Bickerton lectures bring in $7k to fight malaria

Bishop Thomas Bickerton speaks at St. James UMC Little Rock Nov. 9. Sponsored by the church’s Fiser-Christie Endowed Lectureship, his visit focused on the work the United Methodist Church is doing through Imagine No Malaria. PHOTO BY MARCIA DUNBAR / COURTESY ST. JAMES UMC

Bishop Thomas Bickerton speaks at St. James UMC Little Rock Nov. 9. Sponsored by the church’s Fiser-Christie Endowed Lectureship, his visit focused on the work the United Methodist Church is doing through Imagine No Malaria.
PHOTO BY MARCIA DUNBAR / COURTESY ST. JAMES UMC

Timely message touches on ebola’s impact

A recent Arkansas visit by Bishop Thomas Bickerton helped with fundraising for the cause of ending deaths from malaria.

In his role as lead spokesperson for the United Methodist Global Health Initiative, which includes the Imagine No Malaria campaign, Bickerton spoke Nov. 9-10 at St. James UMC Little Rock. He was the inaugural speaker for the church’s Fiser-Christie Endowed Lectureship. Special offerings taken during the two days of presentations totaled $7,000, according to the Rev. Blake Bradford, executive pastor of St. James.

Drawing from statistics posted at www.ImagineNoMalaria.org, Bickerton shared the initiative’s progress. Imagine No Malaria has trained 11,600 health workers, maintained and operated 300 clinics, impacted 4.6 million lives through improved communication and education and distributed 2.3 million insecticide-treated bed nets.

Yet he also reminded listeners how fragile such gains can be. A bad rainy season that improves mosquito breeding conditions could cause a new malaria outbreak, as could failing to replace old bed nets, which lose effectiveness after five years.

“Unless we remain persistent in our work, we could erase many of the gains we’ve made,” said the Rev. David Freeman, chair of the Arkansas Conference’s Imagine No Malaria task force. He noted that the Arkansas Conference is closing in on its target of raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria, but we cannot lose sight of the real goal: eliminating deaths from this preventable and treatable disease.

“The Spirit has moved through the people and churches of Arkansas to get us to this point,” Freeman wrote in an email to the Arkansas United Methodist. “Seeing the excitement and people getting swept up in the work of Imagine No Malaria has awakened within me a great deal of joy and confidence for our Conference.”

Bickerton also addressed the effect the current Ebola outbreak is having on efforts to fight malaria. Every dollar given to Imagine No Malaria still goes toward fighting malaria, but other resources have been diverted to address Ebola. Sadly, some areas have seen increases in malaria deaths because of the necessary shift in focus.

Ebola also complicates plans for workers who have limited time available to help. Bickerton shared that he spoke recently with a man who was preparing to spend four weeks in Sierra Leone volunteering in a clinic supported by Imagine No Malaria. However, the new Ebola quarantine recommendations would require an additional four weeks away from home and work; this volunteer could not commit to eight weeks.

“Bishop Bickerton urged us all to keep it in perspective as 5,000 people have died from Ebola, but over 1,000 people die from malaria every day,” Freeman wrote. “We must find a way to address both diseases and avoid further inflaming a crisis within a crisis.”