By Tatenda Mujeni
Just over 10 years ago, United Methodists globally decided to take on an audacious goal of imagining a world without malaria, leading one of the largest commitments by a faith-based organization to end the disease. Our faith was literally put into action as we distributed millions of mosquito nets, tests and malaria medications to prevent and treat for malaria. Thousands of community volunteers and health facility workers received training in malaria prevention and treatment. We also revitalized their places of work by renovating health facilities throughout Africa.
At General Conference 2016, The United Methodist Church celebrated these successes of the Imagine No Malaria campaign. There was much to be celebrated. Through the support of our generous donors and the tireless efforts of our partners on the ground, United Methodists significantly contributed toward a global effort to control and end malaria.
Although we have made great strides in the communities we work in, the fight to end the disease is far from over. After years of steady decline in malaria infections, there was a global surge of the disease in 2016. Each year, over 200 million people are infected by malaria leading, to more than 400,000 deaths from this preventable disease.
What happens beyond Imagine No Malaria? The simple answer is: we continue our efforts until we reach our goal of imagining a world with no malaria.
As we celebrated the end of active fundraising of the INM program in 2016, the denomination was introduced to Abundant Health for All as the health focus for the next quadrennium. Through the Abundant Health initiative, United Methodists take a holistic approach towards health, focusing on mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Globally, through the commitment to Every Woman Every Child, the Abundant Health program aims to reach one million children with life-saving interventions by 2020 and reaching millions more beyond that date. Malaria is still one of the leading causes for disease and death in children under five. Preventing and controlling malaria is therefore promoting abundant health in this vulnerable population.
Over the past three years, the INM program has contributed to the abundant health goal of reaching one million children with life-saving interventions through ongoing facility-based prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria. In over 200 UMC health facilities throughout Africa, we ensure that all pregnant women receive life-saving malaria prophylaxis and mosquito nets to prevent malaria and the adverse effects of the disease during pregancy. We also ensure that every child under five that attends a UMC health facility receives a mosquito net to prevent the disease and ensure timely diagnosis and treatment if they have malaria. Through supporting and promoting Abundant Health for All, we are moving closer towards our dream of imagining a world with no malaria.
Tatenda Mujeni is the Global Health Malaria program manager.
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.
Deaf Awareness Week is soon approaching, and United Methodist churches should extend their hand of welcome to Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind persons in their community. This week is observed during the last week of September (in 2019, the 23-29th), beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday. Deaf Awareness Week originated in Rome, Italy in 1958 through the efforts of The World Federation of the Deaf. Deaf communities around the world began adopting this international observance as a way to honor the history and heritage of Deaf and hard of hearing people, affirm diversity, to educate society about deafness, and celebrate Deaf culture.
Historically, Deaf ministries have been an extension of their Deaf community, in part, due to their support of Deaf education and mission. For instance, during the mid-nineteenth century, The Episcopal Church ordained its first Deaf deacon in the U.S. The Methodist Church was the fourth denomination to have a Deaf pastor to serve a Deaf congregation in Chicago, which was close to the turn of the 20th century. Click here for a brief outline of Deaf Christian history and click here for a more comprehensive account.
Communication barriers and cultural differences often exclude Deaf and hard of hearing persons from the life of the church. For example, when this writer’s Deaf parents moved from Maryland to Virginia, the fourth church that was contacted agreed to provide a sign language interpreter. Recently, a Deaf couple in the Southeastern Jurisdiction shared they are only able to worship twice a month because their church is unable to afford a sign language interpreter on a weekly basis. In most cases, there is a cost for sign language interpreters. While it’s the church’s responsibility to hire and pay for interpreters, most Deaf and hard-of-hearing people donate to their congregation, and thus support the cost indirectly (click here for a brief guide about interpreters). One Deaf ministry holds an annual fundraiser to support their interpreting ministry. Certainly, budgeting and prioritizing the Deaf ministry is vital to sustaining it. So is awareness; a cultural difference can be seen during a Christmas Eve service when lights are dimmed and candles used. This makes it challenging to see a sign language interpreter.
The Apostle Paul emphasized to the church in Corinth (and us) that the body of Christ needs all of its members (1 Cor 12:12-31). Like other denominations, The United Methodist Church recognizes the need for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind individuals to be better represented in the life of the church. General Conference continues to support funding for Deaf ministries. This funding is overseen by Global Ministries, which includes small grants to support new Deaf ministries.
Deaf Awareness Week is a strong reminder for churches to be accessible and inviting for Deaf and hard of hearing people. For example, offer captioning (display it on a TV screen or project it with PowerPoint), have all-encompassing bulletins (Scriptures, prayers, announcements, music), use multimedia (Deaf people can’t hold hymnals while signing), ensure adequate lighting, and consistently use a sound system during worship: all of these are inexpensive ways to improve accessibility. Click here for more ideas. After all, 1 in 3 persons over 65 have some degree of hearing loss and improving communication access in worship and in the life of the church can support hard-of-hearing and late-deafened people to remain active, some of whom are the bigger givers.
So, how can your church observe Deaf Awareness Week?
