UMC’s anti-malaria efforts recognized at international conference

The United Methodist Church was the only faith-based organization recognized at the 4th Global Fund Replenishment Conference, held in Washington, D.C. in early December.

While most other participants at the conference represented their country, Bishop Thomas Bickerton, the head of the UMC’s Global Health Initiative, represented all United Methodists engaged in the fight to end death and suffering from malaria by 2015.
Bickerton told the international audience about the UMC’s commitment and expressed gratitude that the church was given the opportunity to participate in the life-saving effort.

“The United Methodist Church is the first faith-based organization to directly support the work of the Global Fund,” he said. “The United Methodist Church has developed health initiatives in Africa for more than a hundred years. We provide clinics, hospitals, and community-based health services without regard to race, religion or political creed.”

The conference theme, “No Time to Lose: Sharing the Responsibility to Save Lives,” resonated with Bickerton as he told the group about how local churches in sub-Sarahan Africa are committed to assisting families in the remote areas in which they are located.  “Often they have no road access or electricity,” Bickerton said. “Yet, the church is there providing a significant presence and influence.”  Following the conference, Bickerton shared his personal observations by email with United Methodist and Imagine No Malaria campaign leaders. He emphasized how extraordinary it was that the people of the United Methodist Church were recognized for their effort, alongside entire countries.

“During the conference, these representatives sat at tables, each taking their respective turn in making a pledge from their organization,” Bickerton wrote. “Country after country took the microphone and made their pledge for the 2014-2016 cycle.”
Bickerton noted that as the pledges continued, some persons began looking at their cell phones.

Then Nafsian Mboi, the Indonesia Minister of Health and Chair of the Global Fund Board called upon the representative from the United Methodist Church.

“But when the United Methodist Church was named, all eyes turned our way,” Bickerton wrote. “It was a different voice, a different organization, a different pledge of commitment. There is no doubt that as a faith-based partner, we play a critical role in the world scene in this ongoing fight to eliminate killer diseases.”

The church’s ministry and mission in Africa make it an invaluable partner, Bickerton continued.

“We may not have the pledging capacity of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We may not have the power of a large country,” he wrote. “But what we do have is an understanding of the local communities and villages that benefit from this collaborative effort. What we do have is a relationship with people through traditional birth attendants, rural clinics, and hospitals.”

The efforts of the United Methodist Church and other faith-based organizations are essential in the fight against malaria.

“Often we underestimate our worth,” Bickerton wrote. “We will not eliminate the killer diseases on our own. But today it was very evident that the killer diseases will not be eliminated without us. We are an essential piece in the puzzle of making the world a healthier place for all God’s children.”