Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > News Archive 2007 > November 2007 > News - November 2007
United Methodists get their game on to fight malaria

The Revs. Claude Davison (left) and Howard Martin take a breather while training for upcoming basketball competitions in the Central Texas and North Texas Annual (regional) conferences to benefit Nothing But Nets. UMNS photos by Steve Smith.

By Steve Smith*
Nov. 13, 2007 | RICHLAND HILLS, Texas (UMNS)

Under a cloudless Texas sky, the Rev. Claude Davison, 75, dribbles his basketball to the chalk "foul line" on his driveway, aims at the hoop, and shoots.

The ball makes a perfect arc in the air, hits nothing but net and makes a "woosh!" sound.

"Got it!" said the retired United Methodist clergyman as his pastor, the Rev. Howard Martin, watches with admiration.

Both pastors are practicing their skills for upcoming basketball tournaments in the Central Texas and North Texas annual (regional) conferences to raise money for Nothing But Nets, a grassroots campaign to crush malaria in Africa by providing insecticide-treated sleeping nets to children and families at risk. The people of The United Methodist Church are a founding partner of the campaign.

As part of the effort, the basketball champs from the Dallas-based North Texas conference will tangle with their counterparts from the Fort Worth-based Central Texas conference on April 26, the first Saturday of the 2008 General Conference. The faceoff will take place at Fort Worth’s First United Methodist Church near the city’s convention center, site of the denomination's top legislative assembly. United Methodist bishops from throughout the world, including Africa, will attend the game.

Davison, who grew up in Indiana where his father and mother led churches, plans to participate in the tournament’s free-throw competition, in which each person pays $10 to sink as many buckets as possible. The major part of the competition will be 3-on-3 team playoffs.

"Nothing But Nets is a project that really appeals to me," Davison said between free throws. "And besides, Indiana boys like their basketball, whether they’re 15 or 75."

Each player pays $10 to compete, and tournament organizers want to present at least a half million dollars to Nothing But Nets.

Davison practices free throws at his home in Richland Hills, Texas, as Martin waits to rebound.

"Basketball is America’s sport," said Martin, who is coordinating the Central Texas tourney. "Basketball is exciting, fast paced, and basically anyone has the potential to be a star, especially in their driveway.

"The reason The United Methodist Church is participating in Nothing but Nets is we are a social-justice church with the vitality and capabilities to mobilize several million members into an immediate response," said Martin, senior pastor at Richland Hills United Methodist Church.

Nets for nets

To basketball aficionado Martin, the tournament and Nothing But Nets are an ideal match. There are, of course, the malaria-fighting nets that cost $10 each to buy and send to Africa. And, in basketball, the phrase "nothing but net" means sinking a basket without the ball touching the rim.

In Africa, two people die from malaria and malaria-related diseases every minute, and 20 percent of all children’s deaths are blamed on the mosquito-borne disease.

To combat the rising death rates, the United Nations Foundation created Nothing But Nets, which was inspired by Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly. He challenged readers to donate at least $10 to buy an anti-malaria bed net, which can protect a family of four from mosquitoes for up to four years.

In addition to the people of The United Methodist Church, founding campaign partners include the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated magazine and the United Nations Foundation.

To date, the campaign has raised nearly $16 million worldwide, of which United Methodists have contributed about $2 million.

Carolyn Stephens, the Central Texas conference’s associate director of mission ministries, brought the Nothing But Nets idea back to Fort Worth after hearing United Methodist Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton talk about the humanitarian effort last fall.

"His message was so compelling that I knew I wanted our conference to be involved," said Stephens, whose local annual conference designated Nets as its major fundraiser.

Stephens contacted her North Texas counterpart, Joan LaBarr, and the rest is history. "She and I knew we’d like to share this with people in our respective areas because we share sports teams, like the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and people think in terms of basketball and nets," Stephens said.

Making a difference

Members of the church teams are mostly from congregations, although some churches are reaching out in their communities to raise public awareness and foster new relationships with their neighbors. Teams also include players from the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco.

"The reason The United Methodist Church is participating in Nothing but Nets is we are a social-justice church with the vitality and capabilities to mobilize several million members into an immediate response.
–The Rev. Howard Martin

"I’m sure the championship game at General Conference will have several 'ringers' from both conferences," said Martin, referring to players who don’t attend the churches but are recruited for their athletic prowess. "But that’s OK. We must remember that the reason for the games is to raise awareness and finances to counter malaria."

The Rev. Darian Pace, who is coordinating the North Texas tourney, says joining the Nets campaign is a natural for Methodism, which began missions in Africa more than 160 years ago. In June, Pace kicked off the tournament at the annual conference with Bishop Alfred L. Norris taking shots at a hoop.

North Texas teams are gearing up for district games but recognize that the tournament's underlying motivation is not the thrill of competition, according to Pace, senior pastor at God’s Kingdom United Methodist Church in FerrisUR.

"When you talk about the seriousness of malaria and how it’s affecting the people of Africa, the players become more relaxed playing the games because they know they’re making a difference," he said. "They know that $10 buys one bed net that will cover a family of four, so they understand the impact of donating something as small as a 10-dollar bill."

As a result, he adds, people who otherwise wouldn’t participate in a basketball tournament, or can't even hit the side of a barn, are joining church teams. Others are donating $10 and volunteering their time.

"They are gaining an awareness of things that are going in our world," said Pace. "They understand even (they) can make a difference, one net can make a difference, and you don’t have to be rich or in charge of some corporation to make a difference."

*Smith is a freelance writer in Dallas.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Video

Nothing But Nets Promo

Related Articles

United Methodists commit to nets for Côte d'Ivoire

Emergency appeal aims to save refugees in Chad

Conference gatherings collect funds for Nets, missions

Delegation delivers nets to malaria-infested township

Twenty-dollar gift grows to $500,000 for Nets

March Madness advances Nothing But Nets drive


Nothing But Nets

Nothing But Nets Campaign

Malaria initiatives of The United Methodist Church

Related stories on Nothing But Nets

North Texas Annual Conference

Central Texas Annual Conference

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Original text