Nation Needs United Methodist Example of Imagine No Malaria

6/2/2011

In the rough and tumble world of politics, Mike McCurry has seen it all.

From his days of work on a Senate staff to Presidential Press Secretary McCurry, has experienced the give and take and sometimes, the gridlock of Washington, D.C.
 
As a United Methodist layman, however, McCurry has found the church to be a place that can model the kind of civility lacking in our public discourse where partisan leadership is “dripping with sulfur.”
 
“I honestly believe churches are one of the last places where people can come together to discuss issues and their differences,” McCurry said as the keynote speaker for the All-Conference dinner celebrating Imagine No Malaria. “People can come together and give the right kind of response. Our nation needs that example.”
 
McCurry noted that there are similarities between General Conference and a political convention. “We don’t wear funny hats at General Conference,” the two-time delegate from the Baltimore-Washington Conference said. “At best, we model there is no Democrat, Republican, Green Party or Tea Party way to eradicate malaria – because we work together.”
 
McCurry’s involvement in Imagine No Malaria and the Global Health Initiative was especially attractive because it was a movement that calls persons to be involved with something larger than themselves. “Several folks ask, ‘why malaria? Why not AIDS? Tuberculosis? Clean water?’” McCurry said. “We’ve taken this one on and have raised $18 million toward a $75 million denomination goal. And Imagine No Malaria has also attracted those outside the church; it, too, can also bring people to the pews.”
 
McCurry noted that eradication of malaria is doable. “You don’t hear about malaria in the United States because we eradicated it in the 1950’s, but we didn’t send the news to Africa,” he said. “Five years ago, Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly was inspired by a news report about bed nets which led to Nothing But Nets.”
 
The United Methodist Church found partnerships with the United Nations Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Orkin Pest Control among others. Since 2006, more than 5 million nets have been sent with Ethiopia and Rwanda reporting a 50 percent drop in malaria deaths as a result of the bed nets. Additionally, the clock has moved from one death every 30 seconds, to one death every 45 seconds – a drop of 33 percent across the continent.
 
In 2008, Imagine No Malaria was formed with a larger mission – to eradicate malaria altogether. “It was more than just providing bed nets,” McCurry said. “It was about training, communications, and building an infrastructure for sustainability. You might call it Nets Plus.”
 
McCurry noted that the Illinois Great Rivers Conference was a leader conference. “You are showing others what it means to live out John Wesley’s vision of the world as your parish. Wesley knew, as we know, you have to get out of the church and into the world.”
 
McCurry, who serves on the Board of Trustees of Wesley Theological Seminary and is a Theological Studies student himself, said the church provides society a “great attitude adjustment.”
 
“We are developing working solutions on thing we can agree upon rather than focusing on our points of disagreement,” he said. “I am United Methodist because we’re saving lives every day and I thank you for the part you are playing as we Imagine No Malaria together.”