Uganda as well as from our own medical team. One of them examined the little girl and knew right away what was wrong: malaria. They gave her some Tylenol and her fever went down. She began to perk up, so I went and got her some food. She ate and ate and ate. She smiled and pointed and cooed. Eventually, we found her mother in the crowd and they headed home.

I wonder how that little girl is doing today. I can hardly bear the thought that she might not make it to adulthood. This disease is treatable, curable and beatable. That’s why I’m supporting Imagine No Malaria. If you’d like to do the same, you can make a gift to Christ UMC and designate it for “Imagine No Malaria.” It works. It makes a difference. It saves lives.