Fourth-grader Gracie Douglas of West Ohio raised enough money at her school to buy 13 mosquito nets to protect families in Africa.
Laywoman Barbara Ferguson made a personal donation that pushed the California-Nevada Annual Conference halfway to its fundraising goal in The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign.
Trailblazers come in all forms in the church’s campaign to eradicate deaths from malaria, and Douglas and Ferguson were among many whose contributions were celebrated when United Methodists held their annual U.S. gatherings this summer.
The United Methodist Church has raised more than $62 million toward its $75 million goal for the Imagine No Malaria initiative, with annual conferences providing much of the momentum. Fueled by the knowledge that $10 can save a life, the conferences are united in the goal to eliminate deaths in Africa from the deadly disease by 2015.
Annual conference reports submitted and posted on UMC.org provide an overview of work supporting Imagine No Malaria across the connection. (Conferences that would like to be added to this roundup can send information to firstname.lastname@example.org, with INM in the subject line.)
Prior to this year's annual conference, Bishop Paul L. Leeland announced an initiative to save 100,000 lives through Imagine No Malaria. The people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference responded by contributing more than $322,600 — setting a record at their annual gathering in June for the opening worship missional offering. Combined with other funds raised, this puts the conference more than 60 percent toward its $1 million goal.
The conference estimates that it will have saved 57,000 lives so far through its support of the campaign. Alabama-West Florida is tracking its progress at www.awfumc.org/INMProgress.
The California-Nevada Conference’s enthusiasm for Imagine No Malaria is illustrated by Ferguson’s generosity. The laywoman from Los Altos United Methodist Church pushed the conference halfway to its goal with a $1.1 million personal donation, the largest gift to date within the church.
The conference estimated that its support will have saved 132,921 lives toward the goal of eventually saving 200,000. The conference’s progress is being tracked with a meter at www.calnevimagine.org.
Illinois Great Rivers
An opening offering of $40,000 pushed the Illinois Great Rivers Conference past its goal of $2.5 million.
The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications and leader in the denomination’s global health initiative, was present to receive a large-scale replica $2.5 million check from the conference, and he took the opportunity to speak to attendees about the impact their generosity makes in lives across the globe.
“(Because of your efforts), there are children, pregnant mothers and seniors who are alive this night because you cared,” Hollon said. “Lives have been saved and given health and hope for the future.”
The Iowa Conference celebrated topping its $2 million goal. During the annual conference gathering, the Rev. Katie Dawson, Iowa’s Imagine No Malaria field coordinator, announced a fundraising total of almost $10,000 over the goal.
She began her address to the conference by detailing the 2010 statistics of exposure to and death from malaria. At that time, 1 million people were dying each year.
"We decided that is unacceptable," Dawson said. "And so we decided to something about it."
The churchwide campaign was launched in 2010. Since then, with the work focused on malaria by many initiatives and organizations, the death toll in Africa has decreased from the loss of a child every 30 seconds to one every 60 seconds.
The Minnesota Conference smashed its $1.8 million fundraising goal by gathering $2.7 million, the most raised by any conference.
“We are a people who save lives, and we’re fearless about it,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, praising the conference for its support.
“This conference trusted the Holy Spirit to take care of children they knew they would never meet,” he said. Conference members’ faith and determination continue to answer African parents’ prayers for their malaria-affected children, he said.
“You did not look the other way,” Ough said.
Former Imagine No Malaria field manager Leia Williams compared the courage it took to tackle the Imagine No Malaria goal with the courage needed to share faith with others. “You may think you can’t change statistics about faith sharing,” Williams said. “But most didn’t think they could change the malaria statistic in Africa either.”
Jill Wondel and Jennifer Long, coordinators of the campaign in Missouri, expressed gratitude to members for their support of Imagine No Malaria. They described some of the more unusual responses, such as a fundraising event at a youth event in which young people gave “wadded up” dollar bills for the campaign.
Retired Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson began her prayer at the end of the Imagine No Malaria report by telling about a trip she had made to Mozambique. She had taken photos of her guide’s child, and when she brought the pictures to him on a second trip, she learned that the child had died from malaria.
