By the Rev. Fran Elrod
HARTSVILLE—In early July, 4-year-old Olive approached me after worship one Sunday morning with an enthusiasm and passionate spirit that immediately captured my attention and the attention of those around me: "Pastor Fran, we have to save the children from malaria! We need to buy nets and give them to the children in Africa!"
Olive and her mother, Brittney, had been watching television the night before when the commercial aired about A Killer in the Darkness. Actress Pauley Perrette s compassionate plea ”to help eradicate the malaria epidemic in Africa by contributing to the purchase of mosquito nets to protect children and their families as they slept ”had sparked Olive s desire to help.
Olive continued the conversation by telling me that we needed to raise money to buy the nets to save the children.
Without hesitation, I said, Yes! We can do that, Olive!
Olive s sense of urgency and obvious heartfelt desire to save the children in Africa from malaria did not lend itself to waiting for team meetings and planning sessions to develop the strategy for raising funds for this mission. It had to be done now.
I made an appointment to meet with Olive and her mother to listen to her thoughts about how she thought we could raise money to buy the nets. Before our scheduled meeting, I saw Olive at a church event, and with the confidence of a born leader, she asked me, Do you remember what we talked about the other day? I sure do, I replied. Olive came back with, Good! Don t forget!
When Olive, her mother and I met, Olive once again expressed with urgency the need to help save the children from getting sick with malaria in Africa. At home, Olive and her mother had already discussed several ways to raise money: collect aluminum cans to recycle, visit local businesses and ask if Olive could place one of her decorated jars in their facility to collect money, sell bug juice drinks at the Wesley Fall Festival, and simply ask for gifts.
The following Sunday, Olive led the children s sermon during worship. As I prompted her to answer questions about the mission project, her unscripted answers were clearly articulated, especially when I asked her how we could help buy the mosquito nets to help the children. Olive leaned very close to the microphone and said with confidence, Raise money!
Olive, her mother and a few of Olive s friends decorated large containers to collect aluminum cans here at Wesley United Methodist Church, Hartsville, and also decorated jars to place in area businesses. She and her friends get together at her home and have can-crushing parties to sell the aluminum cans. I made contact with United Methodist Communications and ordered the free materials provided for Imagine No Malaria, which included neon green bracelets that read Imagine No Malaria.org and have the cross and flame symbol on each one.
When I gave the bracelets to Olive to give away and promote the mission, she took them with her on a shopping trip to Hobby Lobby one day, and began passing them out to people and telling them about her mission. When she walked out of Hobby Lobby, she had been given $13 in donations simply by sharing the story!
Several weeks later now, 4-year-old Olive continues to promote and support the mission to save the children in Africa from malaria and raise money for Imagine No Malaria. She gives us periodic updates on the amount of money she has collected from selling the aluminum cans, puts all the money donated in the offering on Sunday and continues to tell us to raise money.
This past Sunday during the children s moments, I talked with the children about Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God. I asked the children to listen quietly for a moment and tell me if they could hear God, and then I asked what God said to them.
Olive sat quietly for a moment, and then she reached for the microphone and whispered into it, God said, ˜I love you.
I believe that is exactly what Olive heard.
Elrod is pastor of Wesley UMC, Hartsville.