Jesus said, “Heal the sick … Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8, NIV) I write this newsletter’s opening column having just returned from the 2014 Detroit Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC). These annual conferences are a time of renewal and re-centering for the Michigan based UM churches, as well as an opportunity for all to be leveled-up on the latest news, activities and missions of our denomination. One very notable mission is the Imagine No More Malaria campaign aimed at eliminating the ruthless destruction of life brought about by the malaria virus. Here in the U.S., we have all but stamped out malaria, and when it does surface we have immediate and ample infrastructure to cure the illness before it seriously threatens those afflicted. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other places in our world, perhaps most devastatingly in Africa.
Not long ago, malaria claimed a human life every 30 seconds in Africa, with a majority of those being the lives of infants and children. At Annual Conference, we learned that the dedicated efforts the UMC along with its other partners since 2006 have substantially reduced the rate to one death in every 60 seconds. This is bitter sweet news as it speaks of cutting the death rate in half, while still representing a staggering toll on human life; for no measurable death rate is acceptable, especially when the means presently exists to stop such destruction of human life.
For nearly two centuries, the people of the UMC have been engaged in partnership with our brothers and sisters in Africa in efforts to live out Jesus’ command to heal the sick and help those in need. You may be familiar with the Nothing But Nets campaign aimed at providing insecticide treated mosquito nets to protect the vulnerable from infectious bites. The Imagine No More Malaria campaign represents an expansion beyond prevention, to include treatment, education, and communication. The United Methodist Church worldwide has set the goal of committing $75 million toward this life-changing ministry by the end of 2015, with the Michigan Area UM Conferences (which we are a part of) pledging $1.5 million toward this goal.
Our Bishop is asking each Michigan area church congregation to prayerfully consider how it may participate in such an important initiative. To that end, I will be discussing and sharing more this coming month in worship, and I am encouraging each of us as members, and each of our leadership committees, to pray and converse toward what we as Marble Memorial UMC may submit as our participation pledge to the Bishop by the end of June. We know nets save lives. We know medicine, water treatment, and education saves lives. And we know that this is an initiative that is doable, achievable, and in meaningful response to being disciples of Christ. I look forward to participating in Christ’s mission together with you.
May your love for Christ grow with each passing day, and may Christ’s presence abound within you and with those you love . . .Pastor Bob