At the end of the conference business session, the bishop reported that the conference’s offerings for Imagine No Malaria had surpassed $1.1 million.
The largest annual conference special offering in North Alabama Conference history totaled $251,129. Added to the other Imagine No Malaria funds collected, the conference is at $911,035 raised toward a $1 million goal.
North Alabama Conference efforts are reinforced by testimony of leaders who have been affected by malaria. For example, the late Lay Leader Gloria Holt contracted malaria after a trip to Africa, and the Rev. Adlene Kufarimai saw many of her friends suffer and perish at the hands of this lethal disease when she was growing up in Africa.
The conference’s “Six-Week Sacrificial Calendar” that specifies a different kind of daily offering in each household has been an effective tool. Challenges such as “25 cents for every light in your home,” “$3 for every toilet in your home” and “$5 if you have ice in your freezer” has taken the fight into each home.
Nearly every week, a calendar day is designated for prayer and/or education about malaria and its dangers. Paying attention to each day’s special message — for example each Monday on the calendar says “$10 Saves a Life!”— gets entire families involved in the fight. At the end of the six weeks, every participating family will have raised around $100, while learning more about malaria and engaging in prayer more often.
At the 2013 annual gathering, the conference set a $1 million goal, and Northern Illinois Bishop Sally Dyck challenged churches to raise $100 for each person who regularly attends worship.
When the conference gathered again last June, a bishop’s appeal offering of more than $47,328, a $10,000 donation from The Seoul South Annual Conference of the Korean Methodist Church and other donations helped boost the $811,000 already raised to $868,000.
Bishop Jun Taek Lim of the Seoul South Annual Conference, Korean Methodist Church — along with his wife and nine district superintendents — visited the conference to deliver the $10,000 donation. Seoul South is the Northern Illinois Conference’s sister conference.
A 5K Fun Run (and Stroll) on the Washington State Fairgrounds, where the annual gathering was held, helped raise funds toward Pacific Northwest’s Imagine No Malaria drive. More than 100 members of the conference participated, and various activities throughout the weekend raised nearly $40,000 for the effort.
Bishop Young Jin Cho took a sincere yet “Happy” approach to the Virginia Conference’s Imagine No Malaria launch, something he made clear by putting on a T-shirt and joining youth and other conference members in singing and dancing to Pharrell Williams’ uplifting song about happiness, hope and truth.
Cho encouraged each church in the Virginia Conference to become invested in the Imagine No Malaria effort, saying that everyone should take on this initiative as a spiritual discipline rather than “just another fundraising drive.” At the end of the dance, cabinet members lined up to spell out “Save 100,000+ Lives” with the backs of their T-shirts, symbolizing the goal of least $1 million to combat malaria.
No word on whether Cho instructed participants to, as the song says, “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”
West Michigan Conference
West Michigan’s 60,000 members gave the conference’s Imagine No Malaria head coach, Molly Turner, reason to shout “Yahoo!” after she reported that the conference had raised $802,704, a considerable leap from the $750,000 goal.
Turner called the Rev. Katie Dawson, fellow Imagine No Malaria field coordinator, forward to share a few words with conference attendees. Dawson, a pastor from Iowa, said: “Where you live shouldn’t determine if you live.”
In a video on the conference website, Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey stresses that malaria is a treatable disease, and that one day “we will all celebrate the end of needless suffering caused by this disease, and the part we played in ending it.”
West Ohio Conference
Demonstrating the courage and commitment of youth, fourth-grader Gracie Douglas brought news to the West Ohio Conference that she had raised $130 – enough for 13 nets to save 13 lives – at her elementary school
Bishop Gregory Palmer began his address by saying recent achievements prove that the conference has the courage to “follow the Lord faithfully and give exceptionally.”
Palmer helped the conference celebrate those achievements when he and Gracie, of Leipsic United Methodist Church, held open a net for a special offering. The gesture and their enthusiasm were rewarded: The net soon bulged with $395,429.57 offered by conference attendees.
Caviness is an intern for United Methodist Communications. Information for this story was drawn from reports submitted by annual conference communicators.