I gathered with other delegates and colleagues in ballroom B of the Tampa convention center. Imagine No Malaria is an organization I had heard of plenty of times before. But I like many of the parishioners of our churches had no idea of the depth, height and grace of God presence in this organization.
Some fast facts for you, if you like me, had not experienced the power of Imagine No Malaria
- Since it’s official launch, Imagine No Malaria has provided nearly 1 million mosquito nets, trained 5,000 community health workers and established 12 health boards to plan and oversee programs in 15 countries.
- Gifts totaling $20,202,778 have been given to support this program, with gifts coming from 61 different United Methodist annual conferences.
- Imagine No Malaria’s documentary, “A Killer in the Dark” aired as a TV special on NBC affiliates in 2011. It has earned numerous awards, including the Religion Communicators Council’s DeRose-Hinkhouse award for “Best of Class,” The Aurora Awards” “Platinum Best in Show” and a pair of “platinum” honors from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.
When General Conference first heard of Imagine No Malaria, a child was dying every thirty seconds, now in 2012 we see that there is still death, but death is losing grounds on the fight in Malaria. The people of the United Methodist Church have taken up this cross, and are walking with the people who are hurting. When Christ bids us come to the table, he calls us to bear one another’s burdens. It can be quite comfortable for United Methodists in the United States to imagine a world without malaria, but when you give a face and a name to the plight of this disease, you see that Christ’s face is among them, God is present amidst the people fighting malaria.
I highly encourage everyone to see Imagine No Malaria’s, “A Killer in the Dark” When we start to see our church as a connectional body, we see that our brothers and sisters are hurting. I am reminded of that old hymn, “Jesus calls us over the tumult?of our life’s wild, restless, sea;?day by day His sweet voice soundeth,?saying, “Christian, follow Me!” When we hear the voice of our Creator and Redeemer sounding over our comfortable lives, we see that God is working, and inviting us to work for the mission of a world with no malaria.
When I think of imagining, as this organization challenges us to do, I often think of dreams. I think of the hopes and dreams of the one we call Christ. I wonder what Jesus dreamed for our world, I wonder what Jesus imagined for us. Simply and directly, Jesus didn’t imagine a world where Christians sit around while our world hurts. Jesus didn’t imagine that we sit in chairs and vote on resolutions to help, he challenged us to dirty, death-defying theology, a theology of servant ministry and practice. When we get down in the dirt where these mosquitos are, we are down there with the people of Africa, hoping, praying and working for God’s grace and love to become evident through practice.
To quote the video, “Imagine No Malaria is about changing and saving lives” Isn’t that in itself the mission of the United Methodist Church and a commission handed down to us by our Savior. It is our challenge as the global community to respond to the needs of the people. The video states that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, churches provide 50 percent of the healthcare for that county. What if we imagined a world where the body of Christ lived out its mission in healthcare, poverty response and a message against preventable diseases?
To quote Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” It is the hope and prayer of bishops, clergypersons, and laity alike that one day when this time and place has been committed to history, we might say that to malaria. It is our job to make that day happen, it is our job to take an imagination and bring about a reality. On that day, we will all be able to say, “Thanks be to God.” Amen.
I am deeply indebted to Rob Naylor and Skyler Nimmons in the writing and publication of this piece.
Rob Lee is a candidate for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. Currently he is a religious studies major at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. A member of the Western North Carolina Conference and a delegate to General Conference, Rob works with various papers and outlets on a local and national level.