The weather guys say that if we get spring rains in Austin this year—can you imagine?—we could see swarms of mosquitos. Yikes. Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast I can imagine that; and I can say, with easy confidence, I’ve had enough of that. They suck your blood and then you itch. You can’t slap them fast enough. They follow you inside and torment your sleep.
Okay, I’m being a baby. A few mosquito bites aren’t going to kill me. But in much of the world, it only takes one. Every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria, a disease transmitted via mosquito. One bite and bang! your dead. Or your Dad gets bit; and while he doesn’t die—thank heaven—he can’t work for months so your Mom and your brothers and sisters die of starvation, if the mosquitoes don’t get them first. That not bad enough? After children, pregnant women are the next largest population to die from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.
I’ll never forget a day 7 years ago when I was with a group of students on a pleasure boat cruising the scenic waterways of Kerala in southern India. Late in the day our boat’s propeller got tangled up in water plants and came to a stop. From our watery perch we observed families washing clothes along the river bank, stoking fires and cooking supper, burning incense and chanting evening prayers. I was enchanted. Then it got dark. Then the mosquitos came out to feed. Interesting term, eh? Feed. On me. I happened to be taking the best anti-malarial medication money can buy; but I had no DEET. I went from feeling creeped-out to becoming a tiny bit terrified. The boat driver was under water freeing the propeller. I stared into the abyss.
Obviously, I lived to tell this tale. I’ve since learned that malaria is preventable and treatable. It’s within our expertise to end deaths by malaria and I think we ought to make that happen. That’s why I’ve been part of the Imagine No Malaria movement since it started.
Two years ago right here in Austin the United Methodist Church launched Imagine No Malaria in partnership with the Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation. Together we’re trying to end deaths from malaria by 2015. A tall order, but of course we have to try. Since 2010 in those African countries where the full multi-faceted campaign has been implemented, remarkable progress has already been made. A whole lot of children and Moms and Dads are alive today because of it.
Tuesday, March 13, during SxSW, Methodists are once again flying the Imagine No Malaria banner up our steeple, inviting everyone to come to the parking lot at Faith United Methodist Church, 2701 South Lamar in Austin, and learn about this global movement of saving lives. From 5:00—11:30pm we’ll hear live bands and see a short award winning documentary Killer in the Dark, all emceed by Chet Garner of PBS’s The Daytripper. AND, the East Side King food trailer will be there. I’m totally down for that, too.
If you’d like to help save lives and have fun on March 13th, you’re invited. Bring your friends. Share this event, even if you can’t attend. Help us help people get the tools and meds they need to live. To save a life this very moment—talk about an awesome instant message—Text: “Malaria” to 27722 to give $10. I can imagine a world where no one dies from a mosquito bite. You?