Iowa Imagine No Malaria - one year in

September 10, 2013

Visit the Imagine No Malaria Iowa website

The full audio interview with Rev. Katie Dawson can be accessed HERE

Visit the UMC Imagine No Malaria website HERE

By Lisa Bourne*

It’s been roughly a year since Rev. Katie Dawson took on the role of Director for Imagine No Malaria Iowa, the Iowa Annual Conference part in the worldwide United Methodist Church initiative to end malaria by 2015.

Rev. Dawson reflected on the progress made at the midpoint of the Iowa effort to raise $2 million by the 2014 session of the Iowa Annual Conference.

“Over the last year we have been working in a lot of different churches,” Rev. Dawson said. “And I think 60% of our churches have engaged in some way in the campaign so far.”

The support from local churches to date has been in the form of donations to Imagine No Malaria or the Nothing But Nets program, or by presenting a fundraising event, said Rev. Dawson.

“Which is really exciting to see that level of engagement,” she said. “But we want every congregation to be part of this. We want every church to take this up as a part of who we are as United Methodists.”

The number for funds raised is over the $1 million mark as the Iowa campaign heads into its second year.

“It’s been exciting to see how churches are challenging themselves to set big goals, and to work to accomplish those,” said Rev. Dawson.

Some congregations have set targets in the range of $30-$60K.

“They know that they are setting goals they have to reach out to their community to accomplish,” Rev. Dawson said. “And they’re doing so in really neat ways.”

Church communities have been creative, she said, with such things as hosting basketball tournaments and partnering with local elementary schools on events.

Rev. Dawson’s main work over this past year has been to energize churches and provide resources for them to be creative, freeing them to do what they want to do in support of Imagine No Malaria. 

“And so it’s fun to see how ideas get started,” she said.

One example is that of three young men who ran across the state this past summer to raise funds for Imagine No Malaria.

“I had one dinner meeting with them, and they just took off from there,” said Rev. Dawson.

Being the conduit to moving others to action has been personally rewarding for her.

“That’s the fun part with my job is I get to kind of see these sparks and blow a little Spirit on to it and it just goes,” Rev. Dawson said. “And so that’s been really fun.”

The midpoint of the Iowa Imagine No Malaria campaign has also provided an opportunity for churches that have been involved to assess their efforts, celebrate, and look forward to what they might do in the second year to offer support in the fight to end malaria.

Thirteen churches in the Marshall County area gathered in late August precisely for that reason. See that story HERE

“They were celebrating what they have, and will do,” Rev. Dawson said. “And I think that’s kind of the place where we all are right now.”

Even with so many people engaged in the campaign across the state and so much support put forth so far, there has been a plateau effect occurring for some, she said, raising the question of how to approach the coming second year.

“This is something we’ve talked about with our steering committee, how do we go the second mile, how do we raise the second million,” said Rev. Dawson.

“We’ve done so much. How do we keep continuing, how do we find that energy to go forward,” she said.

The Iowa River churches Imagine No Malaria midpoint event also gave Rev. Dawson the opportunity to be fed personally in return, another ongoing aspect of her role coordinating the project.

“I was re-energized at the event,” Rev. Dawson said. “Because it was fun to see all that they had done and how they were willing to put their money where their mouths were and get excited again to keep going.”

“I think every time I hear those stories of how churches are doing something new, that just keeps me going,” she said. “Because I know there’s always something around the corner, and that people are getting it.”

Looking back at the beginning of the Iowa campaign, there is the question of whether the overall target of $2 million for Iowa seemed a formidable goal.

“It did and it didn’t,” said Rev. Dawson. “We knew that this was so important we were just going to do it.”

“We always went into it knowing and believing that we were going to raise more than $2 million,” Rev. Dawson said. “So we didn’t let that number overwhelm us.”

Imagine No Malaria Iowa has been right on target with fundraising benchmarks throughout the first year.

“That’s been exciting,” she said.

In addition to the bottom line, the willingness to participate by local churches has further given cause to celebrate.

“We had 121 churches participate in our pancake breakfast,” said Rev. Dawson. “Which is just exciting to see that many churches all doing something together.”

“I think in some ways those events that bring together communities have been a big celebration,” said Rev. Dawson.

In addition to the Marshall County churches, groups of churches in Des Moines and Iowa City-Coralville have collaborated during the first year of the campaign. Rev. Dawson has been told of at least one instance where churches that hadn’t worked together in a long time came together to work in partnership for Imagine No Malaria.

“Someone said this is the start of something new in this community,” said Rev. Dawson. “And so I think one of my biggest celebrations is not only the money we raise, but also how our churches are being reenergized and connected, and it has overcome barriers that have been there in the past.”

