Fifty years ago, on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space after squeezing into a tiny tin can of a spacecraft called Freedom 7 and being popped into the sky on a 15 minute, suborbital flight. He was actually in space for only about five of those minutes.
Twenty days later, President Kennedy challenged the nation to, “land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth,” before the end of the decade.
Even to many experts, it seemed a preposterously ambitious goal to set after only managing to send a man to the edges of space for less time than most people take to finish a cup of coffee. Such a mission would require a flight 2,000 times higher and 800 times longer.
But, the daunting mission captured the imagination of the nation. Besides that, we had a dangerous to beat. The communists couldn’t be allowed to ger to the moon first!
Just eight years later, the Apollo 11 astronauts rode a rocket that was almost one thousand times more powerful than the one on which Shepard had flown, and set foot upon the moon. Because people of bold imagination committed themselves to a daring vision, and believed it could happen.
Since that time, it has been common to describe ambitious, world-changing projects as “moon shots.”
The United Methodist Church has undertaken just such a “moon shot.”
We dare to imagine a world in which no child dies of malaria. Not just in some dim and distant future…but by the end of 2015.
To some, it seems a preposterously ambitious goal.
Recently, I saw a website which argued that there couldn’t be a loving God, and cited as one “proof” that a million children a year died of the disease, and there was no way to wipe it out.
I was struck by the contrast of a non-believer ranting that God doesn’t exist because of a disease which Christ-followers are launching a concerted effort to eradicate in the name of God. I think I prefer to stand with the healers than with the ranters.
As for the claim that malaria cannot be defeated. Well, in the first two years of our efforts to help eradicate the disease, the annual malaria death rate in Africa has dropped from one million to 700,000. In the African nation of Rwanda, deaths due to malaria plummeted by 60 percent in that period, and they continue to drop.
We know how to control and cure this disease. We already have the tools in hand. It just requires commitment and the proper allocation of the available resources. That process is already well underway. In this respect, we’re much further along toward achieving our goal than NASA was when JFK set our sights on the moon.
Virtually eliminating deaths from malaria is not an unattainable goal. Nor is doing it by the end of 2015. IF we have the imagination for it, and the commitment to a bold goal.
We are the people who believe and proclaim that God has done the impossible and defeated sin and death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Are we going to believe that malaria is unconquerable, as that does that website which denies God’s love?
Defeating this ancient killer can be our “moon shot” and a reverberation of the resurrection. It can be an answer to those who wonder what difference Jesus makes, and if God really does care. That could capture the imagination of a world in need of hope.