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United Methodists should fight malaria deaths, executive says

 


United Methodists should fight malaria deaths, executive says

April 15, 2005       
 
By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)—If United Methodists can help clear Mozambique of landmines, they should be able to do the same with mosquitoes.

That’s one of the challenges that the Rev. R. Randy Day presented to directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries during the April 11-14 spring meeting. Day is the board’s chief executive.

“Malaria is much on my mind as a preventable disease that is all too often fatal,” he said. The disease kills one African child every 30 seconds and a total of 2 million people a year, he noted.

While it’s been shown that insecticide-treated mosquito nets can reduce the incidence of malaria by 50 percent in areas of high transmission, fewer than 5 percent of African children sleep under a mosquito net, Day reported.

He demonstrated the ease of this inexpensive solution by ducking under a mosquito net draping a bed set up in the meeting room and suggested the board “could work out pilot projects in several locations and save the lives of many children.”

For this and other health care projects, the board needs to expand its partnerships with medical volunteers—4,135 health care professionals served as volunteers in mission in 2004—and with the network of United Methodist hospitals in the United States, Day said.

In his address to directors, Day suggested the Board of Global Ministries expand its work in leadership development through existing programs, such as mission studies, scholarships and various training options, and new programs, such as the integration of mission theology and history into pastoral education and continuing mission education for both clergy and laity.

A less traditional example of leadership development is the education project for children orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe, financed by a $3 million gift from an anonymous family and an additional $500,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

More than 2,600 children have been registered in the “Orphans and Vulnerable Children Educational and Support Project,” according to Day, with nearly every United Methodist congregation, circuit and district involved.

He considers the program a model of leadership development for children. “I have a firm belief that many of them will become leaders of United Methodism in Africa and that one or two may become bishops,” he said.

Securing funding for its programs remains a challenge for the Board of Global Ministries, still recovering from a budget crisis.

Roland Fernandes, board treasurer, reported that the mission agency’s operating revenue declined by $2.3 million from $65.6 million in 2003 to $63.3 million in 2004. Although a $6.7 million gap remained between operating expenses and operating revenue in 2004, that deficit had steadily decreased since 2001.

The board’s stock market gains on net assets were lower in 2004 than 2003, but overall, Fernandes said, the agency’s financial performance during 2004 “was significantly better than any of the previous years of the quadrennium, as signified in the reducing deficits.”

As recommended by the board’s finance committee, directors voted $55.9 million in total appropriations for the 2006 budget, a decrease of about $2 million from 2005. “This reduction is based on income expectations and the fact that some sources of funds that the board possessed have been utilized and are no longer available,” Fernandes said.

Day acknowledged the declining budget but warned directors away from staying in a “maintenance mode that could depress creative thinking, innovation and even risk-taking in our witness and service. … I hope we will not fall into the trap of thinking we can afford to do only what we are doing.”

One of the board’s creative successes in recent years has been the promotion of “volunteers in mission” across the denomination. The agency’s Mission Volunteers Program reported that 68,204 volunteers served in teams in 51 countries and 37 states during 2004, generating $43 million in contributions and producing a “value of work” estimated at $58 million. Another 164 people participated in the individual volunteers program last year.

Day pointed out that every team or volunteer relates to teams or individuals at the place of service “so that the value of the interaction is multiplied.”

In other business, board directors voted to formally establish the United Methodist Church in Senegal and United Methodist Church in Cameroon as a mission.

Under Paragraph 590 in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, a mission is an administrative body under the care of the Board of Global Ministries for the purpose of providing ministry with a particular group or region that does not fit in existing structures or as the initial step toward forming a provisional or missionary conference.

The Senegal church has 16 congregations and 699 members. Its outreach programs focus on nutrition, community health care, prison ministry, literacy and education.

The United Methodist Church in Cameroon has a network of 19 churches, 21 pastors and prayer cell groups led by laypeople throughout the country. Because Cameroon is officially bilingual, 10 churches are in English-speaking areas and nine are in French-speaking areas.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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