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Congregations strive to zap malaria

 
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5:00 P.M. EST May 25, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Nathalie Naman holds her daughter, Dunongo, in front of the mosquito net she received at her home in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of  Congo. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Nathalie Naman holds her daughter, Dunongo, in front of the mosquito net she received at her home in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery

One month ago, United Methodists worldwide caught the spirit of Change the World and reached out to their communities.

That spirit continues today as Imagine No Malaria fundraising and awareness events capture the interest of many annual (regional) conferences and local churches.

In one positive example, Latrobe United Methodist Church in Pennsylvania set an initial fundraising goal of $25,000—or $100 per person—for their six-week Imagine No Malaria campaign.

Later, the Rev. David J. Henderson said, “We doubled our goal to $50,000.” He expects the congregation to reach the $30,000 mark by May 30.

Members decorated the church—indoors and outdoors—in mosquito netting with giant cardboard mosquitoes. “We had a ‘hanging of the nets,’ kind of a takeoff on the hanging of the greens.”

Every Sunday the children collect “nickels for nets,” while worshippers sing the South African song “Siyahamba” (“We are marching in the light of God”). The youth got into the act too, selling 250 citronella (insect-repelling) candles for $5.

The congregation of Latrobe United Methodist Church decorated the church with mosquito netting and giant cardboard mosquitoes. A UMNS photo courtesy Rev. David J. Henderson.
The congregation of Latrobe United Methodist Church decorated the church with mosquito netting and giant cardboard mosquitoes.
A UMNS photo courtesy Rev. David J. Henderson.
View in Photo Gallery

The Latrobe congregation has heard that one in five children in Africa dies before his or her fifth birthday, and members are doing their best to change that statistic.

“God has really been working in a lot of different ways,” Henderson said.

Groundswell of support

The denomination formally launched the Imagine No Malaria campaign on World Malaria Day, April 25, in Austin, Texas. More than 2,000 people turned out to celebrate, and many more joined in online to help kick off continued efforts to reduce death and suffering from malaria in Africa by 2015. Headlining the event was the Christian rock band Jars of Clay.

Leading up to World Malaria Day, thousands of people attended events in Lubumbashi and Kamina in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they learned how to prevent malaria and responded to a call to use bed nets to save lives.

The weeklong activity in the village of Bongonga included the distribution of 30,000 insecticide-treated bed nets with Yvonne Chaka Chaka, a well-known singer in Africa. Local community organizations expanded their efforts to prevent malaria by reaching people receiving bed nets for the first time. The people of The United Methodist Church joined with partner organizations in the effort.

With a goal of $75 million, Imagine No Malaria has already surpassed the $10 million milestone in giving. The United Methodist Publishing House contributed $50,000 to Imagine No Malaria, representing 5 percent of Cokesbury sales April 7-10.

Spiritual leaders across the denomination affirmed Imagine No Malaria during May’s Council of Bishops meeting, leading to a groundswell of support from annual conferences.

The Southwest Texas Annual (regional) Conference continues to make Imagine No Malaria a focus of their global health emphasis. Three small churches in the Victoria District—Flatonia, St. Paul El Campo and Webster Chapel, Victoria—raised a total of $10,600 to support the effort.

First United Methodist Church in Bridgeport, Texas, hosted a “Skeeter Shoot” fundraiser at a local shooting range. Participants included church members, but many community people also came out to support the fight against malaria. 

Children collect “nickels for nets” while worshippers sing. A UMNS photo courtesy Rev. David J. Henderson.
Children collect “nickels for nets” while worshippers sing.
A UMNS photo courtesy Rev. David J. Henderson.
View in Photo Gallery

“I loved the event because it attracted a whole different group of people . . . than I normally interact with,” said the Rev. Dana Coker, pastor. “It was a great way to raise awareness.”

One big family

Often, churches are the only organizations serving rural communities located “at the end of the road,” said Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who chairs the United Methodist Global Health Initiative.

“That is one of the reasons faith communities are such a vital part of efforts to eliminate death and suffering from malaria. We provide education and resources in areas far out of reach or with no access to a health care facility."

When we work together with Africans, he added, “We remember them; we remember they are family. When we are with them, we are home.”

Donations to Imagine No Malaria can be made at ImagineNoMalaria.org or sent to UMC- Imagine No Malaria, P.O. Box 440544, Nashville, TN 37244. A gift of $10—the cost of a bed net for a family—can be made by texting the word “malaria” to 27722. All contributions are billed by the mobile service provider.

*Naylor is communications coordinator for Imagine No Malaria at United Methodist Communications. Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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