In the last two weeks, I have been talking with a lot of folks across Iowa. I spent some time with clergy in Des Moines and then in Hampton at Laity Day. I preached in DeWitt and organized folks in Mount Pleasant. I worked with folks in Tama. And I’ve made phone calls to at least four different area codes.
Three times, I’ve heard stories of students who came to Iowa from Tanzania to study while in high school. A heart-breaking story of a student who returned only to contract malaria and die. The passed-along word to be in prayer for a current student who’s father had just died of malaria. And the joyful exclamation of a student who rushed to a clergywoman at a Chrysalis retreat when she heard that she was a United Methodist pastor: “Thank you for saving our lives!”
I’ve heard the stories of two veterans who served overseas and contracted malaria. They battled “Annie” the anophales mosquito and came out on the other side to tell their story. Both are helping to spread the word among their churches.
I’ve heard from moms who have sent children away on mission trips and pray for their safety. I’ve heard stories of hospital visits here in the U.S. where no one could tell them what was wrong because malaria is so rare here. I’ve listened to accounts of baptisms of children who we hope are still living.
I have not been to Africa. I have never had malaria. I have not experienced the terror of watching a loved one grow feverish and get sick with an illness you knew you could stop if only you had enough money or resources.
But I know people who have. And their stories are heart-breaking and beautiful and it is an honor to be able to hear them and to work with them and on their behalf to help save lives.
1,440 children died from malaria today. That is 1,440 too many.
But today, hundreds, if not thousands of people, were also seeking for a way to be light in the darkness after tragedies like the explosions in Boston and the earthquake in Iran.
We posted quotes from Mr. Rogers and prophets and preachers on twitter. We changed our profile pictures to something quintessentially Bostonian. We lifted up prayers that we would remember and that things would be different and told ourselves that we wouldn’t be afraid, that we weren’t going to let the darkness win. But then the next day comes… and life takes back over… and we let the thoughts fade and the pictures get changed and we start complaining about the scores on Dancing with the Stars.
Today, 1,440 children died from malaria.
So tonight, I changed my facebook cover picture to the beautiful faces of two members of our human family from Angola. Because I’m not going to just let those prayers and those thoughts of today fade into memory tomorrow. I want to be different tomorrow. I want to hang on to that light. I want to be one of those helpers who runs into the fray.My new prayer is that we might join our broken hearts together to actually work for good in the world. There are lots of fantastic places to start, but in my life that place is this battle against malaria. And so I want to invite you to join me in being light, in making a difference, in helping to save lives.
I’m going to tell you stories… like all of those ones that I mentioned above. I’m going to share pictures and help put a face to the work we are doing. But above all, I want to invite you to imagine with me the possibilities. This effort to stop deaths from malaria… it’s not just wishful thinking. It is doable, it is real, it is happening all around us and you have got to be part of this.
One way to start… check out our website for this project in Iowa: www.inmiowa.org
If you live here in the state, especially check out the “Statewide Pancake Breakfast” link and find a place near you where you can eat some pancakes and help raise funds to save lives.
Our goal here in Iowa is to help save 200,000 lives from malaria… by covering those children with a bednet as they sleep and helping to provide the funds for diagnosis and treatment.
The best part… it only costs ten bucks.
Ten dollars can save a life. Ten dollars can prevent malaria. Ten dollars can diagnose and treat a disease that kills.
Let’s be light. Let’s shine in the darkness. Let’s never give up.