By Mahalia Smith, intern for United Methodist Communications
Two district superintendents in the California-Nevada Conference took pies to the face and two others had their heads shaved after their districts raised more than $377,000 for Imagine No Malaria. They are examples of the creative ways that 2015 annual conference sessions celebrated progress towards raising $75 million for The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria initiative.
The denomination has raised $66 million so far and contributed to cutting deaths from malaria in half. On April 22, the denomination gave $9.6 million to the Global Fund to further its work against malaria. The donations of United Methodists are providing mosquito nets and health clinics, as well as radio stations, radios and local health worker training. The money also supports preventive measures, such as draining stagnant water where infectious mosquitos breed.
Annual conference reports show various ways churches are raising money for Imagine No Malaria. The reports, available at UMC.org, also indicate the progress conferences are making toward raising their shares of the $75 million target.
With 93,631 lives saved to date, churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference are working to save 100,000 lives. During the opening worship service, Sherri Atland, Imagine No Malaria campaign director, presented a plaque thanking the annual conference for its work. Another $91,602 was collected during the service.
The Alaska Conference celebrated reaching its goal of $150,000 one full year ahead of schedule. The conference plans to raise $50,000 more by April 2016.
Conference-goers in California-Nevada celebrated raising $1.75 million toward their $2 million Imagine No Malaria goal. In September 2014, Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. and four district superintendents launched the $100K District Challenge, urging each district to raise $100,000 by the 2015 annual conference session. If their districts succeeded, the superintendents agreed either to have a pie thrown in their faces or to have their heads shaved. More than $377,000 was collected, so, on stage, two took pies to the face, and the others shaved their heads.
The Dakotas Conference received a Miracle Offering with funds raised through the “Beat the Bishop Hoop Shoot,” a selfie contest and a “Change War.” In the selfie contest, people had their pictures taken with life-size cardboard cutouts of Bishop Bruce Ough or John Wesley. Ough won with the most photos snapped.
Districts competed in the “Change War.” Pennies and nickels were collected on Thursday, dimes and quarters on Friday, and dollars and checks on Saturday. District members could sabotage one another by donating the wrong coins in for a certain day. Any “undesignated” coins were subtracted from that day’s total. The first day all districts had a negative balance. The Sakakawea district eventually won the competition.
The Miracle Offering is still growing.
During its annual session, Florida raised $27,575 for Imagine No Malaria through karaoke contests, 5K runs that raised $16,000 and spaghetti dinners. A cartoon portrait of Bishop Ken Carter was auctioned.
Via video, Dr. Silas M’Mworia of Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, told of his personal battle with malaria. “Malaria is a killer, a ruthless killer. Now, imagine a world without this ruthless killer. What a joy that could be,” M’Mworia said.
The Florida Conference’s goal is to save 250,000 from malaria.
The Detroit and West Michigan conferences raised $1,634,362 to surpass their goal of $1 million. Imagine No Malaria coordinator Ashley Gish attended both conferences and presented Bishop Deborah Kiesey with a plaque, thanking the conferences for their work.
The Nashville Episcopal Area (the Memphis and Tennessee conferences) is working toward its goal of $1 million for Imagine No Malaria. By April 30, the Nashville Area had raised a total of $374,311.95.
At the Memphis Conference, attendees celebrated by wearing red. Denise Russell, Imagine No Malaria coordinator for the Memphis Conference, said, “Our part of the goal (approximately $400,000) is certainly attainable. I will be thrilled if every church in the Memphis Conference contributes something.”
The North Alabama Conference celebrated meeting its $1 million goal for Imagine No Malaria.
North Georgia has raised $688,057.43 for Imagine No Malaria. The conference raised more than $440,000 before the annual session, $2,200 in its annual 5K and $241,228.43 at the annual meeting through a special offering.
Jamie Jenkins, North Georgia’s field coordinator for Imagine No Malaria, believes that one day there will be no more death from malaria. “Soon we won’t have to Imagine No Malaria,” said Jenkins, “we can Realize No Malaria.”
The Northern Illinois Conference has raised $1 million for Imagine No Malaria. The Rev. Gary Henderson, the executive director of the Global Health Initiative at United Methodist Communications, thanked the conference. “Because of your efforts, people are living, not dying.” said Henderson “The death rate from malaria has been cut in half since we began this effort. You are the evidence that we are better together.”
To raise money for Imagine No Malaria, the Oregon-Idaho Conference had an Imagine No Malaria photo booth, a silent auction, a 5K and a video confessional booth for members to share their success stories. Homemade mosquito-repellant soap and CDs by Jeff and Paige Lowery were sold. A team from Mount Tabor United Methodist Church completed a 100K bike ride to raise money. The conference has raised $191,000 for Imagine No Malaria.
Epworth LeSourd United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Washington, has made its conference’s largest gift to Imagine No Malaria with a donation of $13,000. The Pacific Northwest Conference has raised $328,000 for Imagine No Malaria. The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, which includes the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest conferences, plans to raise $1 million to prevent deaths.
Bishop Johnathan Holston set a goal for the South Carolina Conference to raise $1 million for Imagine No Malaria. On bow tie day at the annual conference session, a number of people wore Imagine No Malaria bowties to show their support.
To raise the $1 million needed to save 100,000 lives from malaria, the Virginia Conference held a golf tournament and an original art auction. By June 20, funds had been raised to save 86,454 lives, just 13,546 fewer than the goal. Bishop Young Jin Cho and his wife, the Rev. Kiok Cho, pledged an additional $2,000. That sparked an impromptu offering from the crowd that raised $28,560 in cash and $22,000 in pledges. The conference raised a total of $916,064.16, and will continue its efforts through September.
At the West Ohio Conference, a special offering raised $403,734 for Imagine No Malaria, bringing the conference to its goal of $3.5 million, the largest in the denomination.
At the opening service of the Western Pennsylvania Conference, members brought $91,059.53 from churches and individuals. Mike McCurry, who serves on the Imagine No Malaria executive team, presented Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton with a plaque and a photo book to thank him for his leadership in fundraising for the denominational initiative. Bickerton pledged that the conference would raise $1.8 million when Imagine No Malaria began. It has raised $2.1 million so far.