The following was written Dec. 12, 2012, in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe.
I have been to the meetings. I have read the brochures. I have watched the videos. I have heard impassioned speakers talk about the scourge of this disease. Intellectually I knew what I needed to know.
I have been part of the Kansas West, Kansas East and Nebraska Conferences as they committed to raising money for Imagine No Malaria. I have given money personally. I have announced that I will shoot 1,000 free throws on Feb. 23 to encourage others to give. I have spoken to groups of clergy and laity all across the Great Plains about the strategic and global importance of this effort.
But it all hit home yesterday, Dec. 11. I helped hang six nets in two homes in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe. The mothers and grandmothers were grateful. The children were fun and interested. The poverty was striking. They wanted those nets to keep the adults and children healthy.
I finally saw the whole circle.
Before hanging the nets I participated in a kick-off ceremony for this phase of the project. Chief Muusa spoke and was eloquent in why this was important and the whole community needed to support it. The District Administrator for the government’s Ministry of Health, Mr. Wilson Boré gave his blessing. The chief doctor for the region shared her statistics about the health of the people.
Perhaps the most moving parts of the ceremony were the drama and the presentation. In the drama a group of men acted out getting sick from malaria and the various ways people try to cope with the disease. It was hilarious, and the crowd of 300 people laughed over and over again. This was the community teaching each other that using bed nets and getting prompt medical attention from the clinic was the proper way to address the threat of malaria.
For the presentation, 80 women danced and sang their way to the front. Some were dressed in the red and white uniform of the women’s group of the United Baptist Church, one of our partners in this effort. The rest of the women were dressed in the red, white and blue of the RRW, the local equivalent of our United Methodist women. These women then presented 24 sets of sheets to Chief Muusa for use in the hospital so that the whole community would benefit. Out of their poverty these women gave with extravagant generosity.
Did I save any lives yesterday?
To be honest, I don’t know. Pregnant women and children are at the greatest risk for malaria, and maybe the children and women I met in those homes would have escaped malaria. Maybe their husbands would have not gotten the disease.
But I know that I got a flu shot this year. I was vaccinated against smallpox as a child. I wear seat belts in the car. My home has circuit breakers and smoke detectors. I do a lot of things to prevent illness or accident. As an American society we know that such preventive measures save lives when one looks at a whole community.
I might not have saved the lives of the people I met. But I know I saved some lives of people living in Chimanimani. And people in Kansas and Nebraska who have given money for Imagine No Malaria were part of that as well.
I told the people that God wants to end malaria. I also told them that when we act as partners in collaboration for such a holy cause, we please God. I am convinced God was pleased with us yesterday.
Note: In February 2013, the people of The United Methodist Church across the Great Plains are called to Shoot for No Malaria! Every local church is called to get involved and invite their community. This is a month-long, area-wide, basketball themed celebration of our effort to end malaria deaths by 2015. For more information, visit www.shootfornomalaria.net. Be sure and register your Shoot for No Malaria event!
On Feb. 23, Bishop Scott Jones will attempt 1,000 free-throws. Everyone is encouraged to guess how many he will make and place your guess for a $10 donation to Imagine No Malaria. Place your guess(es) at http://shootfornomalaria.net/bishops-free-throw-challenge/. You can also donate without guessing; use the donation form on the www.shootfornomalaria.net home page.