“It’s about developing ourselves as well as doing mission,” she said.

Some vacation bible school groups have raised funds and then brought them to the congregation, she said, to then have the church double or even triple the funds.

“Taken whatever they’ve done and really helped it to grow,” said Rev. Dawson.

“So there’s a lot of those little stories,” she said. “There’s actually so many stories that I don’t hear about that are just happening and things are occurring and I get to find about it after the fact.”

College students have been engaged and doing a lot, said Rev. Dawson, such as Iowa Wesleyan College and the Wesley Foundation at Iowa State University.

“We’re working this fall to get our other Wesley foundations and colleges on board,” Rev. Dawson said.

Another effort this fall that is new will be the sharing of specific on-the-ground stories of progress.

Health personnel in Nigeria have been trained to write stories, which are now beginning to make it back to the U.S. These will be disseminated via the Imagine No Malaria Iowa website and social media.

“We’re just starting get those first wave of stories, so I’m excited to start sharing those,” said Rev. Dawson. “I think that will make a difference to hear those pieces.”

Imagine No Malaria also has video pieces already effectively communicating successes of the program, said Rev. Dawson.

“There’s one from Admiral Ziemer with USAID that I think is really excellent,” she said.

In the video U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer (USN, Retired), head of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) malaria program, shares his experience talking with a clinician in a particular location.

“And they’ve had a 96% reduction in malaria cases,” said Rev. Dawson. “And they now gave zero deaths in their clinic.”

“This is a government official,” Rev. Dawson said. “Who’s saying, “Thank you, United Methodist Church, because we can’t do this without you.”

Check out the video with Rear Admiral Ziemer HERE 

“I think that kind of stuff is going to help our churches as we share and as we get it out there,” said Rev. Dawson.

Sermon illustrations and Imagine No Malaria other resources will be available for Advent and Christmas as well.

The focus will be to encourage people to consider giving to Imagine No Malaria during the Christmas season as they give in other ways.

“There’s a lot of different ways we’re going to be promoting that,” Rev. Dawson said.

Imagine No Malaria will be part of, Rev. Dawson said. UMCmarket is a website for online shopping that will donate between one and five percent of purchases to the shopper’s designated organization. 

“We’re encouraging people to donate to Imagine No Malaria that way,” she said.

Hands-on involvement in Imagine No Malaria by the people of Iowa will continue with hand-made gifts available for purchase for Christmas which will benefit the initiative.

“We have an artist here in Iowa who has done a painting,” said Rev. Dawson. “We’re going to be doing prints of it, and I think we’re going to have those available by Christmas.”

Encouragement will also be given for churches to designate their Christmas offerings to Imagine No Malaria.

Discussions are in progress for a big event in the spring in conjunction with World Malaria Day, said Rev. Dawson.

The 2014 Iowa Annual Conference will also incorporate a youth event centered on Imagine No Malaria. The youth event will be in conjunction with the I-Cubs baseball organization, a concert and a sleep-out on the baseball field.

“We’ve started the conversations for that,” Rev. Dawson said.

Heading into her second year leading the charge in the Iowa fight against malaria, Rev. Dawson remains excited.

“There’s a lot to do,” Rev. Dawson said. “But it’s just exciting to be part of.”

She continually invites the local churches to visit the Imagine No Malaria Iowa website ( to remain updated and to have access to resources.

“Our website has a lot of great information,” said Rev. Dawson. “We’ve put a lot of local church resources on there.”

Access to material and downloading from the site are easy, she said.

“That’s probably the best resources for churches” said Rev. Dawson. “To get that in their hands is key.”

Local churches can anticipate more outreach through direct mail, and they can look for a request to name a point person in their congregation for Imagine No Malaria, said Rev. Dawson.

“It might be the pastor, it might be the mission chairperson, it might be UMW, it might be a youth,” she said. “But just so we have that direct point of contact.”

This past year has been one of growth for Rev. Dawson as she has moved forward in her role as director of Imagine No Malaria in Iowa.

“I think my vision is bigger,” Rev. Dawson said.

“Working in the local church, you kind of see your local community, you’re involved in mission, and you send dollars, but you’re still focused right here,” she said.

“I think I’ve been thinking a lot more about how we are all connected,” said Rev. Dawson.

She referenced the building of partnerships between local churches in Iowa through their work in support of Imagine No Malaria as one example.

“Thinking about how, we’re doing this mission here, but we’re doing it with our partners in Africa,” she said. “It’s not us and them. It’s we, doing it together.”

*Lisa Bourne is a member of the Communications Ministry Team, serving as Communications Assistant