More on Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

In a previous post, I referred to the phrase, “Think globally, act locally.” It’s become a bumper sticker cliché, yet it remains meaningful in our shrunken, globally interconnected world.
We are connected in ways unknown to earlier generations–from global economic policy to national governance to local community organization to the education and training of individuals.

No single entry point is sufficient, and no small-scale, independent effort is adequate.

In Imagine No Malaria, the people of The United Methodist Church are partnering to achieve scale while also rebuilding local infrastructure to support community health and social development. They are thinking globally, acting locally.
The fight to end deaths caused by malaria is global, but it will be won, neighborhood by neighborhood, one family at a time. Viewed in its totality, the effort substantially to reduce deaths caused by malaria is a huge undertaking. Only a couple of years ago, it was considered an impossibility. But in the years since the people of The United Methodist Church have become involved, a global movement has developed that sees this goal not merely as a vision but as a target.
When then-General Secretary Randy Day hung a bed net at a meeting of the Board of Global Ministries, he put the challenge to the church. Then he and Bishop Joao Machado spoke at a Summit on Global Health sponsored by TIME. The bishop held up a hand-cranked radio and explained how it could deliver information to help prevent malaria. Immediately following this, Dr. Day and I spoke to the Council of Bishops about the challenge to end malaria.
These fledgling efforts led to General Conference affirming the Four Areas of Focus with the Global Health area, including a campaign for $75 million to provide bed nets to combat the disease. This decision followed a mesmerizing speech by Bill Gates Sr. Mr. Gates called the church to join a global movement to end the tragic effects of this disease. And the delegates responded.
Two years later, the people of The United Methodist Church are taking the challenge into their own congregations, acting locally on this global problem. They have raised $10 million, the first goal set by the campaign plan. And they are moving forward.
Last week, a delegation of three bishops, guests and general agency staff participated in two launch events for Imagine No Malaria with the three bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo in two cities there. The striking thing about this was the crowds that turned out to hear the blunt speeches and the wonderful singing of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a singer of continent-wide renown.
When she asked the thousands of people surrounding the stage in Kamina in central Congo if they wanted nets, they responded with a roar of affirmation. What is significant about this is that only a few short months ago, many did not know what causes malaria and were not interested in bed nets as a result. The educational message has spread quickly, and the response is immediate. These conditions–of awareness and desire for nets–are yet another important step forward.
However, small-scale efforts cannot achieve the goal of continent-wide coverage. This requires multiple partners and geographic reach. In Kamina, for example, The United Methodist Church has already distributed 15,000 nets. This is important. These nets will protect thousands of children. But 450,000 people in this region alone remain without. This illustrates the challenge. It’s one of scale.
With partners, including the United Nations Foundation; the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and a host of others, The UMC must scale up to cover the region. Coupled with other important changes, the goal of reducing malaria deaths in Kamina and the whole of Africa can be achieved.
In Austin Sunday, people danced and celebrated World Malaria Day and the formal launch of the campaign Imagine No Malaria. It was a glorious afternoon of celebration, and we celebrated surpassing the first fundraising goal of $10 million. We are a part of a global movement that is making history. And more.
Jesus said, “Bring the children to me, for of such is the kingdom of God.”
I have seen God’s kingdom in little feet dancing and kicking up dust to the mellifluous singing of a beautiful African woman in what only a day earlier was a trash dump in a forgotten neighborhood of a resource-deprived African city. And I have never been more firmly convinced that the transforming love of God does not operate within the limits of local or global. It happens wherever and whenever we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the hands to join in the work of transformation in Jesus’ name.
God is already about the work of transformation. God is present in our lives teaching us to be about, no, calling us to, the leading causes of life, as Gary Gunderson has so aptly stated it.
Challenging us to see that a trash-laden field with fetid standing water can become God’s kingdom. Challenging our imagination. Imagine, no malaria.

One Response to “More on Thinking Globally, Acting Locally”

  1. James May 1, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Since DDT was banned in 1972, we have had 15 billion cases of malaria with 101 million deaths worldwide. DDT is not a carcinogen. Like carbon dioxide, it was deemed unhealthy by the EPA. Stop wasting money on nets. Help these people with the technology and innovation that God has given to us. Jesus applied saliva and mud to the blind man’s eyes to cure him, even though it was forbidden.

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