UMCSC celebrates as WHO report shows four times the number of children are surviving the disease
By Jessica Brodie
Imagine No Malaria advocates are cheering this month over the news that, because of their efforts, four times the number of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are surviving the mosquito-borne disease.
When The United Methodist Church started the initiative five years ago, children were dying every 30 seconds from malaria. Deaths had reduced by last year to one child every 60 seconds. But on Dec. 9, the World Health Organization announced those deaths had been reduced to one every two minutes—a huge triumph for those who work daily to eradicate the disease.
“I have just one word: wow!” said the Rev. Jeri Katherine Warden Sipes, field coordinator for the Imagine No Malaria initiative in South Carolina. “God is good, and God is using us in big ways to bring healing, hope and new life.”
South Carolina United Methodists are six months into a conference-wide commitment to raise $1 million for Imagine No Malaria by Annual Conference 2016, in June. The global UMC has already raised $66 million, and South Carolina’s efforts will make that $67 million, with the ultimate goal being $75 million. South Carolina’s Imagine No Malaria team is co-chaired by Felecia Holston and the Rev. Mike Alexander.
“In this season of good news to all people, United Methodists celebrate as we continue to work toward malaria control in Africa,” Alexander said. “What wonderful news this is! As we move forward to prevent, treat and beat malaria, we continue to claim that every human life has equal value. In the spirit of John Wesley, let us continue to do all the good we can to all the people we can.”
Every church in the conference is expected to contribute. Bishop Jonathan and Felecia Holston and the Extended Cabinet—including all 12 district superintendents—have pledged to give a combined total of $20,000 to the Imagine No Malaria initiative, with varying amounts going to each local church in their district. Conference Lay Leader Barbara Ware has challenged district lay leaders, the conference presidents of United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men and the conference director of Lay Servant Ministries to match her pledge.
To date, the conference is working hard toward their $1 million goal. As of Oct. 31, South Carolina had raised $113,584, but that doesn’t take into account all of November and December—or the $145,000 the UMC reportedly raised for Imagine No Malaria on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1. Those totals will not be available until January.
Felecia Holston called the thousands of lives saved through the Imagine No Malaria initiative “a testimony to what we can achieve when we sacrifice for something greater than ourselves.”
“The vision of a world without malaria deaths is made possible through the generosity of our gifts,” she said.
Sipes said she hopes churches will step up and help, not only because the conference has committed the funds, but because the money has a direct impact on the number of children’s lives saved.
“Because we've come together, partnering with God and one another to commit ourselves to end deaths from malaria, in just one year 720 children's lives have been saved every day,” Sipes said, noting South Carolina has the opportunity to be a part of even bigger miracles than this. “For me, this brings to life the Christmas story of Jesus coming to bring light and life to this world; we're still doing this light and life work of Jesus Christ, and just as one child forever changed our world, we are forever changing the lives of so many children.”
Creative ways to help
Across the conference, people are getting creative in their efforts to raise funds to fight malaria. The Advocate has already reported on efforts by young Olive Kronz, the Imagine No Malaria advocate from Wesley UMC, Hartsville, who has raised more than $4,000 to fight the disease, plus the teams of children who used their vacation Bible schools and coin collection folders to do much-needed fundraising. Youth are holding a T-shirt contest and More Than Nets fashion show in conjunction with the Revolution spiritual retreat in late January, adding some creative flair to their fundraising. Local churches in every district are taking up special collections or doing malaria campaigns, such as Trinity UMC, Darlington, which is selling Christmas ornaments for $5 apiece to raise money to fight the disease.
In December, Hartsville District Superintendent Dr. Robin Dease put her cooking talents to good use, cooking a full gourmet meal with proceeds going to the Imagine No Malaria initiative.
The conference also did an Advent devotional series on Imagine No Malaria, with daily reflections designed to raise awareness and inspire advocacy.
As the calendar moves toward Lent, leaders are now working on a Lenten devotional series, plus a sermon series and Bible study. All of these will be available soon at inm.umcsc.org.
How to give
One hundred percent of the funds raised 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.
To donate to the effort, go to inm.umcsc.org and click the “Donate Now” button, or mail a check to Treasurer, 4908 Colonia Dr., Columbia, SC 29203 (be sure to put “Imagine No Malaria” on the memo line).
To brainstorm with Sipes about how your church can help, to request a speaker or for more information, email [email protected].