Bishop Hoshibata shapes vision for malaria fight

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Bishop Robert Tsugio Hoshibata and Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society

Bishop Robert Tsugio Hoshibata and Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, walk together to the Imagine No Malaria conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 3, 2012.
UMNS photos by Jay Mallin

By Sandra Long Weaver

Before the day was over Dec. 4, Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata and members of the Imagine No Malaria delegation had visited 13 Senate and House offices on Capitol Hill to advocate for continued support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides money for the fight against malaria.

“I represent over 30,000 United Methodists in Arizona,” he told an aide to Jon Kyl, the outgoing Arizona senator. “We have an interest in the budget and are especially concerned with programs dealing with global health.”

He added that “we are seeing the number of deaths decrease” because of the work we do to fight malaria and we want it to continue.

Hoshibata went on to visit the offices of Sens. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, Dean Heller and Harry Reid of Nevada, John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Jeff Flake, also of Arizona. “A crucial part of our work is to spread the word to those who have the power and authority to contribute to the work of Imagine No Malaria. Every source of funding for this critical task is important,” Hoshibata said.

“We are here on the Hill to share our faith and to state boldly that Jesus calls us to care for others, reaching across the globe to offer our love. Our United States government spends a relatively small amount (less than 1 percent) on global needs. We believe it is crucial that we not reduce the funding at this time so that we can continue to offer the care and the hope to those in danger of contracting and dying from malaria.”

Hoshibata was the highest-ranking member of The United Methodist Church making the office visits. His conference, which also includes Nevada and a small part of California, has just committed to raising $2 million toward the $75 million goal The United Methodist Church has set for fight against malaria.

“We’ve been here and we’re inspired by each other,” he told the 107 delegates who participated in the Imagination No Malaria Days on the Hill during the closing sermon. “In the midst of a perverse world, we’re supposed to be shining stars,” and we have done that.

Hoshibata also took time to answer questions about the church’s commitment as well as his commitment to the campaign, which continues through June 2014.

When did you first learn about Imagine No Malaria? What made you decide to become a leader in the campaign?

When Nothing But Nets became a household word in the church world, we became aware of something that captured the attention of people inside and outside the church walls. A treated net that could be purchased for $10 had the immediate effect of saving a life from malaria. But the introduction of an even grander vision of completely eliminating deaths from malaria that included treatment, education, communication and advocacy in addition to the distribution of life-saving nets has really captured the attention of secular and religious groups and individuals.

Raising $75 million to $100 million is a formidable task for any undertaking. What makes you believe The United Methodist Church can accomplish this goal?

Although this is an extremely ambitious goal, I believe that a goal is only an arbitrary measure of a person’s or a group’s heart and soul. When one commits to making a significant difference in life, there should be no limit to what she or he can achieve. That is why we dare to set the bar high. Once you add the Holy Spirit to an endeavor as noble as Imagine No Malaria, you begin to realize that you are not talking about dollars and cents, but rather, about saving human lives. That is why we MUST dare to set the bar high. Lives are at stake — especially the lives of children. And we who have the means to give aid are being called by God to participate generously.

How will the Desert Southwest Conference accomplish its goal of $2 million?

United Methodists in the Desert Southwest Conference have consistently been generous responders to natural disasters that cause loss of life and property. I believe the people of the Desert Southwest will be even more generous in responding to Imagine No Malaria, where there is the incredible opportunity to completely eliminate deaths due to malaria. I would like to believe that our congregations will want to be in ministry through this movement in our church in partnership with sisters and brothers around the globe. We have already begun to see the generous outpouring of love and resources in pledges that have been received, and I have no doubt that we will meet and oversubscribe our goal.

Why is it important that this $2 million goal be reached?

Our goal has been characterized not as an effort to raise money — but rather to save lives. We are measuring the success of our efforts in terms of the number of deaths from malaria that we can prevent. Our goal will result in 200,000 lives that will be saved. The leadership of the Conference is solidly behind the effort. We are blessed with the leadership of Rolly Loomis, our Imagine No Malaria coordinator for our conference. District teams are being formed, as well as local church coordinators. Pastors are stepping up to the plate with pledges and are leading efforts to inspire congregations and communities. I am immensely proud of the willing spirit and generous hearts of compassion of this conference.

What impact have you seen on young people because of the INM campaign?

Young people are amazing in their ability to act out their faith. They want to make a difference in the world, and they are willing to give of their time, energy and resources when they are inspired. The vision of a world free of deaths caused by malaria captures their collective imagination and inspires them. At a recent weekend gathering of young people in the Desert Southwest Conference, a group of 50 or so youth raised over $300 for Imagine No Malaria. They were able by their faith to save 30 lives from a disease that most of them have not known, but were led to action by the faith and hope that youth and young adults bring to their worldview.

How do you think your annual conference will be affected while working toward this goal?

Generosity begets generosity. I fully expect that as we work toward the goal of saving 200,000 lives, we will find that our hearts are also going to be opened to the needs of the communities in which we live and serve. Our churches will come to understand even more than before the importance of abundance thinking — that is, believing in the rich blessings of God and responding to the call of God to share what we have with those who do not have. For me, it is a strong reaffirmation of the message of God’s abundant gift of Jesus Christ to us, and the invitation that God gives us to share that gift in our faithful witness to others.

View photos from Imagine No Malaria advocacy days on Capital Hill

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