9:30 P.M. EST April 25, 2010 | AUSTIN, Texas (UMNS)
A view from the stage shows Jars of Clay performing in Austin, Texas,
during the launch of Imagine No Malaria. Photos by John Gordon.
To Wilson Pruitt, there’s no need to debate whether efforts should be
made to stop suffering from malaria in Africa. “It’s a simple issue,”
he says, “There’s no conflict. There is no one who is for malaria.”
Pruitt, a member of First United Methodist Church in Austin, was
among nearly 2,000 people gathered on the lawn of the Texas State
Capitol on April 25, World Malaria Day, for the official launch of
Imagine No Malaria. The initiative is The United Methodist Church’s
campaign to raise $75 million toward the elimination of deaths and
suffering from malaria in Africa by 2015.
Grammy and Dove Award-winning Christian rock band Jars of Clay
headlined the event that brought Austin area bands, singers and drummers
together with United Methodist leaders and representatives of the
United Nations Foundation and other partners to spread a common message:
Malaria is preventable; malaria is treatable. One out of five children
in Africa under 5 does not need to die of the disease. The gifts of
United Methodists that have provided insecticide-treated bed nets and
education are already making a difference.
“What I’ve learned about malaria today is that it is a very treatable
disease,” Dan Haseltine, lead vocalist of Jars of Clay, said. “What
makes it such an injustice is that over 1 million children die every
year of malaria.”
“It blows my mind there are people dying of this disease,” Stephen
Mason, Jars guitarist, said. “We can do something to stop it. That’s not
true of a lot of diseases today.”
The crowd also heard videotaped stories from Texans whose lives were
affected by malaria before it was eradicated in the United States in the
late 1940s, hammering home the message that the disease is preventable
and those who are infected do not have to die.
“If there had not been a cure for it, I would not be here today,” the
Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones, superintendent of the Austin district, said in a
video presentation. Jones’ mother survived two severe childhood bouts
The festive World Malaria Day event ended on a celebratory note as
United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton of Pittsburgh announced that
$10,031,452 has been donated or pledged as of April 25. The total
includes a $100,000 gift secured earlier this afternoon, said Bickerton,
who chairs the Imagine No Malaria initiative for the denomination.
The Texas event brought two Imagine No Malaria events in Democratic
Republic of Congo earlier this month to Bickerton’s mind.
“They were similar to this, but different,” he said. “We gathered
here safe and healthy; they gathered with malaria. Our children live a
happy life. Their children are dying of this disease.”
Earlier Bickerton commended United Methodists for generously
supporting the fight against malaria through Nothing But Nets. In past
presentations, he said, he pulled out a $10 bill and asked attendees to
match his donation.
“Today, I’m asking you to pull out your cell phone and push 27722 and
text malaria. In this moment, right here in this place, you’ll make
another difference.” Each text message gives $10 to Imagine No Malaria.
Christina Sellers, 16, a member of Faith United Methodist Church, holds
an Imagine No Malaria T-shirt.
A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
View in Photo Gallery
“We’ve made a huge difference in a short amount of time,” Bickerton
said, “but it will take a concentrated effort to raise $75 million. We
can’t let this get ahead of us. We have to make this a part of our lives
As the event launched worldwide fundraising and awareness-building
for Imagine No Malaria, it also celebrated pilot efforts in the
Southwest Texas (regional) Annual Conference that have garnered $1.2
million in cash and pledges since September. The campaign is also
underway in the North Texas and Western Pennsylvania conferences and
will be rolled out around the world in coming months.
Last summer, Bishop James Dorff of San Antonio asked for 110 churches
to participate. “We got 120 and then district by district, church by
church, you’ve been able to participate in a variety of ways,” he said.
“Bed nets plus is what we’re all about!”
“By the time you graduate from high school, Imagine No Malaria will
not be a slogan, it will be a fact,” Dorff told sixth and seventh
graders attending. “This is your time, do not let it pass; this is our
time, we must not let it pass.”
As 15-year-old Helen Hesston attended the event, she said she and
three of her friends at Westlake United Methodist Church in Austin have
pledged to raise $1,000 this year. “We should be thinking about the
people,” the ninth grader said.
On World Malaria Day, people should be planning “to help one at a
time as long as it takes to get it done,” said Luke Kerns. “More nets”
is the theme for the 14-year-old from Buda United Methodist Church who
has pledged $50.
“It’s getting the numbers behind Imagine No Malaria,” said Ashley
Davila of Austin as she wondered, “How can we harness the power of all
these Methodists to eradicate the disease?” Her husband Lee wrote a
song, “One of These Tomorrows,” which the couple recorded as part of Oak
Hill United Methodist Church’s efforts to provide $120,000 for the
Conor Stratton, 12, a member of Wimberley United Methodist Church,
Wimberley, TX, sports double (temporary) tattoos for Imagine No Malaria
during Sunday’s events in Austin.
As a child, Wilson Marimi of Kenya had malaria many times. He vividly
recalls suffering a bout when he was 5. His mother gathered him and two
siblings to walk to a village where they could be treated—a village 20
“I walked slowly,” Marimi said in a video presentation. “After one
mile, I sat down. After another mile, I sat down. We arrived on the
third day.” A doctor at the clinic gave him one injection and told him
to go sit under a tree until the pain subsided. The next day the family
began the 20-mile trek home.
“This is a story affecting 5 million people currently,” he said. “One
million, they die each year. The majority are pregnant women and
children below 5 years of age.”
The Rev. Ken Dahlberg of Sierra Vista, Texas, contracted malaria as a
16-year-old while spending the summer in Somalia. “It was the most
awful thing I’d ever been through,” he said. “With an additional 50
years of living, it is still the most awful thing I’ve ever been
“I cannot imagine a child or a mother or a pregnant mother that does
not have access to treatment or the tools of prevention. That’s why I am
a stalwart supporter of Imagine No Malaria.”
“I want the audience to know that it’s easy and affordable to
eradicate the problem,” Jars keyboardist Charlie Lowell said. “If my kid
were sick with malaria, I would want to call on a neighbor to help me.
We want to look on Africans as our neighbors and see how we can help
“How we will make it possible,” Bickerton said, “is when we put on
Africa, when we remember with them, when we remember they are family.
When we are with them, we are home.”
*Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter Online.
News media contact: Kathy Noble, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or