- Emphasize accessibility
- Become familiar with our guidebook, Breaking the Sound Barrier. Complete the communication access audit that begins on page 12; then discuss any findings in the next church council meeting
- Have Deaf and hard of hearing people help lead worship (e.g. sign the Lord’s Prayer, be greeters, ushers, sign a hymn, or read Scripture)
- Include bulletin inserts all month long
- Host a Deaf Awareness Sunday (be sure to promote it)
- Become familiar with the book, Deaf Ministry: A Comprehensive Overview of Ministry Models, (3rd ed). Become bold and implement a Deaf ministry committee (read on p. 330 for ideas) and explore the possibilities.
As a part of its Disability Ministries, Emmanuel UMC in Laurel, MD, is observing Deaf awareness by offering a month-long sign language class, has a sign language interpreter on most Sundays, uses multimedia, and will include Deaf awareness in its announcements. For activities and ideas, check out the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries Committee’s Deaf Awareness Weekweb page. For general information about Deaf Awareness Week, click here. For a series of brief guides and congregational resources, click here.
Rev. Leo Yates, Jr. is the consultant for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Ministries Committee.
Having a place to hang out with good friends in a supportive community that provides fun and creative activities is a universal best practice for helping youth find meaning and purpose. Global Ministries’ Global Health unit takes a keen interest in partnering with organizations that help children and youth maintain good health and avoid the temptations that unhealthy environments foster.
The Shade and Fresh Water project, a ministry of the Methodist Church in Brazil, has provided afterschool programming for children for more than 18 years. Across the country through churches in over 50 locations, Shade and Fresh Water reaches 2570 children and youth. “Our mission is to form a large Methodist network of support and protection for children and adolescents,” the mission asserts. Brazilian Methodists support this mission ministry with more than 2000 volunteers from their congregations and the communities they serve.
Partnering with Global Health in 2019-2020, Shade and Fresh Water plans to improve a project in the Northeast Region (Methodist Conference) of Brazil and another in Rio de Janeiro, increasing the consistency and quality of the programming and contributing to positive development opportunities for youth in Brazil’s poorest communities.
A place to grow in positive ways
Shade and Fresh Water grew out of the work of the Methodist Community Center in São Gabriel, an older ministry based in Belo Horizonte. Gordon and Teca Greathouse served there for much of their 40-year missionary careers and continue serving in the city of Belo Horizonte in retirement. Before the church expanded the afterschool and children’s education work to create Shade and Fresh Water in 2000, the São Gabriel Methodist Community Center served as a place where children with nowhere to play but the streets could come in for acceptance and affection, engage in sports, arts and music and experience a place of Christian welcome and care.
Over the past two years, Shade and Fresh Water has scaled up its services to include programs for youth ages 15-18. This new level of programming, in partnership with Global Health, provides healthy alternatives for older teens as they try to discern who they are and what they want to do with their lives.
Vinicius Guimarães dos Santos started attending Shade and Fresh Water when he was 6 years old. His mother searched for a place that could keep her son safe after school while she and his father were still at work.
Music was what attracted dos Santos to the afterschool program. But once he was there, he says he learned discipline and self-esteem too. His talent and hard work eventually earned him the opportunity to represent Shade and Fresh Water with a group of children that traveled to the U.S. to perform at the Virginia Annual Conference. Dos Santos had never traveled in an airplane and was overwhelmed by the way he was received.
Until recently, children aged out of Shade and Fresh Water when they turned 15, but dos Santos stayed on as a volunteer. Eventually, he received a scholarship to study the flute. Today at age 23, he works as an educator with the program and is involved in the expansion to reach older teens. “Kids need programs that support them and help them discover who they are,” says dos Santos. “Without that, many get lost and people lead them in the wrong way.”
Dos Santos feels that music teaches youth confidence and pride in themselves. “Kids often get involved in drugs because it makes them think they are the big guys on their street. But music is a better alternative. They can feel pride without the drugs.”
Becoming citizens in the greater community
Shade and Fresh Water builds curriculum around seven different areas of programming for children and youth. The core curriculum includes Christian education, support for academic education, and sports and recreational activities. These three activities are required in all official Shade and Fresh Water projects. Complementary curriculum includes citizenship; culture, music and the arts; holistic health; and technology, mainly computer literacy and access.
While many church-related programs cover the same bases, citizenship is a unique Brazilian choice for children’s programming. Shade and Fresh Water describes citizenship as: “the ability to assert our rights and values and act in accordance with our duties. Working with citizenship in Shade and Fresh Water is directed toward the development of values and attitudes that promote creative ability and critical thinking.” The goal is to help children and adolescents in their quest to improve their living conditions, learn to make decisions, build healthy relationships and recognize themselves as active subjects and participants within their social group. Basically, this curriculum is teaching children to work together to change the world.
For 9-year-old Thaynara, this kind of curriculum has encouraged her to set high goals: “My plan to make our country better is to not throw trash in the streets and to make sure people are safe. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor and a police officer. My friends tell me I am crazy, but I would be fulfilling my dreams, right? The project has taught me songs, parties, and the word of God. Before I didn’t really like to go to church, but now I go almost every day.”
Saving the planet, keeping people safe and healthy, songs, parties, the word of God and a strong faith community – Shade and Fresh Water for Thaynara. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Christie R. House is the senior writer/editor for Global Ministries.