By Jessica Brodie
Every 60 seconds, a child in Africa dies from malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that is entirely curable and preventable with the right resources.
Now, South Carolina is stepping up to help these children in a mighty way, with Bishop Jonathan Holston committing the conference to raising $1 million over the next year for The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria initiative.
The global UMC has already raised $66 million to fight the disease that has claimed the lives of millions, particularly children, the elderly and pregnant women. South Carolina’s efforts will make that $67 million, with the ultimate goal being $75 million to help the world Imagine No Malaria.
“No mother should ever have to bury her child from a mosquito bite,” said the Rev. Jeri Katherine Warden Sipes, the conference’s new Imagine No Malaria field coordinator, a position funded by United Methodist Communications.
Sipes, herself the mother of an infant boy, will spend the next year working with a team co-chaired by the bishop’s wife, Felecia Holston, and the Rev. Mike Alexander, to help local churches raise funds. Every church in the conference is expected to contribute.
One hundred percent of the funds will go to Imagine No Malaria initiatives focusing on prevention (bed nets given to families), treatment (improving and equipping hospitals, medication and setting up clinics in rural areas), education (training health workers) and communication (reaching out to the community with information on how to prevent malaria, identify symptoms and get treatment). They are focusing on sub-Saharan Africa because that is where 90 percent of the deaths occur.
Sipes said the effort is one of extreme hope, where the church can truly make a tangible difference. Currently, 594,000 people die from malaria every year, but with adequate funds, she said, the disease is treatable, beatable and preventable. In just six years, the UMC has been able to reduce the number of deaths by malaria from one every 30 seconds to one every 60 seconds.
“Malaria cannot be eradicated—we will always have mosquitos infected with the parasite—but we can end deaths by malaria,” Sipes said.
The conference is off to a good start, the team said; to date, districts have raised a tenth of the goal: nearly $100,000 for malaria. Sipes said they are hoping most of the efforts will be led by children, who see solutions where adults often see obstacles.
“It will be children helping children,” Sipes said.
Take young Olive Kronz, age 6, for instance. A member of Wesley UMC, Hartsville, the first-grader was propelled to step up after seeing a TV commercial that said a quarter can help save a life; she has since raised more than $4,000 to fight the disease by collecting and crushing aluminum cans with her mother. Not only has she inspired her church, but also her whole community. The Hartsville District is leading the charge in collecting funds for Imagine No Malaria, having raised more than $12,000 to date.
“(Children like Olive) see no barriers to accomplishing God-sized dreams,” which is often what makes them so effective in advocacy, said Olive’s pastor, the Rev. Fran Elrod.
Olive’s mother, Brittney Kronz, said she continues to be impressed by her daughter’s dedication to saving children from malaria. “I’m so grateful for the compassion that God has instilled in Olive,” Kronz said.
Sipes said the malaria effort is a good fit for South Carolina, which is already very invested in children’s advocacy, between the Children in Poverty Task Force, the Million Book Effort, One Million Hours of Service and more. She said it is a relevant way for the church to save lives and offer hope.
As did Job in Scripture, “People in Africa are praying for relief, for hope, for life. Through Imagine No Malaria, we are the answer to their prayer,” Sipes said.
The Advocate will track the campaign’s progress over the next year, reporting monthly on monies raised per district. For more on the campaign or how to help, visit inm.umcsc.org.