Celebration brings tears of joy, hope

April 15, 2010

It was already an emotional day for me. The past two years had pointed toward the launch of the campaign by The United Methodist Church called Imagine No Malaria. It had been a long, sometimes frustrating journey. And this day symbolized for me the first milestone after General Conference initiated this effort to end the preventable death and suffering that results from malaria.
The stage was set in what had been, a day earlier, a filthy trash dump surrounded by pools of fetid water. I could not have imagined workers could clean up this place so quickly and so completely. It was testimony to the high value placed on the net distribution that would take place here.
But first we were holding a public celebration to emphasize the importance of sleeping under the nets, keeping the environment clean, draining standing water and recognizing the symptoms of malaria.

Photo by Lynne Dobson

Yvonne Chaka Chaka, an African singer of continent-wide renown and adoration, was the celebrity attraction. When she called the children to come toward the stage, there was a rush of tiny limbs and legs the likes of which I’d never seen before. They screamed and reached out to her, they danced and created a dust storm, they smiled and the day seemed to come alive in a new way.

And I lost it. I think the tears were my own expression of thanksgiving, joy and hope. This is what we have been working for. It’s about these little children having a fair chance to live full, long productive lives. To experience the words that Jesus spoke, “I am come that you may have life, and live it abundantly.” 
It’s clear in their innocence, with their bright smiles and dancing feet, these little faces deserve that chance. They deserve to have a future in which life is more than a struggle to survive each day. They deserve to have the opportunity to grow and develop into the full, productive people God has created all of us to be.
In my 30 years of communicating about faith and the abundant life, this day will stand out as one of the most meaningful and moving. Through the movement to end malaria deaths, the people of The United Methodist Church have truly joined in the work of establishing the kingdom of God in the most forgotten places among the most overlooked people. Here is where we will find God, and here is where our faith will be confirmed.

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