I just attended a conversation among leaders of
The United Methodist church in which concern for global health concerns became a
conversation about hope. It was a remarkable experience.
How would you start a movement to save one child at a time from the ravages of the diseases of poverty, for as long as it takes?
I woke up this morning wondering about this curious question. It’s inspired by an informal conversation I attended among some of the leaders of The United Methodist Church about ending the diseases of poverty. But the conversation didn’t focus on diseases, it was about life, and that made it exciting. They talked about caring for children, the poor and the vulnerable, and how doing this is the meaning of being a disciple of Jesus, who said, “I have come so that you may have life.” It was a conversation about Life!
And as United Methodists, we remembered the teachings of the founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, who told members of the small “societies” that formed around his teachings they should include a dispensary in their meeting houses so the poor could get medicines.
This was an energizing and emotional conversation for me. In fact, I haven’t felt so emotionally moved since my teen years when I went to old-fashioned revivals. But this was a hope-filled meeting, not fire and brimstone whipped up around fear as those were.
I wonder what could happen if all of us who are the people of The United Methodist Church committed ourselves to do whatever is within our power to put an end to malaria. What if we advocated for public policies to free up the resources necessary to provide the education, insecticides, medications, health care providers and bed nets that would once and for all stop this disease from killing a million people a year, most of them children under 5? What if we volunteered to go to places that could benefit from our hands and worked in partnership with people in local communities to drain standing water, remove debris that is habitat for disease-bearing mosquitos, built health clinics, improved water supplies and taught good health practices? What if we became familiar with the causes of the diseases of poverty and set about trying to change them with acts compassion and advocacy for justice? And what if we gave financially to the church and the U.N. to provide bed nets so that they cover the continent of Africa and other places where malaria is still causing death?
These what-ifs are running through my mind like a race car on a track. What if 14 million United Methodists united around this challenge? Imagine what they could accomplish!
They could be the tipping point that catalyzes a global grassroots movement to end of the scourge of malaria and save millions of lives. Methodism started as a movement and if we remember where we came from, we could become a movement once again, a movement for Life.