In 2008, Bishop Thomas Bickerton took $10 from his wallet and challenged the General Conference to engage in the fight against malaria by supporting Nothing But Nets. This action led the General Conference to affirm Global Health as an area of focus. Today, Imagine No Malaria is the fruit of this gesture.
To date, The United Methodist Church has raised $20.2 million to support the denomination's Imagine No Malaria campaign and has made a significant impact on hundreds of thousands of lives.
On April 25, World Malaria Day, delegates to the 2012 General Conference entering the Tampa Convention Center were reminded of their commitment by volunteers dressed like the disease-transmitting mosquitoes. This action served as a visual reminder that the fight is not over and that the church should stay the course in its efforts to eliminate malaria as a source of death and suffering.
As the business of the General Conference resumed, a "surprise" flash mob took over the floor to mark the importance of this day for malaria education and awareness. The flash mob drew the almost 1,000 delegates into the life-and-death drama of how malaria is transmitted.
"What an impression it made (and I had to stop to Instagram) this morning to be greeted by a life-size mosquito for our morning session!" said Allison Lindsey, South Georgia Conference layperson.
"Flash mobs are quite the 'buzz' these days, and how creative to see it on the floor of General Conference," she said. "The African beat, dance and the visual image of the mosquito taking lives will be something that I will not forget. It was awesome through the connection and partnerships to make a difference in this epidemic!"
"We're trying to raise awareness in a unique way for World Malaria Day, today, April 25, especially since four years ago the GC established the Four Areas of Focus, (one of) which is global health and diseases and poverty," said Elisabeth Clymer, a high school senior from Alexandria, Va., who serves as partner for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. "We really wanted to raise awareness and show the progress that's been made. In just a few years we have cut malaria deaths in half. Just two years&ellipsis; very exciting! It's great to be part of a large global effort and makes us proud to know that United Methodists are on the forefront of this."
Clymer joined Bishop Thomas Bickerton, Pittsburgh Area, Bishop John Yambasu, Sierra Leone Area, and Michael Pajonk, the United Nations Foundation's director of organizational partnerships, in announcing that The United Methodist Church is ahead of the game in the fight to end malaria. Bickerton provided background on the work of the campaign and the core areas that have supported the church's success in recent years. Communications, community health clinics and ongoing education continue to be a driving force in "swatting" out this disease.
"It's a joy to be a part of this campaign because I know what it has done for Africa, and for the first time in our denomination, we have all come together to wage war against malaria," Yambasu said.
The work of the Imagine No Malaria campaign has been focused on Africa, primarily because 90 percent of the global malaria burden is in sub-Saharan Africa. Children and women, especially pregnant women, are the most at-risk group.
Malaria is a preventable, treatable disease that once claimed a life every 30 seconds. The United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria initiative has reduced the rate to one life every 60 seconds. As a global health ministry, Imagine No Malaria empowers the people of Africa to build capacity and infrastructure to reduce deaths and suffering caused by malaria.
Continued support of United Methodist churches is integral to beating malaria. For more information, visit ImagineNoMalaria.org or text "SWAT" to 27722.
*Nimmons is a communications specialist with the Western North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference and a member of the United Methodist News Service team at General Conference.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Tampa, Fla., (813) 574-4837, through May; after May 4, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470, or [email protected].